The times have changed, thank goodness. Aaron Hicks felt comfortable enough to walk into the office of his manager Aaron Boone on Monday and tell him that, for very legitimate reasons, he needed a
'Grossly mishandled' Yankees beaning saga has Rays rightly livid
Yankees missed big message-sending opportunity against rival Rays
Gleyber Torres' defense has become early Yankees issue
It was a rough night for Mets' Luis Rojas
Mets trying to educate hesitant players on COVID-19 vaccine benefits
The times have changed, thank goodness.
Aaron Hicks felt comfortable enough to walk into the office of his manager Aaron Boone on Monday and tell him that, for very legitimate reasons, he needed a mental day. Boone sensed his player’s pain enough to grant that request. Hence the Yankees did the right thing.
Need it be any more complicated or controversial than that?
The Yankees’ everyday center fielder didn’t start Monday night, in the team’s series opener against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark, after disclosing to Boone just how much he was struggling with the latest news to rock this country: Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old, unarmed black man, was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday afternoon during a traffic stop gone very wrong in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, where Hicks began his major league career with the Twins and where, of course, police officer Derek Chauvin is currently being tried for the alleged 2020 murder of George Floyd, another unarmed black man.
“Obviously the situation is heartbreaking right now in Minneapolis,” Boone said before the game. “I think it’s hit Aaron particularly hard.”
No talk here of how sports is supposed to serve as an escape from the real world, or how professional athletes must grind through anything and everything to help their team get a win. The only people ever to view sports as such an “escape” were those privileged enough to be able to do so. The Twins, scheduled to face the Red Sox on Monday afternoon at Target Field, correctly postponed that game out of respect for the situation, which has created civil unrest.
Besides, Hicks, off to a very tough start this season, improved his team by being self-aware enough to acknowledge his pain. As Boone said, “In a way, I felt like it was probably the responsible thing to take himself out, knowing that it was hard for him to be all-in mentally in what’s a high-stakes, difficult job to go out there and perform for the New York Yankees.”
That’s the sort of advanced thinking that has taken flight in the sports world. Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton (who contemplated sitting out Monday’s game also, Boone revealed, before opting to play) can kneel during the national anthem, as they did last season at Nationals Park, and speak publicly about how this country’s racism has impacted them, and the majority of folks support them. Major League Baseball can take the initiative to remove its All-Star Game from Atlanta, in the wake of Georgia instituting new voting laws with highly questionable intentions, and shrug off the criticism with the confidence that history will reward the decision.
And a ballplayer can be open about his feelings and be treated with deserved respect by his employers.
“Things that go on in society and in our culture spill over into athletics,” Boone said. “These guys, rightfully so, have gained more and more of a platform to express themselves. I certainly support their right to do that.”
Hicks tends to receive grief from a healthy percentage of the Yankees’ fan base even when he is playing well, thanks to his value coming more from his on-base percentage than his old-school batting average, and this action surely will not endear the center fielder to many of those same people. Which makes him all the more courageous for voicing his concerns to his boss and makes Boone that much better a boss for acting on those concerns.
If your employee requires a day off to collect his thoughts, you give it to him. If it impacts your ability to prevail at that moment, it scores you points for the long road. In such a world replete with nuance, there’s nothing simpler than that.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ken Davidoff