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Twins publicly criticize Aaron Hicks’ lack of preparation

May 15, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

Aaron Hicks AP

Aaron Hicks was handed an Opening Day job both last season and this season, but now the 24-year-old center fielder is in danger of playing himself back to the minors and the Twins are talking publicly about his lack of preparation.

Hicks has hit .186 through 109 career games, including .192 last year and .167 this year, and yesterday manager Ron Gardenhire talked openly about being frustrated with the one-time top prospect:

We had a long talk, just about baseball, about picking it up, numbers. This game, no matter how we try to say it, developing at the major league level, whatever you want to try to do here, it is still about numbers. To hit .160, .170, those don’t last in the big leagues.

He needs to start studying the game a little more, studying the pitchers a little bit more, a little extra work in the outfield, doing drills and everything. Your whole game, the way you come to the ballpark and your approach to the game. … You can’t just throw your talent out of the field and say, “I can do this.”

Assistant general manager Rob Anthony had similar comments about Hicks:

I think he gets preoccupied with some things about his game. It’s not that he’s distracted by other things. I think it’s more a matter of thinking about what he’s going to do, but I don’t think he always has a plan–how that guy is going to pitch him, how he’s going to be prepared for it.

Obviously any player not working hard to prepare himself is fair game for criticism, but it’s also worth noting that a) Hicks came up through the Twins’ farm system, where he should have been taught those things, and b) the Twins rushed him to the majors last year because they were so convinced he was ready to make the jump from Double-A.

Minnesota traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere last offseason to clear the path for Hicks to take over in center field and now the Twins’ lack of other options at the position have likely forced them to stick with him longer than they might have normally.

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  1. jeffbbf - May 15, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

    • spursareold - May 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      A rolling stone gathers no moss.

      • hittfamily - May 15, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Go to bed with an itchy butt, wake up with a smelly finger.

      • blabidibla - May 15, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

    • aarontzach - May 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

  2. jrbdmb - May 15, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Perhaps they should have kept at least one more outfield option until they knew Hicks was the answer in CF.

    It’s possible that Hicks is not a MLB-caliber baseball player, but it’s becoming quite obvious that Gardenhire is not a ML_caliber manager.

    • percychuggs - May 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Yep, those 1,000+ Major League victories were just a fluke. Gardenhire obviously isn’t Major League caliber.

      • js20011041 - May 15, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        While I don’t think Gardenhire is a very good manager, I’m willing to listen to an argument that he does enough teaching/motivating/massaging egos to warrant a job. But I don’t buy wins as a particularly persuasive argument for him keeping his job. A manager actively trying to sabotage his team is going to win his share of games. That’s baseball.

      • moogro - May 15, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        Lamest stat to defend him ever, given that his job is never really on the line in Minnesota. Just say you think he’s major league caliber without it. But if you start listing other reasons, they will not stand up to scrutiny either.

      • senioreditor2 - May 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        Gene Mauch, 26 seasons, 1902 wins, won only 2 divisions and never got to a World Series…… wins is TOTALLY an over-rated stat.

      • musicman1434 - May 15, 2014 at 9:48 PM

        What about his almost 1,000 losses? Gardy has wasted more talent than any manager in Twins history and is totally spineless. The only players he criticizes are those that are powerless to say anything back. He has never had the guts to call out his $23 million dollar princess who plays when he wants to.

  3. shelbysensation - May 15, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    My favorite Twin last season. He was terrible to watch, but his walk-up music was Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’,” so that (sadly) pushed him to the top of the list.

    • dannyboy1313 - May 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      “Sadly” is the operative word here…

  4. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Is prospect shaming a thing now? Will they start taking pictures of him with little signs around his neck “admitting” to his crimes, like the dog shaming thing?

    • Francisco (FC) - May 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      That would be so hilarious if they did that. Though why take pictures with signs, just Photoshop!

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        Because “wearing it” literally is the whole point. You want to see the look on the guy’s face as he has his picture taken along with the sign listing his offenses against humanity.

      • Francisco (FC) - May 15, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Wait, are we talking about A-Rod now?

  5. dluxxx - May 15, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Dick/Bert spent the majority of the game trashing his “aggressiveness” yesterday as well. It’s funny that he’s trashed for not being “aggressive” and “passive” but a guy like Joe Mauer is just “even keeled” and “steady.” The kid started the season hot, then started cooling off before getting a concussion.

    Right now Hicks is struggling, but you gotta look at this in perspective. We’re talking about a total of 84 at bats and 103 plate appearances. And I see improvement in him. He’s still fairly young (24) and he still has potential. Let’s look at some numbers.

