Out of Left Field: Hicks, fans’ response and PHI preview

Hard not to like the start of the 2023 season if you’re a Yankee fan. Despite running pitchers out to the mound who were not named Rodon, Severino, Cortes or Montas, the staff pitched two shutouts over a three- game set, with Gerrit Cole and Jhony Brito looking particularly dominating. Of course, the Giants lineup isn’t likely to be confused with the Astros or Blue Jays (or the Phillies, who’ll we’ll come back to in a minute) but that’s irrelevant for now. Two out of three is always reason to pump a fist.

And the offense…wow. The bats put up at least five runs in all three games, Anthony Volpe reached base four out of 11 times and stole three bases while Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton vaporized baseballs. Heck, even IKF showed mid-season form yesterday, going oh for four with batted balls of 80, 78, 72, and 54 MPH respectively (he wrote, sarcastically. Even Aaron Hicks would have likely drawn a walk in four PA).

Speaking of Hicks…

Hicks made some news over the weekend himself by saying “I just want to play. I don’t want to come off the bench and face closers all day. I want to play the field, I want to play every day, and it’s just what I want to do.” This was in response to IKF, somewhat comically, getting the start in center field yesterday.

There’s a lot to unpack in Hicks’ statement and needless to say, there was some pushback on Yankees social media, so let’s start with this:

I’m never going to criticize a player for being frustrated about not playing and/or vocalizing that frustration. As Joe Torre used to imply, if you don’t then you’re probably not much of a competitor. That said – and I say this as a long-time defender and supporter of Hicks – he didn’t do himself any favors by verbalizing those thoughts publicly.

 I’m sure that most MLB players would love to get most of their hacks off of the other teams’ 5th starters and middle inning mop up guys – but that’s not how it works, and having a problem with that sounds childish at best. More importantly perhaps, I’m reminded of a story that Chris Rock told about his wife being frustrated with their daughter’s basketball coach for not playing her enough. Paraphrasing of course, but Rock’s response to his wife was “You know there’s something she can do to get more playing time, right?”

Just play better, Aaron. In this case you only have to be better than IKF, which isn’t the highest bar to clear.

While I’m on my high horse…I would say out of every five responses I saw to Hicks’ statement from Yankees fans online, four referenced his salary. So, we need to do this again:

MLB players have skillsets that are so rare it’s infinitesimal, and those skillsets generate billions (with a “B”) for their bosses. Over 2017-18, Hicks produced more WAR per 162 than every Yankee other than Judge and was the second-best center fielder in the AL. His talent and production were a huge part of teams that won 191 games over two seasons and appeared in an ALCS and ALDS (only losing to the eventual WS champs both times).

Which is to say he played a big part in padding Hal Steinbrenner’s inherited and bottomless trust fund. Hicks deserves every cent coming his way because he earned it, and with regards to today’s discussion his salary has absolutely nothing to do with recent events and if you think it does, you’re telling on yourself.

Moving on.

Tonight, the Yanks start a three-game series with the defending NL champs from the city of brotherly love (lol). The Phils got beat up in Texas over the weekend, getting swept by the Rangers in three games by an aggregate score of 29-11. Of course we know Philadelphia is better than that so the next three in the Bronx should be fun. But there’s something we need to watch in particular:

I think we all may have underestimated what MLB’s new rules have done for the running game – runners made stealing bases look damn easy over the season’s opening weekend league wide. (Not a judgment, just an observation backed up with facts.) This is interesting because Philadelphia, according to a recent article on Baseball Savant, is the fastest team in MLB. Of course adding Trea Turner helped that but it’s far from just Turner as team wide the Phils can move. Whether or not the Yanks can stop the running game may be a bigger factor over the next three days than we may have originally thought. (Reminder: Higgy throws a heck of a lot better than Trevino does.)

Did I miss something? If so, leave a comment below or yell at me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and/or the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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