Aaron Hicks has always been somewhat of a polarizing Yankee. Analytically driven fans rave about his on base ability and defensive metrics, while his detractors lament his low batting average and lack of big hits in memorable moments.
This year has been a particularly frustrating year for Hicks. In spring training, he was diagnosed with lower back pain. The team estimated that Hicks would be ready for the second series of the year. He ended up missing almost two months of regular season action. On Aug. 3, Hicks suffered an elbow injury while making a throw. The initial fear was a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery. The next day, the team announced that Hicks had a flexor strain — relatively good news!
On Aug. 4, Aaron Boone said that Hicks would be shut down 7-10 days, and then he would start to ramp up with a throwing program. Hooray! Fast forward to Sept. 24 and our most recent update is that Hicks is throwing from 90 feet but is unlikely to play this season despite multiple MRIs that show a fully healed ligament. So what the heck happened?
Aug. 3: Initial injury-Hicks shut down for 7-10 days.
Aug. 12: We learn that Hicks is still “two weeks away from throwing.”
Aug. 31: Finally, a month after sustaining the strain, Hicks is cleared to throw.
Sept. 8: Hicks never throws, and despite Boone maintaining that the team MRI came back clean, Hicks goes outside the organization for a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache in California.
Sept. 11: Dr. ElAttrache recommends two weeks of rest for Hicks.
Sept. 17: Hicks is cleared to begin a throwing program.
Sept. 22: Hicks is throwing from 90 feet but is unlikely to return this year.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I have a few questions.
What happened during the week long period between 8/31 and 9/8 where Hicks was cleared to throw but never threw? Why didn’t he throw?
Why did Hicks go for a second opinion when the team cleared him to throw?
If Hicks was cleared to begin throwing on 9/17, how come he’s pretty much ruled out for the year already?
Look, if Hicks played for a team that was out of contention and wanted to shut it down for the year, I would understand. But the Yankees are a loaded team with a legitimate chance at a World Series championship. I’m not a doctor, but if an MRI showed a clean ligament and he’s able to throw from 90 feet without pain, why isn’t he getting ramped up to play?
Hicks is an extremely talented player, but he seems like the kind of guy that is only comfortable playing if he’s feeling 100 percent. Over the course of the year, guys get banged up and have to play at 80 percent, 70 percent; heck some guys are probably playing at 50 percent. Am I being hard on Hicks? Well, he’s missed a ton of time over the years. Let’s look at Hicks’ games played since becoming a Yankee:
2016: 123 games
2017: 88 games
2018: 137 games
2019: 59 games
Keep in mind these are all soft tissue injuries. Hicks never got hit on the wrist by a pitch or suffered any broken bones as a Yankee. He’s missed consistent time over the past four years with minor ache and pain type injuries. As soon as something doesn’t feel completely right, he’s on the shelf.
That’s just the regular season. Hicks sat out two PLAYOFF GAMES last year due to a “tight hamstring.” For reference, Giancarlo Stanton played almost 80 games on a bad hamstring last year. Can you imagine Aaron Judge or Didi Gregorius asking out of a playoff game due to a tight hamstring? Can you imagine one of those guys sitting out for an entire playoff run despite an MRI showing a clean ligament?
I certainly can’t.