KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals spent Thursday patching up a roster missing 10 players who were barred from traveling to Toronto because of their COVID-19 vaccination status while trying to smooth over their damaged image among fans.
Among the nearly 40% of players on the 26-man roster who were left home were All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi, two-time All-Star Whit Merrifield, future cornerstones Kyle Isbel and MJ Melendez and outfielder Michael A. Taylor.
Merrifield was the most expansive among the seven players who discussed their decision Wednesday, claiming “the vaccine, what it’s supposed to do, it’s not doing. If it was doing what it was supposed to do and stopping the spread of COVID (then) I would have a little more willingness to take it, but it’s not doing that.”
Merrifield then drew the ire of Royals fans when he said, “Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes” — which many in Kansas City took to mean he won’t get vaccinated for his current team but is open to doing it for a contender.
“That’s not Whit’s heart. That’s not who he is,” Royals president Dayton Moore said during an interview Thursday with local talk radio. “He was caught in a situation where it just didn’t come out right. … He’s very sorry for what he said.”
Later in the day, the club tweeted: “The Royals have hosted multiple free COVID-19 vaccine events for the community and encourage all to be vaccinated and safe so we can live our fullest lives, in and away from the ballpark.”
The post included a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which says vaccines are proven “to reduce the risk of COVID-19, including the risk of severe illness and death among people who…