White Sox rookie Yermin Mercedes has been the breakout star of 2021, leading the majors with a sparkling .364 average through 36 games. The 5’11,” 245-pound DH was at it again Monday night, finishing a triple shy of the cycle in the White Sox’s rout of Minnesota (owners of the league’s worst record at 13-26), stretching Chicago’s lead in the division to 3.5 games over second-place Cleveland.
The Dominican-born slugger saved his best for last, clobbering a 47-mph eephus off Twins fan favorite Willians Astudillo (making his second pitching appearance of 2021) into the Target Field bullpen. The towering, 429-foot rocket to center—Mercedes' sixth of the year—staked the Pale Hose to a commanding 16-4 lead in the ninth inning. It also left quite an impression on Twins broadcasters Dick Bremer and Roy Smalley of Bally Sports North, who were none too pleased at Mercedes showing up Astudillo.
“Does it matter?” asked Bremer, questioning why Mercedes would be swinging at a 3-0 pitch with Chicago leading by 11 in the ninth inning.
“I don’t like it,” said Smalley. “I mean it’s 15-4. You’re going to get the same pitch after this. I don’t like it.”
Clearly, Bremer and Smalley felt Mercedes crossed a line, padding his stats against a non-pitcher in the final frame of a 16-4 laugher. Mercedes’ home run was reminiscent of a play involving Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr., who swatted a grand slam under similar circumstances (swinging 3-0 up by seven in the eighth inning) at Texas last year.
Did Mercedes desecrate baseball’s “unwritten rules,” going out of his way to embarrass a struggling Twins team that’s lost 10 of its last 12, or was his ninth-inning blast fair game? Reaction on social media seemed to be largely in Mercedes’ favor with Twitter commenters dismissing the narrative presented by Minnesota’s announcing team as sour grapes.
Even if Mercedes was trying to run up the score, whining about it accomplishes nothing. If the Twins want to hit Chicago where it hurts, maybe they should start by playing better baseball instead of lashing out at Mercedes for doing precisely what his job entails.