CINCINNATI -- Before explaining his reasoning for not getting vaccinated and ultimately costing himself two upcoming games with the Cardinals, All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado wanted to make one thing clear:
“It’s just a personal choice, and I’m not trying to do a political stand here or be a spokesperson for this or that,” said Arenado, who will not be allowed to travel with the Cardinals to Toronto for the two-game series against the Blue Jays due to Canadian vaccine mandates. “I’m just choosing to do what’s best for me and my family, and I mean no harm. But it’s unfortunate that I’ve got to miss two games.”
The Cardinals lost 6-3 to the Reds on Sunday at Great American Ball Park, losing the series to their rebuilding division rival before finding out pitcher Steven Matz may miss several weeks because of a torn MCL in his left knee. But the biggest reverberating blow of all might be the decision by Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado -- two of the brightest stars in baseball -- to not get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines are safe, effective and have greatly reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed children and adults.
The CDC recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older to reduce the severity of COVID-19 cases that have led to hospitalizations and deaths over the past two years. From April 4-30 2022, the most recent data available by the CDC, unvaccinated people aged 5 years and older had 1.9 times the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and six times the risk of dying from the virus compared to people vaccinated with at least a primary series of the vaccine.
At least 222.5 million people have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in the U.S., according to CDC data published by the Washington Post.
“It was not an easy decision, but over this year-plus that this has happened, I’ve tried to talk to as many doctors and professionals as I could, figured out as much as I could, and I decided the potential risks outweighed the potential benefits of doing it,” said Goldschmidt, who homered twice on Sunday and extended his regular-season streak of games with a home run to four -- five when including his blast in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. “It stinks that I can’t play in Toronto and can’t play these next couple of games -- I hate that part of it, but that’s unfortunately the consequence.”
Veteran catcher Austin Romine will also join Goldschmidt and Arenado on the restricted list because of his unvaccinated status. Arenado will forfeit $384,615 of his $35 million annual salary for the two missed games, while Goldschmidt will lose $285,714 of a contract that pays him $26 million in 2022.
Assistant hitting coach Turner Ward also will not make the trip to Toronto with the team. Manager Oliver Marmol said Ward has a medical condition incompatible with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Arenado and Goldschmidt, who came into Sunday ranked first and second in the National League in Wins Above Replacement, said they had to weigh the harm not getting vaccinated would do to a Cardinals team that is trailing Milwaukee in the race for the NL Central crown and is teetering in the standings for the final Wild Card slot.
“It’s disappointing and it’s something I’m not happy about,” Arenado said. “I know it’s only two games, but it’s still an important two games with how we’re playing, we’re in the second half and where we’re at [in the standings]. It hurts and I’m not happy about it.”
Both Arenado and Goldschmidt said from the time the schedule came out last summer, they hoped Canada would have dropped its vaccine mandate by now and their playing status wouldn’t be in jeopardy. Both admitted they might reevaluate their stance on the vaccine if the Cardinals go deep into the playoffs and their statuses jeopardize their availability again. Under Canadian law, United States citizens wanting to cross the Canadian border must be vaccinated at least two weeks ahead of time or face a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
“I was hopeful they would get rid of that ban and go to something like what we have,” Arenado said. (Canadian residents cannot enter the United States without a vaccine either.) “I would probably consider [taking the vaccine], especially if it’s a chance to play in the World Series. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Added Goldschmidt: “It’s a very personal, private medical decision and unfortunately it becomes public with this. I think you’ve got to put your health above everything. For me, this was the best decision for my health, and I’ll have to suffer the consequences.”