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Game LXXXIX: Royals at Blue Jays

~60% of the Royals take on the Blue Jays

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

As I begin to write this, it was 1:30 PM. The Royals were scheduled to play a baseball game. As it stood, I had no idea who would start that game on the mound. Our own David Lesky guessed that it will be Carlos Hernandez in his series preview this morning, but admitted he was flying blind.

I had less knowledge on who will bat for the Royals. This, of course, is true because 10 unvaccinated Royals won’t be making the trip to Toronto due to Canada’s vaccination policies. We now know who is batting and pitching. But more notable is who isn’t. Of the Royals top five hitters according to wRC+, only Bobby Witt Jr. will be active this weekend. It’s top three hitters – Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, and Michael A. Taylor – along with MJ Melendez, will miss the series.

The Royals will also be without their two highest fWAR pitchers in Brad Keller and Brady Singer, although Singer wouldn’t be pitching either way. Keller, Kansas City’s top starter, will miss a start.

Royals Review editor Matthew LaMar has already written about the knot that these 10 players have tied their team into, so I won’t rewrite what has already been written. But it’s impossible to avoid the subject today.

Of course, getting vaccinated is a choice. And for what it’s worth, it appears that Dayton Moore and the organization did about as much as they could to get players to vaccinate.

There isn’t a mandatory vaccination policy enforced by Major League Baseball, so it’s ultimately up to the players. They have the right to not vaccinate.

But they knew that it would harm their team, made that decision in light of the consequences, and now the rest of the team faces those consequences. There’s no way around it. Regardless of your opinion on this issue, Kansas City flies into Toronto as a significantly worse team than it was earlier this week. Which is quite the statement, given this team is the 2nd worst team in the American League.

70% of the team’s position player fWAR will be in Kansas City while the rest of the squad is in Toronto. There is a benefit to this. We’ll get to see guys like Nick Pratto, Michael Massey, and our old friend Brewer Hicklen. That will be fun. But this could very well have a long-term impact on the team.

“A few of us are [ticked]”, one Royals player told Sam McDowell about 10 teammates staying home. Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees are “unlikely to continue pursuit of Andrew Benintendi” due to his vaccination status and the fact that Blue Jays are in New York’s division and a potential postseason opponent. Benintendi is the Royals most valuable trade asset.

That’s not to mention Whit Merrifield saying that his vaccination could be subject to change if he was on a team that could compete in Canada this postseason. That is the one that might be tough to recover from in the clubhouse.

Either way, the Royasl are playing four games in Toronto and they’ll have to make do with what they have. And we’ll have a Future’s Game weekend of sorts to enjoy.

Nick Pratto and Nate Eaton make their Major League debuts. While debuts are exciting, especially of top-100 prospects, it is a gigantic buzzkill that Pratto’s highly anticipated debut will be made under these circumstances.

Angel Zerpa makes his 2nd career start on the mound and his first start of 2022. Here are your lineups.