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We’re gonna need a way to differentiate “Witt” and “Whit” now, and fast

It’s chaos out there. Chaos!

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ansas City Royals center fielder Kyle Isbel (28) talks with third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. (7) before the game against the Cleveland Guardians at Kauffman Stadium.
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Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It’s happened: the Major League Baseball debut of one Bobby Witt Jr., one of baseball’s top prospects and the most exciting prospect to debut for the Kansas City Royals since at least Eric Hosmer’s first game a little over a decade ago.

While it’s not entirely certain that the Royals would not have done so, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement helped grease the wheels for MLB-ready top prospects to debut with their big league club. Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are is a new mechanism in place—called the Prospect Promotion Incentive, or PPI—where teams can receive compensatory draft picks if a player receives significant Rookie of the Year, MVP, or Cy Young votes before arbitration.

It’s gone pretty well! In Witt’s first career game, he smacked the game-winning hit into left field for his first career hit, a double. Then, in Saturday’s game, he saved a run in extras with one of the most absurd defensive plays I’ve ever seen.

But Royals fans, players radio announcers, and your humble podcast hosts have a big problem: with Bobby Witt Jr. joining Whit Merrifield, who is already known affectionately as “Whit,” how on earth do we differentiate between “Witt” and “Whit?” It’s going to be hard enough when it’s so easy to accidentally type one when we mean the other. But saying it? Yeesh. That’s worse.

So, let’s go through some options here, in no real order of preference or effectiveness.

Option Boring: Use Both Names

Gotta start somewhere, and that start is going to be the simplest and most boring way to solve the W(h)itt Crisis of 2022. Witt must be Bobby Witt and Whit must be Whit Merrifield now until perpetuity. Both players get use of W(h)itt as part of a larger whole, but nobody keeps it for themselves. This is no fun.

Option One: Double Down on the Junior

Look, I’m a child of the 90s. I know that Ken Griffey Jr.’s nickname was Junior. I know that comparing Witt to Griffey is...an aggressive comparison, considering that Griffey is one of the best baseball players of all time and would be the true home run king if not for the fact that he only averaged 99 games played per year for the last decade of his career.

But darn it, Griffey isn’t the only “Junior” in the history of the game. Heck, Fernando Tatis Jr. exists, Witt’s contemporary in the west. Why not call Witt “Junior?” Well, again, for children of the 80s and the 90s, that might seem sacrilege. But the youngsters probably won’t have that problem. They’re too busy playing Game Boy Advance games on an emulator on their phone and asking people like me if liking baseball is just a thing that happens when you get older, two real life things a 19-year-old did on Saturday whilst sitting next to me. Can it, Ryan. Go back to playing trombone.

Option Two: Mutually Assured Destruction

Have you ever given, I dunno, a pencil or a piece of candy or something as a present to a friend or group of friends in elementary school only to have it absconded by the teacher as they sneer, “did you bring enough for the whole class?” Look, Mrs. Smith, no, I don’t like the whole class, why would I do that?

In this option, if everyone can’t have it, no one can have it. Bobby Witt becomes Bobby. Whit Merrifield is henceforth referred to only as Merrifield or, I suppose, Whitley. It’s not the worst option in the world. But it does make the game lose a little bit of luster. After all, W(h)itt is a very catchy, one-syllable name.

Option Three: The King’s Speech

Dialect educational time! “Witt” and “Whit” are two different words that only have the same pronunciation because of a specific dialect phenomenon called the wine/whine merger. As you might expect, if your dialect includes this merger, you’ll pronounce both “wine” and “whine” the same, as opposed to pronouncing them differently because of the “wh” in “whine.”

In International Phonetic Alphabet terms, this means you’d pronounce “Witt” as /wɪt/ and “Whit” as /ʍɪt/. For those non-nerds out there who didn’t have to figure out how the hell to pronounce French or German words in choir, you get the same effect by pretending that you’re British for “Whit.” This is an option, but it’s also not a good option, as I probably lost most of you in the above two paragraphs even with a good explanation and ain’t no one doing that explanation on a podcast.

Option Four: Bob

Jon Bois, noted writer and video maker for SB Nation’s YouTube channel Secret Base, released a two-part video a couple years ago called “The Bob Emergency,” which chronicled the many sports Bobs and how, in recent years, the name “Bob” has all but vanished. It is, as all of Bois’ work is, deeply fascinating and engrossing.

We have a chance, guys. We can bring Bob back. Or, well, Bob can bring Bob back by being the most prevalent Bob in the American sports universe in the next few years. Heck, some of his teammates already call him Bob, so. We’re halfway there.

Option Five: Trust the Children

Royals Twitter is full of plenty of fun individuals, but my favorite at this point happens to be Hunter Samuels’ daughter, who has potentially the best nickname for Witt that I’ve seen so far: Bobby Bob Bob.

What’s not to love? It’s wonderful. Children should be in charge of naming more things than they are currently in charge of naming, which is zero things.