Every Toronto Blue Jays home series reveals more problems with MLB’s weak Covid policy

Every Toronto Blue Jays home series reveals more problems with MLB’s weak Covid policy thumbnail

MLB’s pathetically weak Covid protocol is rearing its ugly head again as the feelings of unvaccinated players continue to be placated by feckless leadership at every level of baseball.

The Royals traveled to Toronto this week for a series beginning Thursday, and had to leave 10 unvaccinated players at home due to Canada’s border regulations. New, even stricter measures are set to take place with Canada’s July 19 update, designed to help combat the Omicron BA.5 variant, which has been spreading throughout the world and is now the most dominant source of new infection.

Canada’s border restrictions highlighted how woefully lacking MLB’s Covid policy is, and why MLB and the MLBPA’s insistence on letting unvaccinated players continue to travel could come back to bite them. I cannot believe we’re still talking about the need for professional athletes to act like responsible adults, but this is going to keep popping up as long as they act like petulant children.

What is MLB’s current Covid policy?

Entering the 2022 season, MLB made various changes to relax its Covid policy. Here’s what is currently in place:

  1. Players who test positive are isolated from teammates and not permitted to play.
  2. The club begins contact tracing efforts to isolate affected individuals and isolate them as well.
  3. Areas the player visited are deep cleaned by staff to stop the spread.
  4. In case of a Covid outbreak MLB will evaluate the situation and potentially postpone games.

In theory this all sounds pretty good, but everything MLB and the MLBPA agreed to are reactive measures. There is zero requirement for vaccination and no mandatory or random testing. That makes the bar extremely high to even know if a player has Covid, and requires them to self-report — which we know isn’t a realistic expectation.

Therefore, there could be dozens upon dozens of Covid positive players — and the only check being done was if they tried to travel to Canada.

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MLB and the MLBPA created a new breeding ground for misinformation

By choosing to allow players to do whatever they wanted without any restrictions baseball created an information imbalance. Naturally, responsible, vaccinated players haven’t been interviewed to discuss their decision — but vaccine skeptics and players missing games have been given a platform to spout misinformation.

J.T. Realmuto decided to go nationalistic and blame Canada when the Phillies catcher wasn’t able to travel to Toronto.

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

It should be noted that Realmuto also noted that he’s “had Covid a couple of times,” which one would think might be enough to convince you to get vaccinated — but I guess not. Realmuto went on to insinuate that doctors told him he didn’t need to get vaccinated because he’s had Covid before, which kind of defeats the whole argument for natural immunity if you’ve gotten it “a couple of times.” Furthermore, this is the entire reason Canada is restricting its borders to vaccinated individuals.

The Omicron BA.5 variant is shown to exhibit high factors of “immune escape,” meaning a heightened ability to re-infect individuals who were previously infected. People are catching Covid again and again, without previously believed safeguards in place.

This might lead you to think “if everyone is getting it regardless of vaccination, why get vaccinated?” and that comes down to transmissibility. Every shred of scientific evidence and learned research we have on Covid and its vaccines tell us that symptoms are drastically less for those who have been vaccinated. When the primary symptom of Covid is coughing, and the main vector for transmission is also coughing we have a direct correlation between getting vaccinated and slowing the epidemic.

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Not only does the science show there’s almost no chance of death from Covid if you’ve properly received vaccination and booster shots, but it’s in the interest of humankind to reduce transmissibility as much as possible so further mutations don’t occur.

Whit Merrifield of the Royals, who isn’t traveling to Canada as a result of his vaccination status, downplayed the importance of getting the shot.

Whit Merrifield said his decision to not get vaccinated is a personal choice based on research and conversations.

He has sat the last 4 games with a big toe bone bruise but said it’s progressing well and he might have played by the end of the Toronto series if he was going.

— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) July 13, 2022

Whitfield’s research on the need for Covid vaccination seems to end when it comes to “hey, maybe I’d get the shot if it means I’d be in the playoffs,” showing how strong his convictions are on the topic.

This is the core issue of this information imbalance. Voices of the ignorant are being elevated, while MLB nor the MLBPA have made strong statements on the issue.

What does this mean for the rest of the season?

The Royals will likely lose their series in Toronto, but they were going to anyway because the team is terrible. The main problem comes contending teams with large numbers of unvaccinated individuals with trips to Toronto still on their schedules.

The Cardinals, Guardians, Orioles, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox all have upcoming games in Toronto, and while they’ve visited Canada before, the incoming testing requirements could play a huge role in the chase for the postseason. While it’s been suggested by some fans that the Blue Jays somehow gain an unfair advantage by not needing to host unvaccinated players, it’s far greater risk for Toronto’s playoff chances when they need to make more travels across the border than any team in baseball.

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This could impact the trade deadline as well. Conceivably any team with a remaining series against the Jays in Toronto should not trade for an unvaccinated player. It simply doesn’t make any sense for them.

Finally, we don’t know if Canada will institute any further restrictions prior to the end of the season.

What should MLB do?

The league’s hands are tied. There was a time for action to ensure everything was buttoned up, but MLB and the MLBPA took a soft approach designed not to make any waves. The agreement was made, ratified, and is set to last the entire season. Safeguarding for the future wasn’t in their Covid policy, and now it’s coming back to bite them.

The agreement between MLB and the MLBPA regarding the travel of unvaccinated players expires at the end of the 2022 season, which could (and should) result in tighter restrictions moving forward. It’s been clear Covid is something the world will need to live with, at least for the foreseeable future, with mitigating mutations and variants becoming normal practice until we have more blanket vaccination techniques, or Covid potentially mutates itself into oblivion. Until that point baseball will keep being damaged and affected as a result of poor leadership, and fans of the sport deserve better.

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