KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two-time All-Star Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals apologized Friday for “poorly articulated” comments about the COVID-19 vaccine after missing the team’s trip to Canada.
Merrifield was among 10 Royals players who didn’t travel to Toronto because of their vaccination status for a four-game series against the Blue Jays before the All-Star break last week.
The 33-year-old outfielder/second baseman has been a fan favorite in Kansas City. But backlash came quickly and harshly after Merrifield said “the vaccine, what it’s supposed to do, it’s not doing. If it was doing what it was supposed to do and stopping the spread of COVID (then) I would have a little more willingness to take it, but it’s not doing that.”
He tried to clear up those comments before the Royals opened the second half with a home game against Tampa Bay.
“I’m sorry that I poorly articulated the point I was trying to make,” Merrifield said. “It’s an uncomfortable topic and I started rambling on and trying to make a point about my passion for winning that had no relevance to the topic that was being discussed. For that I am truly sorry.”
Merrifield has played his entire career for Kansas City, but some fans were not happy about a comment suggesting he might get the vaccine if he were traded to a contender.
“I didn’t say people misunderstood it, I poorly articulated the point I was trying to say,” Merrifield said. “If what was standing between me and the playoffs was this vaccine, I would consider getting it. I didn’t say I would get it for another team, or wouldn’t get it for this team, it was simply a point about showing how much I value playing in the playoffs.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny said Merrifield addressed the team about his comments and his love for Kansas City.
“He has talked with everybody, the group here and individually and we’ve moved on,” Matheny said. “It’s time to play baseball and guys are going to have to address comments made and address the fans and teammates and I believe Whit is doing his best to have those conversations and move forward.”
Merrifield is hitting .240 with 36 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
Kansas City left almost 40% of its 26-man roster at home for an extended All-Star break, including All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi, and several young players.
Rookies Kyle Isbel and MJ Melendez were two of those players who didn’t make the trip. Five prospects made their debuts as the Royals lost three of four to Toronto.
In total, only 25 players in Major League Baseball hadn’t made the trip to Canada due to vaccination status. The Royals bumped that number up to 35.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t really realize what I said,” Merrifield said. “It took me reading it to understand how it could come across … I’ve wanted to play in the playoffs since the time I put on cleats and that feeling is strong. The vaccine thing … people have very strong feelings about it and I feel the way I feel about it.”
Merrifield said he’s ready for any reaction he might get from Royals fans.