Royals' unvaccinated mess shows MLB players stick to their beliefs – unless it's inconvenient | Opinion

Many MLB players made the personal choice of not getting a vaccine shot for COVID-19, but at what cost?

OK, let’s get this straight. 

You want to stick to your convictions and refuse to get vaccinated. 

You’ll tell everyone who will listen that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is against your moral principles, maybe even religious beliefs. 

You believe it’s simply a waste of time to get vaccinated since you’re young, healthy and believe you’re immune to COVID-19. 

You’re even willing to forfeit money. 

We can certainly disagree with your stance, just like the 10 Kansas City Royals’ players who are abandoning their teammates and won’t play in a four-game series in Toronto this weekend, but it’s their right. 

But what is ludicrous, infuriating, and hypocritical is how a players’ beliefs dramatically change depending on the circumstances. 

Royals second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield had a college friend who died from COVID-19, but now says, “I don’t feel like COVID is a threat to me… Don’t think the risk was worth it, honestly.’’ 

Whit Merrifield was an All-Star for the Royals in 2019 and 2021.

Oh, and at the same time, he says he’ll leave open the possibility of changing his mind if he’s traded to an American League contender who could play postseason games in Toronto. 

“That might change down the road,’’ he told Kansas City reporters. “Something happens, and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes.” 


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So, if you’re on a team that stinks, why bother getting vaccinated? But if traded to a contender, where’s the nearest pharmacy for that shot? 

The Boston Red Sox were without three players when the team went to Canada on June 27-29, and the popular refrain was they needed more time to speak to doctors, do their research, and just weren’t ready to get poked. 

Well, after losing two of three games without closer Tanner Houck and center fielder Jarren Duran, Red Sox manager Alex Cora declared he doesn’t anticipate having the same problem when they go to Toronto in September. The inference is that at least one player has informed Cora he will change his stance. 

It was no different when the Phillies were in Toronto earlier this week without four players. They lost both games, with their fans wondering if it will keep them from reaching the postseason for the first time since 2011. 

There have been 36 publicly identified Major League Baseball players who have refused to be vaccinated, with perhaps dozens and dozens more who haven’t been identified since their ballclub doesn't have any regular season games in Toronto this year. 

It could create a circus at the trade deadline with teams needing to find out who is and who isn’t vaccinated, weighing whether they should risk acquiring an unvaccinated player. 

If you’re the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, or any other American League team, do you dare trade for a player who’s not vaccinated knowing you could be playing a postseason series in Toronto? 

It was the vaccination status of infielder Trevor Story that nearly torpedoed the Red Sox’s pursuit before giving him a six-year, $140 million contract. 

Story was not vaccinated, and informed teams he was not going to get vaccinated. 

Well, when the Red Sox came calling in spring training, they told him that with nine regular-season games scheduled in Toronto, they had no interest in signing him unless he was vaccinated. 

Apparently, his vaccination belief wasn’t worth $140 million 

Story got the shot. 

And fired his agent. 

The Blue Jays let Cy Young winner Robbie Ray walk away after last season without making a strong effort to keep him. Was it because he wasn’t vaccinated? They signed Kevin Gausman and let the Seattle Mariners pay Ray ($115 million), who, of course, was unable to pitch in Toronto during their three-game series in May. 

Who knows how long the Canadian law will continue to prohibit visitors from entering their country without being vaccinated. Then again, we don’t know how long COVID-19 will stay around and spread

What we do know is that these players who refuse to get vaccinated are being publicly exposed for all of the world to see. They are making the personal choice and risking the chance of getting COVID-19, and getting others sick, while costing their teammates potential victories, while being away. 

“Granted, it’s helping people to stay out of the hospital,” Merrifield told reporters. “But I don’t feel like I’m in that demographic. And if I am, I get it, and I get sick and get in the hospital. That’s on me. 

“But if it was foolproof like it was supposed to be, I would get the vaccine and it would stop me from spreading COVID. No problem. But unfortunately, that’s not what it’s doing.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will tell you that unvaccinated people over the age of 12 were 1½ times more likely to test positive and eight times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who received two shots and a booster, per April data.

In fact on Thursday, the Royals' official Twitter account shared a CDC link about COVID-19 vaccines, replying to their own tweet about the players going on the restricted list.

The decision is costing Merrifield $153,846. Teammate Andrew Benintendi, who is being shopped before the trade deadline with the Yankees expressing strong interest, is losing $186,813. And no one has forfeited more pay this year than Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto at $262,363. 

“I’m not going to let Canada tell me what I do and don’t put in my body,’’ Realmuto said, “for a little bit of money.’’ 

Well, if the Phillies miss the playoffs, and a chance to win the World Series, try explaining that to his teammates, coaches and support staff. The shares for Atlanta’s World Series title berth last year was worth $397,391 a person. 

So go ahead, keep blaming the Canadian laws for their strict vaccination policy. Keep screaming at Major League Baseball and the players union for agreeing that unvaccinated players shouldn’t be paid for games. Scream to the heavens that it’s simply a matter of personal choice, and no one should be able to force you to take a shot that can save lives.  

Pardon us if we just don’t want to listen. 

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale