Sports Newest Yankee Andrew Benintendi Plays to Get a Covid...

Newest Yankee Andrew Benintendi Plays to Get a Covid Vaccine | opinion

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NEW YORK — New York Yankee Andrew Benintendi played it smart during his introductory press conference Thursday afternoon and refused to give the definitive answer everyone wanted to hear.

He remains unvaccinated.

He doesn’t know if he will be vaccinated.

He’s also not guaranteed to be vaccinated when the Yankees play in Toronto Sept. 26-28, with Canadian laws requiring proof of vaccination when crossing the border.

“I’m still in the same position,” said Benintendi, the All-Star outfielder who was traded for three minor-league pitchers from the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. “I am not against it. But only time will tell,” he said.

When asked directly if the Blue Jays would be available to play in the series if the Canadian government didn’t change their laws, he brushed it off again.

“Right now, I’m just focused on playing ball,” Benintendi said. “I will cross that bridge when it comes. I’m open-minded about it.

The cold-hearted truth is that Benintendi is being vaccinated because the Canadian government hasn’t suddenly changed its vaccination restrictions.

While it’s true that Benintendi hasn’t spoken directly to Yankee officials about his vaccination status, he did inform Royals GM Dayton Moore a week ago that he would be vaccinated if traded to an American League contender, two officials with direct knowledge of the trade talks. told USA TODAY Sports.

Moore informs each investigative team that Benintendi plans to inoculate.

That’s why the Blue Jays, of all teams, have been heavily involved in trade talks for Benintendi.

The Yankees may have an 11½-game lead in the American League East and desperately need Benintendi as their everyday left fielder, but they are unlikely to trade Benintendi unless they are informed of his decision to get vaccinated.

Benintendi could have revealed the same information in his press conference on Thursday, but wisely declined.

He watched as former Royals teammate Whit Merrifield was completely mocked on social media from coast to coast two weeks ago after he was identified as one of the 10 Royals who could not play in Toronto.

Whitefield criticized the vaccine, saying, “What it is supposed to do, it is not doing. If it does what it’s supposed to do and stops the spread of covid (then) I’d be a little more willing to take it, but it’s not doing it.

The backlash was heightened when he announced that he could take the vaccine if he traded to a competitor. He apologized, but the damage was done.

“I poorly explained what I wanted to say,” Merrifield told reporters in Kansas City. “If this vaccine is what stands between me and the playoffs, I’ll think about getting it. I’m not saying I’ll get it for another team or I won’t get it for this team, it’s about how much I can play in the playoffs.” Something that shows worth.

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Having played five years in Boston, Benintendi knows how the media game works. He’s not saying anything remotely similar to Whitfield. Not now. Probably never. This is a very hot topic.

If he revealed Thursday that he was definitely getting the shot, he would have been accused of being selfish, saying the team’s position in the standings would determine his vaccination decision.

Now, he can pretend he’s still undecided. His decision is still two months away, and by then, he can say he’s more educated about the benefits of the vaccine.

Oh, yeah, and considering the Yankees are one of the few teams where everyone is vaccinated, he might look like the ultimate team player.

No back page headlines.

No national ridicule.

Truly, a hero to Yankee fans.

Perfect.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he has yet to bring this up with Benintendi, but if he does, you can bet he won’t tell everyone publicly. Why the rush to say anything now? The Yankees don’t travel to Toronto for another two months.

“We will cross that bridge,” Boone said, “when, and if, we must.”

Indeed, Benintendi has already proven to be a team player for Yankees management. He was informed that he would be traded to the Yankees after the Royals’ afternoon game against the Los Angeles Angels. It wasn’t official, but Royals officials gave him warnings, allowed him to make a few calls, collect his belongings and wait while he was the last player on the team’s flight to New York.

The deal became official in the first inning of the Yankees’ game against the Mets, but was not announced until after the game. However, when asked Thursday when he was told he was traded, he said manager Mike Matheny informed him after they arrived in New York.

Benintendi made calls throughout the evening and played cards with his former teammates at the Royals’ team hotel. He drove to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, turned right instead of left inside the corridor, walked into the Yankees clubhouse and joined the iconic franchise with the best record in baseball.

Thursday evening, Benintendi was in the starting lineup and in left field, where he would remain all season. This allows the Yankees to play Aaron Judge in right field instead of center field. And that would push Joey Gallo to the bench and Aaron Hicks playing center and likely being the primary DH with Giancarlo Stanton.

“I’m really excited to have him,” Boone said. “I think he’s a really good fit for us.”

Benintendi, who played a key role in the Red Sox’ World Series title in 2018, will be remembered forever in New York if he does the same for the Yankees this season.

You know for his actual performance, not vaccination status.

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @bnightengale.



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