    He’s only hitting .167, but his OBP is currently .311. He’s improved his plate discipline by cutting down his K rate and improved his walk rate (he’s nearly reached his walk total from last year in 200 less at plate appearances). One 4 for 5 game and he’s above .200. A couple weeks of good hitting puts him back at a respectable BA.

    That’s just my two cents though.

    • Cris E - May 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      He’s always been one to watch a lot of pitches, draw out a lot of at bats and then have trouble making contact when the hittable pitch doesn’t turn up. It was a problem with a bunch of Twins last year, but two guys who might be overcoming it this year are Colabello and Parmalee. Both have seen big steps forward (Colabello in spring and Parmalee since he was sent down) and both said the about same thing: “I’m being more aggressive. I can’t wait for the perfect pitch and I have to swing at the ones I can drive.” It’s an open question if either can sustain this (hint: probably not) but it was a problem with their approach that they had to fix and Hicks hasn’t heard it yet. I think he has a lot more talent than these two, but he’s got to get “waitwaitwaitwait” out of head and start looking for “thatlldo” a bit more. Hello Rochester…

      • dluxxx - May 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        That sounds more like an organizational issue than a player issue. Honestly, the Twins were scoring tons of runs early in the season because of the walks. I think you let the kid struggle through it and get some confidence, but you’re probably right. They’ll send him down to Rochester.

      • Cris E - May 15, 2014 at 12:11 PM

        I agree it’s an org thing, but he’s had a lot of time at the major league level to look at this and he’s not moving forward. The pitchers adjusted and he’s dead in his tracks. The moment Fuld is ready for duty in CF they’ll go to him (and Santana as long as he’s hitting) and send Aaron out.

    • percychuggs - May 15, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Hicks started the season hot? He was hitting .190 on April 6th.

    • percychuggs - May 15, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      He’s had 416 Major League plate appearances, and is hitting .186/.272/.315. That is beyond atrocious. But sure, since he’s drawing a couple walks this year, he’s totally fine. All he needs is a 4 hit game to bump his average up from “Embarrassing” to “way below mediocre”.

      • dluxxx - May 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

        As Aaron notes, he hadn’t played a single inning above AA before last year, and was thrust into the big leagues due to the organization deciding to trade Span and Revere and not having another viable option available. 313 of those plate appearances came last year. As I noted, although his average has dropped, his OBP is up 51 points while his K rate is dropping. He IS showing improvement and if he can get his BA up in the mid .200’s he’d most certainly have acceptable numbers if he continues to walk at the same rate he currently is.

        They Twins screwed up last year by not admitting that they made a mistake by bringing him up with the big league club to start the year. Now, however, they need to roll with it. Their terrible roster management in regards to the CF position (releasing Pressley and DFAing Mastrioni) put them in this position. They made the bed and need to sleep in it and ride it out. If he’s still in this shape in another month, then they really need to look at making a move to pick up another CFer.

        I’m just saying don’t cut bait on a guy after 103 PA when he is showing some signs of improvement.

      • yahmule - May 15, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        I’m not so sure they rushed him last year in that he had 2000 minor league PA and showed pretty decent plate discipline @ AA. Plenty of guys have made the jump successfully. No question they painted themselves into a corner in center (that was a funny way of phrasing) but I can understand why he got a chance. The way they screwed him worst was by doing the same thing Seattle did to Abraham Almonte this year by plugging him into the top of the lineup. He started last season 2-43 with 20 strikeouts before they dropped him the order.

  6. schke - May 15, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Hicks’ situation reminds me of Delmon Young’s when he was a Twin. The Twins publicly called him out too.

    If this team was put together properly, Hicks would already be down in AAA. He obviously needs time to both put it together and get his head right.

    Hopefully, he puts it together.

  7. TBaySlim - May 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    terrible management on the twins part- completly rushed the kid an are faulting him for being in over his head. He has Major league defensive as of now, the bat is no where near ready, twins should see if they can trade for a guy to hold that spot for this season to let hicks regain his form in the minors. too early to cut bait on the kid all-together however

  8. doubleplaydennis - May 15, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Twins can have Revere back and Dominic Brown for Hicks.

  9. dluxxx - May 15, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Guess who had the game winning hit? That’s right. Two outs, runner on 2nd and Gardy leaves him in the lineup in extra innings. I love it. I’m cheering so hard for this kid to go on a tear. He may not, but give him a damn chance. You don’t know what you have with a major league hitter till they get about 1000 at bats. He has a way to go before you give up on him.

    Besides, if he washes out, hopefully Buxton will be ready to step in by then.

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