The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has put into doubt everything the team has accomplished in their prolific run the last few years. The Los Angeles City Council has even passed a resolution asking for Major League Baseball to declare the Dodgers, who lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros, as the rightful champions.
Among those upset are opposing players around baseball, who have begun to voice long-held suspicions of sign-stealing around basebsall. Among those perturbed by the sign-stealing is Whit Merrifield. On a recent interview with local podcast Clubhouse Conversation, Merrifield questioned the success of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and his selection to the 2018 All-Star Game, a game Merrifield was snubbed for.
Whit Merrifield on missing the 2018 ASG: "I'm going to consider myself an All-Star with all this stuff that's come out because Jose Altuve took my spot that game. So we'll put an asterisk by 2018 & on top of it, we'll go ahead and throw in a silver slugger for good measure."— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) January 22, 2020
Altuve was voted in as the starter that year, with Jed Lowrie was chosen as an injury replacement for Gleyber Torres. Merrifield was hitting .307/.378/.434 with 17 steals in the first half that season, with only those three exceeding his OPS among American League second basemen. At the time, Merrifield felt he was snubbed.
Asked if the perceived snub would serve as possible motivation in the future, Merrifield paused and then said, “Well, I got five hits [Sunday]. So yeah, I try to use stuff like that to motivate me.”
Merrifield would go on to lead the league in hits and steals, finishing the year with a line of .304/.367/.438. Altuve would win the Silver Slugger Award at second base after hitting .316/.386/.451, although it should be noted that Altuve hit much better on the road than he did at home. However, he might have hit even worse at home without the help of sign-stealing, and with his performance will be forever tarnished now.
Merrifield’s ire shows how it was not just fans that were cheated but other players as well. Opposing pitchers have a right to feel their numbers are skewed, and opposing hitters feel they were at a disadvantage to Astros hitters who were tipped off on pitches. Merrifield and other players may have been deprived of All-Star selections, awards, possibly post-season accolades - all of which can have financial implications.
Merrifield is very candid in the entire interview, opening up David Glass, Nicky Lopez, and fans telling him to hit more home runs, so do check out the Clubhouse Conversation podcast.
Whit Merrifield on Alex Gordon's diet: "Gordo likes to walk around with his shirt off & show off his abs. I enjoy a nice pizza & ice cream. Gordo's strict about none of that & he likes to walk around at 36 & show off what he's got - & good for him. I'll stick to my cake & pizza."— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) January 22, 2020
Whit Merrifield has always played with a chip on his shoulder. He was passed over for a promotion to the big leagues in 2015, despite a fantastic season in Triple-A. He went unprotected and undrafted in the Rule 5 draft that winter. Even when he reached the big leagues, he encountered a lot of critics who thought he was too old for his performance to be sustainable.
That chip on his shoulder has driven him to become one of the better hitters in the game. Perhaps this will drive him to new heights in 2020.