The baseball season opens in three weeks. This mean, actually, that we are barely into spring training, but are also into that most troubling of periods where the “Phenom” arises that messes up roster plans. One such Phenom is Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks who hit three homeruns in his first three at bats in a game earlier this week. I don’t think the Twins want to open the season with Hicks in the Majors, but they may be forced to do so for two reasons. First, after two 90+ loss seasons, the team is desparate for stars, especially homerun hitting stars. It is trying to hold on to a large season ticket base in still new Target Field and it needs to give the fans hope for the future that keeps them in the park. Second, if the Twins send Hicks to the minors to start the season, they will be accused of intentionally limiting his service time so that his access to salary arbitration is limited. This will make the team look cheap, something it wants to avoid.
There are good reasons to move Hicks to the minors and the first is that he has not really been tested at the Major League level The pitchers this week, especially those like Cliff Lee, are just fooling around. The rookie pitchers are pounding it, but the veterans are more worried about form than results. If Hicks opens in the Majors and then fails, he may take a year to recover. That is a very real danger. However, if he goes to the minors for April and part of May, is doing well, and the Twins need a centerfielder, he can then come up and will probably do well. At least, the risk of his failure is less.
Remember that baseball is a mental game played by the physically gifted. It is the mental part that must be cared for as the physical takes care of itself.
This Hicks scenario is being played out throughout the game for the next few weeks. Teams are hoping the Phenoms come back to earth and the nurturing can continue.
UPDATE 4/15: Hicks is batting .047 with 2 hits in 47 at bats as of today.