I’m a little behind on this one because of the way life tends to demand priorities that don’t line up with writing, but I still wanted to address Jed Hoyer’s recent comments about the Cubs’ stifled progress toward the 85% vaccination target. It should first be pointed out that we’re not talking about just players here, it’s a group of roughly 100 people with a Tier 1 designation that extends to coaches, trainers, and other staffers.
That said, Hoyer admitted Thursday that the Cubs aren’t “like a player away” from getting to the point that the league would loosen COVID-19 protocols. You’d think just having a little more freedom when it comes to who players can be around and where would be pretty solid motivation, but Hoyer says there’s much more to it than that.
“It is disappointing because there are conveniences that come with getting to 85 percent as a group: mask-wearing and dining and things like that, which we would all like to have,” Hoyer told media members. “But I also feel like there’s a real competitive advantage that we’re going to miss.
“The contact-tracing thing is a big deal. When you have a positive case — but the people around you have been vaccinated — that takes away that contact-tracing element to guys being out. By not getting the 85 percent, we’re missing that, so it’s disappointing. I can’t say it any other way.”
The GM reiterated his disappointment several times during his media availability, no surprise when he and David Ross have been vocal from the start about the value of getting vaccinated. Willson Contreras and Javy Báez are involved in public vaccine promotions and Kris Bryant talked about how he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders after he got his shot.
“I made my choice to support the campaign because I feel like I need to protect my family first,” Contreras said. “The way I protected my family was getting vaccinated. I know it’s a personal choice and I tried to talk to people about it, but to me, it seems like it’s an endless conversation.”
He’s right that it’s a personal choice because it’s not being mandated, but this isn’t like picking out what shirt you’re going to wear or which route to take to your cousin’s house. Being vaccinated not only virtually eliminates the risk of severe illness, it also lessens the possibility for transmission. That’s big for players with families and should be a factor for any player who saw pitching coach Tommy Hottovy‘s battle with COVID or who watched several teams have their seasons put on hold due to outbreaks.
Return-to-play guidelines, contract tracing, and a more relaxed environment in and out of the clubhouse sure seem like pretty good motivation from a purely competitive standpoint. I mean, this is a sport that saw wide swaths of its superstars injecting and ingesting who knows what in an effort to gain a competitive advantage. A great deal of those performance-enhancing substances were no doubt being taken without a doctor’s supervision.
Now, however, a significant portion of the player population — and the general public — remains skeptical of these vaccines because they believe conspiratorial nonsense or perhaps because they still don’t believe in the seriousness of a global pandemic that’s raged for well over a year now. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Even if we afford credence to the idea that the vaccines were hastily manufactured and tested, what about the potential for COVID-19 to damage an athlete’s heart, lungs, or other functions?
Remember, it’s not just a matter of survival here. Alas, we’ve probably already crossed the rubicon when it comes to vaccine opinions that have fallen oddly along political party lines. You know partisanship has gone too far when adherents to one ideology or another lump public health in with taxation and policy choices. Ah, but that’s a conversation for another time.
I’m with Hoyer on this one, it’s disappointing that the Cubs haven’t been able to reach 85% and that they probably won’t. They aren’t the only team, either, just the only one we care about here. Now we just have to hope this ends up being a moot point over the rest of the season.