Andrew Benintendi, the Newest Yankee, is Coy About Getting the COVID Vaccine

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Andrew Benintendi, the newest New York Yankee, played it coy in his introductory press conference Thursday afternoon, refusing to provide the definitive answer everyone wanted to hear.

He is still unvaccinated.

He’s not sure if he’ll get vaccinated.

He didn’t even promise he’d be vaccinated when the Yankees visit Toronto on September 26-28, despite Canadian laws requiring proof of vaccination when crossing the border.

When asked directly if he’d be available to play in the Blue Jays series if the Canadian government didn’t change their laws, he dodged the question once more.

The harsh reality is that Benintendi will be immunized as long as the Canadian government does not abruptly change its vaccination policies.

While it is true that Benintendi has not directly discussed his vaccination status with Yankee officials, he informed Royals GM Dayton Moore about a week ago that if traded to an American League contender, he would get vaccinated, according to two officials with direct knowledge of trade talks.

Moore, in turn, informed every interested party that Benintendi intended to get vaccinated.

This is why, of all teams, the Blue Jays were heavily involved in Benintendi trade talks.

The Yankees may have a 1112-game lead in the American League East and desperately needed Benintendi to be their everyday left fielder, but there was no way they could trade for him if they weren’t informed of his decision to get vaccinated.

Of course, Benintendi could have revealed the same information at his press conference on Thursday, but he wisely declined.

He saw former Royals teammate Whit Merrifield get completely mocked on social media from coast to coast two weeks ago after being identified as one of the ten unvaccinated Royals who couldn’t play in Toronto.

When he implied that if he was traded to a contender, he might get the vaccine, the negative reaction grew significantly. He apologized, but the harm had already been done.

Benintendi, who spent five years in Boston, is familiar with the media game. He had no intention of saying anything similar to Whitfield. No way. Never say never. It’s an extremely contentious subject.

If he had announced on Thursday that he was getting a shot, he would have been accused of being self-centered, allowing the standings of a team to influence his vaccination decision.

He can now pretend to be undecided. He still has two months before his decision is made public, and by then, he can simply state that he has become more knowledgeable about the vaccine’s benefits.

Oh, and given that the Yankees are one of the few teams where everyone is vaccinated, he has the potential to be the ultimate team player.

There are no back-page stories. There is no national ridicule. Yankee fans consider him a hero. Perfect.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he hasn’t discussed it with Benintendi yet, but if he does, you can bet he won’t tell everyone. Why bother saying anything at this point? The Yankees are not scheduled to visit Toronto for another two months.

In reality, Benintendi has already proven to Yankees management that he is a team player. After the Royals’ afternoon game against the Los Angeles Angels, he was informed that he would be traded to the Yankees. It wasn’t official, but Royals officials gave him a heads-up, allowing him to make some phone calls, collect his belongings, and wait as the last player to board the team plane to New York.

The agreement was reached during the first inning of the Yankees’ game against the Mets, but it wasn’t made public until after the game. However, when asked when he was informed of his trade on Thursday, he stated that manager Mike Matheny informed him after they arrived in New York.

Benintendi spent the rest of the evening at the Royals’ team hotel making calls and playing cards with his now-former teammates. On Thursday, he drove to Yankee Stadium, turned right instead of left inside the corridor, walked into the Yankees clubhouse, and became a member of an iconic franchise with the best record in baseball.

Benintendi was in the starting lineup and playing left field on Thursday, where he will remain throughout the season. It enables the Yankees to use Aaron Judge in right field more frequently rather than center field. And it pushes Joey Gallo to the bench, if not out the door entirely, with Aaron Hicks playing center and Giancarlo Stanton as the primary DH.

If Benintendi, who helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2018, can do the same for the Yankees this season, he’ll be remembered fondly in New York.

You know, not for his vaccination status, but for his actual performance.

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