Enthusiasm is good. Eagerness about a player or a team is a welcome response, particularly when it seemed like enthusiasm was waning at one point.
And stories are fun. It's why narratives persist. People like the idea that causes have effects, and vice versa. Bringing structure to chaos is a natural impulse. No one likes to think about the fact that there existence is ultimately meaningless. That's why people eat Arby's, after all:
Welcome to Arbys— Nihilist Arby's (@nihilist_arbys) May 26, 2016
You already experienced the eternal nothingness of death before you were born & soon you'll die again
How may I help you?
But enthusiasm can be taken too far. It's how certain people win nominations, and how other people seem to love certain films that are really, really terrible. And narratives are fun until they start connecting things that are in no way connected. That's when they become conspiracies.
And over the past few days, people have started to spin the Whit Merrifield scenario. Due to his versatility and performance so far this year, people have become enthused about him as a player. And they should, to a degree. It is a performance the Royals needed at a time when things looked grim, following a series of injuries that put the Royals season in doubt. Merrifield's good performance has coincided with a winning streak. The effect is there, and people are trying to find the cause. Merrifield seems to be what people have settled on, going so far as to compare, or at least suggest a comparison, to Ben Zobrist.
Can we not?
For starters, Ben Zobrist is great. Since 2009, he has been the fourth-most valuable position player in all of baseball, behind Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and Andrew McCutchen. Whit Merrifield has 45 career plate appearances. In those plate appearances, he has zero walks. You know who else has zero walks? Me. And Newkirk (#Shauncored).
Second, this has happened before. Angel Berroa and Mike Aviles stand out as recent testaments of players with productive seasons early in their career that ultimately produced more Wins Above Replacement in their rookie seasons than they did throughout the rest of their careers. David Lough comes to mind. A semi-random Royals outfielder who put up 2.5 fWAR in half a season back in 2013, Lough moved on to Baltimore where he put up good production again (mostly defense) but hasn't made an impact since then.
Merrifield is also 27 years old, which means he's older than Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer. He is four months shy of Mike Moustakas. That's not a career death sentence, but it's certainly a red flag.
And maybe that's where the Zobrist comparisons come from. Though he debuted at 25, Zobrist didn't really stick until he was 27. He also played multiple positions, and hey remember that one time when he helped the Royals win a World's Series?
But we should probably calm down. At least a little bit.