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How the Yankees’ Aaron Hicks and Anthony Rizzo are trying too hard


Despite what one might think, the Yankees play with urgency.

Despite what you might think, they want to win – perhaps more than ever this season. In that miserable 3-11 month, which only got worse with another offensive struggle last night in a 3-1 loss to the Rays, they press the gas and sputter continuously.

Trying to accelerate rather than roll seems to be a big part of the problem. Baseball is not football, where desire can translate into results. Especially with hitters, the more they want a hit, the further away he can go.

Despite what you might think as the losses pile up, the Yankees are trying — they’re just trying too hard.

“There’s a high level of urgency even when we’re winning,” Gerrit Cole said after Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Rays. “The level of urgency is pretty consistent, I would say.”

The Yankees are falling over themselves to make plays right now.
Corey Sipkins

The argument here is that the level of urgency has been increased at a time when Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Carpenter are injured and the offense has been underperforming.

Anthony Rizzo’s dugout tirade, in which he punished his helmet for failing him, hints at how badly Rizzo wants to succeed. Everything leading up to the Yankees first baseman’s outburst points to why he might not be successful.

Rizzo is the Yankees’ third batter. His bat was badly needed and missed a lot in their brutal game in August. Rizzo entered his third inning at bat on Monday 2 for his last 20. He had reached the point of desperation, and as he watched the Tampa Bay shift, he decided to try and force his way onto base. He attempted a bunt on the third base line and was unable to get it down. Rays southpaw Jalen Beeks then missed inside with a breaking ball, and Rizzo bent his knees, but didn’t make much of an effort to get out of the way.

Plate umpire DJ Reyburn made a call that Rizzo said had never been made in the previous 195 times he had been hit by a pitch: Reyburn refused to let him take first base, judging that he hadn’t tried to avoid the offer.

Anthony Rizzo throws a tantrum in the New York Yankees dugout.
He seems upset.

Aaron Boone called it a “bad call”. Rizzo said he “got screwed”.

Would a confident, rolling Rizzo try to bunt or force his way to first base? Shouldn’t the Yankees’ No. 3 hitter want a chance to deal more damage?

The way things are going, a frustrated Rizzo seems like he’s ready to make his way on the base any way he can, because his desire outweighs his results.

Fans often complain that players “don’t want it enough”. Rizzo, who went 0 for 4 with another strikeout last night and whose average fell to .218, wants too much right now.

New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo hits out in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Anthony Rizzo went 0 for 4 on Tuesday night as the struggling Yankees had just four hits in another loss to the Rays.
Corey Sipkins

The most tangible sign of pressure – of a burning desire that backfires on a player – can be seen from a batter chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Players want to be disciplined and walk around while swinging selectively on pitches they can hit hard.

During that Yankees downfall, in which more was asked of players like Rizzo, he tried to answer. From Aug. 2 through Monday, a stretch in which the Yankees went 2-10, Rizzo had seen 52 pitches that weren’t in the strike zone, and he swung 20 against them. He was swinging potential balls nearly 39% of the time, including strikes on two break balls away from the strike zone on Monday. That level of desperation hasn’t been the norm: Rizzo has tipped about 31% of throws out of the zone this season.

A batter who abandons his discipline in an effort to make things happen is precisely the type of pressing that doesn’t work in baseball and precisely the type of urgency that many call for when a team begins to lose.

Aaron Hicks is one of baseball’s most disciplined hitters. The center fielder chased pitches outside the strike zone just 21.9% of the time, trailing only Max Muncy, Alex Bregman and Juan Soto. Pretty good company!

Hicks struck out in his first game at bat Monday, blocking two on base. He then turned a routine fly ball into a triple in the top of the fourth inning, when he turned on the cautionary trail and fought helplessly against a ball that every outfielder should be able to catch.

