We’ve never seen a player like Whit Merrifield. Why his rise was years in the ma…

The piece of paper was taped to the inside of his locker earlier this summer, a clubhouse prank that served as a statement of sorts. Whit Merrifield showed up to work one day, and there it was. On the front of a wooden cupboard door was a faux advertisement, neatly printed out and sized to 8  1/2 -by-11 paper.

There was Whit Merrifield’s body, set against a black backdrop. There was the Nike Swoosh. There were four words, set off in white lettering:

“We Are All Whitnesses.”

The piece of art had first appeared on Twitter in May, the creation of a Royals fan who goes by the alias Conrad McGorkin. It was inspired by the iconic LeBron James advertising campaign and a thousand fans who had noticed the easy pun. (Whit is like Witness!) The meme pinged around the internet for a few days before Royals starter Danny Duffy, a fan of McGorkin’s Photoshop work, stumbled upon it.

It didn’t take Merrifield, the Royals’ second baseman, long to connect the dots and identify a culprit. And yet, he was kind of stuck. Having such a sign in his own locker, however funny, seemed to represent a level of braggadocio, that seemed kind of weird. Yet he didn’t feel he could toss it out, either. For all his accomplishments this season, for every two-hit game and sensational defensive play, he is still a 28-year-old in his first full major-league season, a plebe in the pecking order of the room.

“I didn’t feel like I could take it…

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