MLB faces a major hurdle in COVID-19 battle: Players hesitant to get the vaccine

When Trevor Bauer struggled through performance and health issues early in his Major League Baseball career, he enlisted a Stanford University doctor to capture images of his hip and shoulder, then had his pitching delivery mapped by a biomechanist to identify the sources of his pain.

Yet when it comes to whether he’d receive a COVID-19 vaccine or if he’d suggest others do the same, all Bauer could say was, “It comes down to personal medical history and personal medical choices so I don't really want to speak on that."

As J.D. Davis struggled to gain traction in the major leagues in 2018, he pored over video and data with Houston Astros hitting guru Jeff Albert, who holds a Master’s degree in kinesiology, and dug into the granular concepts of swing and bat planes, in an effort to increase the lift and exit velocity on his batted balls and combat pitchers blowing him away with fastballs.

Three years later, firmly established with the New York Mets, Davis says getting vaccinated “hasn’t really crossed my mind,” that he and teammates “aren’t really getting the itch” for potentially loosened protocols should he and 85% of team personnel get the shot(s).

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OK, so maybe the lure of bottomless beef ancho at Fogo de Chao can’t prompt major league players to collectively vouch for vaccination.

So how about saving your season?

The ambivalence of players in public comments regarding vaccination strikes a decidedly dissonant tone to that of the modern major leaguer, many of whom wouldn’t be making their handsome salaries without an embrace of science and data, without their own clinical trials that take place in a batting cage or bullpen mound rather than a laboratory.

Now, that ambivalence – and perhaps an overarching desire to protect their teammates in the public court of opinion – may produce significant implications in a 2021 season that was supposed to be far sunnier than the protocol-induced slog of 2020.

Just ask the Washington Nationals, who have yet to play a game this season.

It took just one player getting exposed to COVID-19 to create enough spread to produce four positive tests and 11 players in all sidelined by protocols. Tuesday, they will play their first game of the season after 21 teams already have four games in the books, and six more have played five.

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