The Royals were able to close out the series against the Detroit Tigers with a 5-2 win on Wednesday afternoon, which brings their overall record to 35-53 for the season.
Initially, I was going to focus on writing about the big series and the experience at Kauffman Stadium as a season ticket member this year slowly changing my mind about the idea of a downtown stadium (I just don’t know if the Kauffman can be duplicated downtown, unfortunately, and that’s scary to me as a Royals fan; I don’t want a situation like Texas).
Additionally, I also wanted to focus on Royals fans missing out on another Amir Garrett and Javy Baez matchup. To be honest, I was booing Matheny from the upper decks for his decision to pull Garrett instead of letting him pitch against his archnemesis.
As expected, Garrett wasn’t too happy, which resulted in his ejection as he left the mound.
However, the angle of my post changed drastically on my drive home, as Mike Matheny announced the unvaccinated players who would not make the trip to Toronto for the first half’s final series before the All-Star break.
Some of the names on that list of 10 are surprising, with MJ Melendez, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael A. Taylor being the primary ones.
There are also some surprising “omissions” from the group, as I figured that maybe Ryan O’Hearn, Zack Greinke, and even Bobby Witt, Jr., who come from conservative personal and/or family backgrounds, would not be able to make the trip as well (thankfully they will…or at least in the case of Greinke and Witt).
On the other hand, this is not going to be a post though on the 10 Royals players on the restricted list and their vaccination status. This is a baseball blog, and though I have strong feelings about the vaccine and why it’s important to get vaccinated, I am not going to dive in and try to grandstand over the 10 Royals players who decided not to get vaccinated.
Rather, I want to focus on Whit Merrifield, who is currently hurt due to a toe injury, who came out with a pretty scathing statement in the wake of Matheny’s “restricted list” announcement during the postgame press conference.
Here’s what he said, which was tweeted out by MLB.com Royals beat writer Anne Rogers.
I am not focusing on what Whit says about the vaccine and his feelings about taking it. Instead, I am focusing on what he says in the latter part of the statement, as seen below.
That’s what makes this vaccine ordeal in Whit’s case all the more complicated…
And it could spell an ugly ending between Whit and the Royals pretty soon.
Whit’s statement has sparked all kinds of polarizing reactions on social media, as expected. There are some who are defending his right to “not” take the vaccine, and think people are blowing this out of proportion, especially since he probably wouldn’t be healthy enough to play in the series against Toronto anyways.
That being said, there are a lot of Royals fans who are somewhat taken aback by Whit’s statement, especially in regards to his willingness to get vaccinated for “another” team, but not for the Royals.
Alex Duvall of Royals Farm Report expanded on that line of thought among Royals fans in the Tweet below.
In some ways, I get Whit being frustrated with how this season, and his career with the Royals, has gone.
Whit missed the highs of the 2014 and 2015 run, as he didn’t join the Royals’ big league squad until 2016. What he has mostly known and experienced as a player at the Major League level has been losing, with the losses being especially prevalent from 2018 to now.
He has seen two 100-plus loss seasons (2018 and 2019) during the best years of his career (119 and 110 wRC+ in 2018 and 2019, respectively. That is tough to stomach for any player, let alone one who hit the walk-off hit in the College World Series with South Carolina back in 2010.
Until now, Whit has powered through and been the face of this Royals franchise during these lean years from 2018 to the current day. He’s been a spokesperson for Boulevard Beer, and he’s represented the Royals in two All-Star games (2019 and 2021). The Royals even inked him to an extension this year, and have held onto him over the past few seasons, even though he would have commanded a lot from other clubs at the Trade Deadline from 2019 to 2021, hypothetically (I have certainly written about it before).
I always thought that the Royals didn’t trade Whit because Whit loved Kansas City, believed in the Royals franchise and wanted to be “buried a Royal” like Danny Duffy or Salvador Perez, who have used that phrase before when talking about the club and fanbase.
On the other hand, it seems like that isn’t quite the case, and the tension between Whit and the Royals is at an all-time high.
Now, it’s not like the Royals want Whit to stay in Kansas City at all costs.
Royals fans want Whit to play in the postseason and get a chance to win a ring of his own. At his age (33 years old), his best years are behind him, and he should be on a club that has the opportunity to make a playoff push, much like Duffy a year ago with the Dodgers and Carlos Santana with the Mariners this season.
Unfortunately, though, Whit is doing this all wrong, and coming off more like Johnny Damon, who was pretty vocal about leaving Kansas City because they weren’t a winner.
Damon, much like Whit, isn’t wrong, but that attitude rubs Royals fans the wrong way. It rubs Kansas City the wrong way. Kansas City is a city with a lot of community pride. It’s why this city got the World Cup over Denver and Nashville: there’s something about this community that separates it from other similar-sized cities in the middle of the country.
Because Whit’s statement makes it seem like he only cares about himself, whether that’s the truth or not.
The Royals are starting to look like a much better team now that they are letting the young guys play. Vinnie-mania has taken hold (though he has gotten off to a bit of a slow start offensively) and MJ and Bobby have taken the lead as the primary postgame water cooler dunkers in Salvy’s absence, as evidenced at Kauffman Stadium today.
I get that Whit may not feel he’s part of the long-term solution here in Kansas City and that can be an awkward spot to be in. That being said, you would think he could at least enjoy the ride, and be that mentor for the young position players, especially Witt, MJ, and Pasquantino, just to name a few.
And yet, his comments today make it seem like he’s done with that or doesn’t want any part of that, much like Damon was done with the Royals after the 2000 season.
Safe to say, Royals fans wouldn’t see that from Salvy or Duffy, and that’s going to make Whit a pariah among the Kansas City community whenever he does leave Kansas City for good, whether it’s during the year or this offseason.
Now, I do not want this to happen.
To me, Whit has done more for the Royals than Damon, and I don’t want him to be lumped in that category.
Maybe he’s not a Royals Hall of Famer, but I want it to be a tough vote for the Royals’ media members and fans. Whit has long been one of the Royals’ most exciting and consistent players, and his consecutive games played streak is evidenced by his passion and commitment to the game.
Nonetheless, one can’t help but feel like the narrative is turning on Whit in a negative way, with this statement being the main “push”.
In his statement, he comes off as selfish. He comes off as “me first”. Matheny and Dayton Moore continued to preserve his streak (and him at the top of the batting order) even though, to be honest, he was terrible for the first month of play, and there were more deserving players for his position (especially when he roamed the outfield). Now that his streak is “done” it seems like Whit is “great, now get me the hell out of here.”
That doesn’t sit well with me as a Royals fan, and I know, based on my Twitter replies, other Royals fans feel the same way.
That being said, I do not want it to feel like Whit has been solely responsible for the ugliness that has ensued between him and the Royals as of late. Moore and Matheny deserve equal responsibility for this Whit situation. In fact, owner John Sherman shouldn’t forget about their own actions (i.e. treating Whit as a star when he clearly wasn’t) when it comes to evaluating them at the end of the year.
And I’m not alone in that feeling as well.
We all knew the “Whit Merrifield Era” in Kansas City was going to end sooner rather than later, especially with the hot stove talk about him hotter (and earlier) than ever before.
But it seems like the breakup between the Royals and Whit will be ugly when it’s said and done.
And that’s just a shame, especially considering how much of a fan favorite Whit has been with the Royals in his professional career.
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