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Twins' new "tough love" theme

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • May 15, 2014 - 9:52 AM

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and assistant GM Rob Antony publicly called out centerfielder Aaron Hicks for poor production and work habits before Wednesday's game, creating a story for us all.

It was a continuation of a new tough-love theme with the Twins this season, who quickly have dispatched players who are underperforming and attempted to create less of a country club environment. The net gain in talent can be debated, but there at least seems to be more fight, at least, on a game-to-game basis.

Hicks is a tricky situation, of course, because the Twins cannot just send him to Rochester unless someone wants to watch Jason Kubel, Chris Colabello, Chris Parmelee Oswaldo Arcia or a middle infielder patrol the vast expanses of center at Target Field, at least until Sam Fuld returns from a concussion.

Nobody wants to see that.

So instead, the Twins played a rare Public Rip card. It's hard to remember the last time the Twins made such a concerted effort to out someone in this fashion. Sure, Gardenhire will take a jab at a player or two for particular in-game mistakes, but this was something else entirely.

The Twins let us know that Hicks sometimes shows up without knowing who that day's starting pitcher is, which is a particularly galling notion. The numbers suggest what the Twins suggest: that Hicks is a man without a plan. His numbers across the board are pretty dreadful in a short career, but these two figures stick out:

With two strikes on him, Hicks has 23 hits in 209 official career at-bats. He only has 365 at-bats, so he is getting two strikes on him close to three out of every five times at the plate. That's either a man with a poor plan, a man with too many holes in his swing, or both.

Almost as galling: He has just 25 hits in 123 at-bats when he is ahead in the count. Again, that's either a man with a poor plan, a man with too many holes in his swing, or both -- since it suggests he is unable to sit on a pitch he expects and drive it.

Maybe expectations are too high. A glance at his career minor league numbers suggests a patient hitter who strikes out a lot, but his output does not jump off the page. Comparing Hicks to Torii Hunter and suggesting it could take a while to figure this all out is fine, but it's also hollow. Torii struggled, but he hit .255 and .280 in his two earliest seasons.

Whatever the case with Hicks, it appears the Twins have seen close to enough. He was 1 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts last night. We will see if the message has been received, and how capable Hicks is when it comes to turning words into actions long-term.

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