It’s quite possible that Hicks had enough of a sense of redemption to allow him to interfere with his approach to home plate. He came late in the inning with the bases loaded, and the fourth most disciplined hitter in baseball swung at the No. 3 pitch below:

A graphic showing Aaron Hicks at bat for the New York Yankees on August 15, 2022.
Aaron Hicks is uncharacteristically looking for locations to contribute.
chart via MLB.com

He chased a curveball that would have been a ball, and he dug in a 1-2-3 double play.

Hicks has become the new Joey Gallo. Boos follow his every move at Yankee Stadium, and he acknowledged after the game that fans turning on him made it harder to bounce back.

New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks #31 takes to the field after hitting in a double play with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning.
The setbacks of Aaron Hicks push the Yankees to seek to exceed the hope Estevan Florial for a lift.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Po

“I’m there to try to compete and help this team win. Obviously, it’s not nice to hear boos. But when you have the season that I am, that’s kind of how it goes. Especially here,” said Hicks, who sat out Tuesday and could see his playing time reduced with the Yankees expecting to call Estevan Florial. “They want results.”

The Yankees players too, who are pressing.

Yes, angry Yankees fan, they’re trying. That’s part of the problem.

Today’s last page

The back page of the New York Post for August 17, 2022.
New York Post

Put: it’s going to hurt a little

Buck Showalter was asked about the Mets’ abnormally healthy season on Saturday. Yes, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer missed a lot of time, but the rest of the rotation (plus David Peterson and Trevor Williams) had rolled. Among position players, James McCann had been the only real contributor lost to the injured list this season.

“Now that you’ve totally bewitched us,” the Mets manager began his response, to laughter in the room.

In the three days that followed, it was obvious that no one had knocked on wood. Suddenly, there are worries about Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker – bigger worries than the first two losses of their series in Atlanta.

New York Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) pitches against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Truist Park.
Taijuan Walker became the second straight Mets starter to go out after just two innings, when he was forced out of the game due to back spasms.
USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, Guillorme suffered a moderate left groin sprain that will keep the infielder out for four to six weeks. The moment was particularly painful for the Mets as Guillorme’s platoon partner at third base, Eduardo Escobar, is nursing an oblique injury.

On Monday, Nido was placed on the COVID-19 list, and he was not active during the series against the Braves.

And on Tuesday, the Mets officially lost Carrasco for a while and will be keeping their fingers crossed on Walker.

Carrasco suffered a low-level left oblique pull the night before, when he returned to the mound after a 55-minute rain delay, then felt his side tighten on his final pitch. The starter is expected to miss three to four weeks.

Walker was out with back spasms after two innings of a 5-0 loss at Atlanta on Tuesday, and the Mets will await the results of an MRI scan on Wednesday.

New York Mets prospect Brett Baty #7 of the Salt River Rafters bats against the Peoria Javelinas at Salt River Fields on November 12, 2021.
Brett Baty is on his way to the injured Mets after raking this season at Double-A and then spending just a week at Triple-A.
Diamond Images/Getty Images

The most exciting of the reinforcements should arrive on Wednesday, when third baseman Brett Baty, the team’s No. 2 prospect, is expected to be activated. Journeyman catcher Michael Perez filled in last night, when he ejected two baserunners.

This is when a club is tested – and the timing could have been better. The rotation has holes in it, position players are making their debuts and their division lead has been reduced to 3½ games.

Baty may not have much time to savor his first days in the major leagues. The Mets need him.

Zach on the right track

The news is good for Zach Wilson, which means the Jets’ season isn’t over in mid-August.

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets is taken off the field after an injury during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Friday August 12, 2022 in Philadelphia.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is expected to return from arthroscopic knee surgery early in the season, giving him more time to develop in the second year.
PA

The Jets quarterback underwent surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles that the team says successfully severed his meniscus without further complications. He will miss a few weeks. His status for Week 1 is pending. But he will play this season.

If the second-year quarterback takes a big step forward and establishes himself as an above-average signaller, the season will be a success regardless of how many games the Jets have won. They believe he is their future, and the only way to judge that belief is if Wilson is present.

Expectations aren’t high here for either New York football team, but at least the Jets and Giants have hope on August 17. Come back on September 17.

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