Some players are power hitters. Others bring speed to the table. But the players that can bring a blend of power and speed are the rare unicorns of the baseball world. Sure, plenty of players exhibit power and speed in the minors. But they never learn to hit a curveball, or the power doesn’t translate to higher levels, or they lose a step or never learn when to read a pitcher and steal a bag.
The “40/40” club is still a very exclusive club. Only four players have ever hit 40 home runs and stolen 40 bases in a season - Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano. Only one of those players - Soriano - has never had any PED allegations against him.
But there is a different 40/40 club for players, perhaps not as glitzy or as exclusive, but they don’t allow just anyone in. And now Whit Merrifield has been granted membership. On Wednesday, Whit became just the 19th player since 1969 to hit 40 doubles and steal 40 bases in the same season.
40 doubles/40 steals club
Even if you go back to the beginning of baseball, only 40 players total have accomplished the feat, nine of those in the 19th century, an era in which a man named Jack Glasscock could achieve the feat with nary a giggle. No one did it for three decades between 1938 and 1968. Other players who accomplished the feat early in the 20th century include Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Even if you’re a casual baseball fan, you’ve likely heard of them.
How about this, how many players have hit 40 doubles, 40 steals, hit .300, and hit at least 10 home runs? Just 13. Ever. And Whit is one of them.
It is a testament to his versatility, not just in his ability to play all over the field, but to help his team win in so many different ways. He can smash a home run, move a runner over, smack a double, steal a bag, make a sliding play on a grounder at second, and look devilishly handsome doing it.
So here’s to you, Whit Merrifield. You’re easily the most valuable Royals player this year, and one of the highlights in what has been an otherwise lousy season.