A 28-year-old minor league journeyman, Mercedes has always had a bat-first profile and no clear defensive home.
Yet, those offensive traits were notable, and it’s fair to wonder why he didn’t earn an opportunity to play regularly sooner, as he deserved one for a long time.
In parts of eight minor league baseball seasons, Mercedes was always an above-average hitter by weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, as he always had 100 or more (100 is an ‘average’ offensive performer).
Right now, he is one of the White Sox’s best players, hitting .358/.405/.555 with six home runs and 25 RBI.
That may be surprising, but if we consider that he always raked in the minors, to the tune of a .302 average, a .366 OBP, and a .857 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging), it really shouldn’t be.
He is on pace for a 100+ RBI season, as crazy and far-fetched as that may sound.
The World’s Most Controversial Home Run
In recent days, Mercedes came to prominence and made the news after hitting a home run.
On Monday, with the White Sox up 15-4 in the ninth inning, the Minnesota Twins decided to rest their bullpen and put position player Willians Astudillo on the mound.
Mercedes worked a 3-0 count, and took advantage of a 47-mph pitch and drilled it to center field for a home run that put the game at 16-4.
The Twins didn’t particularly like Mercedes’ decision to swing on a 3-0 count and up 11 runs, but Mercedes’ own manager Tony La Russa publicly criticized the rookie for breaking the game’s unwritten rules.
For years, it has been frowned upon to swing at 3-0 counts and to try and do damage when the game is out of reach.
However, who are we to determine when a game is really ‘out of reach’?
Mercedes is already a White Sox legend for several reasons.
Fans Are Taking Mercedes’ Side
First of all, he is the symbol of hard work and earning things with perseverance and resilience.
He is just getting his first opportunity to play MLB games every day, at 28 years old, and with a lot of MILB mileage.
Secondly, he understands that MLB is a business, for everybody involved.
He knows he has to put numbers if he wants to secure the best payday for him and his family.
Every home run, every RBI may count in arbitration, in contract negotiations, and in free agency, as harmless or harmful as it may seem.
Traditionalists like La Russa got offended by Mercedes’ behavior.
La Russa even justified the Twins throwing behind Mercedes in the next game, saying he had ‘no problems’ with the way Minnesota handled the situation.
Golpe intencional a Yermín Mercedes por la polémica de ayer 👀.pic.twitter.com/5Nh4nJR54l
— Lari Valenzuela (@ilarissav19) May 19, 2021
La Russa is clearly in the wrong because no matter the traditionalists – modern observers’ discussion, he failed to protect his player and exposed him.
The White Sox manager called Mercedes clueless and started an unnecessary public spat, to which Mercedes only said that he wouldn’t change the way he plays.
Yermin Mercedes isn't here for the unwritten rules of baseball.
"I'm going to play like that. I'm Yermin. I can't be another person because if I change it, everything is going to change. … We're just having fun. It's baseball." pic.twitter.com/WGf8ZyL2TN
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) May 18, 2021
White Sos fans have taken Mercedes’ side and defend the players.
Mercedes has been a likable figure from the start, with his long homers, charisma, and hard work.
Now, fans are taking his side because he is just doing his job and helping the game grow.
Mercedes, for White Sox fans, is the symbol of hope, as they look to win their first World Series since 2005.
And he is also the symbol of the silent, working type going against the unreasonable man who thinks he is always right.