Frustration or disbelief might be the best words to describe the mood around the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse this afternoon as a pair of players, their manager, and team president had to discuss an issue that none involved feel existed to begin with.
“I think it just got blown out of proportion,” began Jordan Hicks. “I think I said a couple words, just ‘no comment’ and I think it can be taken the wrong way, but it wasn’t meant any bad way.”
The Cardinals rookie is referencing a recent article by Mark Saxon in The Athletic which described closer Bud Norris as “mercilessly riding” and “badgering” Hicks to teach him the proper way of being a professional pitcher.
“A lots been made of this for sure,” said Norris. “I have nothing but utmost appreciation for my team and everyone that’s in this clubhouse. We hold each other accountable, on a lot of levels. He holds me accountable. Other people hold him accountable. That’s what we have, team unity in this clubhouse. We do that together. There’s not much more to be said. I have a unique relationship with him. He knows that. I love him and I’m genuinely passionate about him and who he is as a person and what he wants to be on this field and off the field. I’m sorry it came to this to say the least, but I really want to get back to playing baseball and focusing on our team because we definitely have a second half push that we’re focused on. We’ve talked it out and he I think he understands where I’m coming from. It’s definitely a brotherly love, I hope.”
“Like I’ve been saying, I think it’s all with the best intentions what he’s put me through–it’s nothing bad,” continued Hicks. “Everything is for the growth of my career, I guess. He’s been great. He’s been one of the best in the bullpen who’s been giving me advice from the veteran side. I think it just got blown way out of proportion.”
“(Saxon) asked me a question like, ‘do you think it will pay dividends in your career later on?’ and I was like ‘Um, I don’t know, no comment’ and I just kind of walked away. And I guess he took it how he took it and made it a big story, but I don’t think it should’ve been that big of a story.”
Left to their own imagination or speculation as to what sort of “badgering” was taking place, there were strong reactions on social media to the story, which then lead to the topic and the Cardinals being a subject on national radio and television.
“Instantly, Jordan’s in my office wondering how things went so weird so fast,” shared Mike Matheny, who was also visited by Norris soon after. “My fear was that Bud would do what too many players in the league do with a lot of experience and they just sit on that and keep it to themselves and they don’t try to help other players. It’s such an integral part of our culture here that our players who have experience figure out how ways to help the other guys.
“When we have a 21-year old here without Triple-A experience, we’ve all been on constant alert to how can we help him. It’s a shame this has happened, but it’s also a great opportunity to reinforce what we know is right. Go try to help people out. Everybody’s going to have their own style in doing that, we always monitor how that works. Hopefully, guys keep trying to help each other.”
As the story circulated, team president John Mozeliak also got involved.
“My very first reaction when I read this was of course, from an internal standpoint, we need to take a look at it and find out what’s going on,” said Mozeliak. “In doing so, I felt a lot better after asking questions, after speaking with everybody involved. I don’t think there’s anything happening here that’s not happening elsewhere and more importantly, after speaking with Jordan, I think he’s appreciative of some of the veteran players showing interest in him and helping him grow in this game.”
The two pitchers spoke with each other yesterday.
“I was trying to tell him that’s not what I meant anyway–what he was trying to make it seem like,” said Hicks. “But, in the moment, I just didn’t have much to say about it. I didn’t think this would happen. Now I know I should just give a statement about something or it will get blown up I guess, I don’t know.”
This season at Busch Stadium, the only visible rookie ritual that Hicks has been subjected to is carrying water bottles out for his teammates pregame.
“I have no problem with that,” stated Hicks. “I have no problem with anything that any vet has/wants me to do. It’s part of the duties I have to go through, I guess. I have not been hazed or anything like that. There isn’t any torment or anything like that.”
In fact, Hicks points to the contrary–of how he’s benefited from talking and learning from Norris about different batters and at-bats.
“It’s really big,” he said. “Some guys he’s thrown against multiple times and I’ve never faced them so I think it’s good for me to know those kind of things and it’s been great.”
And that was the goal that everybody involved reiterated–a veteran helping a young player. Nothing more. Nothing out of the ordinary, malicious, or ill-willed.
“Jordan’s done a phenomenal job as a 21-year old where he is right now and everything that’s been thrown on him and Bud’s done a fantastic job as well all the way across the board, in how he’s performing but also how he’s going out there and trying to help people,” praised Matheny. “Those two are my focus with this whole thing, is how do we make sure they keep doing the right thing.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry, John Hefti, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports