NEW YORK — Aaron Hicks sauntered toward the outfield grass, his frustration palpable as a barrage of boos echoed loudly across Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees center fielder was the only player on the field after his inning-ending groundout in the bottom of the seventh. He walked slowly, gazing off into the distance as he waited for his teammates to join him on defense following his final at-bat of the night.
Hicks has struggled all year for New York, failing to produce with runners in scoring position while enduring some stretches where he's been completely ineffectual on offense. In more ways than one, the outfielder's performance on Monday night—in a shutout loss against the Rays—was indicative of his entire season, coinciding with an ongoing slump for this first-place club.
It began in the second inning when Hicks stranded runners on first and second, striking out swinging on a fastball over the heart of the plate.
Two innings later, with the bases loaded, the outfielder had a chance to do some damage with the bases loaded and one man out. Instead, he squibbed a two-hopper back to the mound, ending the inning on a 1-2-3 double play.
"Extremely frustrating," Hicks said in the Yankees clubhouse after the game. "Trying to stay short and try to hit the ball up the middle. Ended up queuing it right back to the pitcher for a double play."
To make matters worse for Hicks, his at-bat in the fourth came one half inning after he misplayed a ball in center field. On a fly ball from Rays outfielder David Peralta, Hicks was completely spun around, whiffing on the catch at the warning track.
Peralta came around to score after his stand-up triple a few pitches later on an RBI single from Isaac Paredes, the only run ace Gerrit Cole allowed over six strong innings.
"I turned the wrong way. Then tried to recover," Hicks explained. "Ended up thinking that it was still over, right on top of me, and it ended up being behind me. I tried to turn around and catch it, but by then, I was already beat by the ball. That was a run that Gerrit shouldn't have had to deal with.
"Just overall, extremely embarrassing, actually. Even if I'm not hitting, I want my defense to be on point. I messed up out there as well."
The only time Yankees fans cheered for Hicks on Monday came in the fifth when he hauled in a routine fly ball in shallow center, sarcastic applause after his adventure in the previous frame.
"I'm out there trying to compete and help this team win," Hicks said. "Obviously, it's not nice to hear boos but when you're having the season the way that I am, that's kind of the way it goes. Especially around here. They want results."
Factoring in Monday's 0-for-3, Hicks is now hitting .218/.339/.305 with six home runs and 32 RBI over 102 games in 2022. He's batting .094 (5-for-53) in his last 16 games played. In 81 at-bats with runners in scoring position this year, Hicks has just 14 hits, good for a .173 batting average.
Beyond those numbers, the switch-hitter is rarely squaring up the baseball. His 4.8% barrel rate is the lowest its been in his Yankees career. He's also averaging just 87.8 mph in exit velocity, his lowest since 2017.
"Everything I'm doing is just not showing up result-wise," he said, assuring that he's been putting the work in behind the scenes. "I'm either lining out, striking out or just rolling over something. So, just overall disappointing. I'm still gonna get back out there tomorrow and try to figure out a way to continue to help this team and try to win."
Hicks is under contract with New York until after the 2026 season. At a certain point—if not already—this club needs to assess where he fits on this big-league roster, though.
The Yankees acquired outfielder Harrison Bader from the Cardinals at the trade deadline, a candidate to play over Hicks in center field this October and into next season, but Bader is currently on the injured list (plantar fasciitis) and won't make his Yankee debut until next month at the earliest.
With New York reeling—2-10 since the deadline—the Yankees might consider promoting a player from Triple-A, giving them some playing time in an effort to provide a spark. Outfielder Estevan Florial has been swinging a hot bat all season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone linked Hicks' poor production to that of other players in pinstripes, reminding reporters postgame that baseball is a game of failures. Even the best go through unproductive skids, hearing displeasure from fans.
"People are getting on you. that's part of this, that's part of the business, part of wearing this uniform, certainly wearing the pinstripes," Boone said. "It's gonna be difficult at different points in the season. You got to find a way to kind of level through that and just focus on your process, play your game and let your talent out there. ... Great players go through stretches where you fail a lot. But you've got to be able to weather those storms and that can be challenging at different points of the season for different individuals. We got a few guys going through that right now."
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