I’d like to introduce a word not in much use these days in the discussion about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Scorn: Open dislike and disrespect or mockery, often mixed with indignation.
The harsh term captures my attitude about people who choose not to protect themselves, others and the national welfare by refusing COVID-19 vaccinations.
I understand hesitation, apprehension and reluctance. I don’t understand a 19th century response to a 21st century advancement in personal safety, which needs cooperation from nearly everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, nationality or political persuasion, to help end a global crisis.
I get why it’s dangerous, and illegal, for governments and most businesses to impose laws and rules requiring vaccinations. I don’t get why requests from dedicated, sincere health professionals that we otherwise trust to help restore our organs, repair our bones and help birth our children, are rejected.
So I am scornful of anti-vaxxers. And have been.
It took the Mariners’ COVID-19 episode Friday to clear my throat.
Until then, I felt professionally and personally obliged to go along with the consensus approach of persuading, cajoling, urging, pleading, even bribing, the jab-resistant to accept the science that’s been around for more than 100 years. Even if this coronavirus was a new kind requiring an urgent effort for a fresh cure.
The Mariners and all Seattle sports teams have been uniformly diligent and earnest in following the conservative protocols established by city, county and state officials to curb the spread and open the stadium doors slowly. The pro teams have had few positive tests and minimal quarantines. The Mariners have been proactive with fans by offering shots at the ballpark.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 4, 2021
In MLB this season, a vaccination threshold of 85 percent of personnel was established to allow a relaxation of some restrictions, including usage of masks and social distancing. Not only would teams meeting the standard enjoy better health and closer-to-normal operations, they would have competitive advantages over teams who came up short.
For 15 months, the Mariners had run a nearly clean operation. Then they didn’t.
Arriving in San Diego for the start of three-game series with the Padres, manager Scott Servais was told Friday of a positive test in the traveling party. A few hours later, four relievers — Robert Dugger, Anthony Misiewicz, Will Vest and Drew Steckenrider — were were put on the injured list.
Rules prohibit teams from identifying infected members, or those quarantined by close contact. Still, it can’t be hidden that half of the club’s most reliable unit was taken away at once — a cumulative 58 appearances over 67 innings.
Ominously, more covid test results were to be made available Saturday.
“I’m disappointed,” Servais, clearly crushed, said on a pre-game video conference. “I really didn’t want to see anything like this happen.
“We aren’t out of the woods yet.”
(Saturday update: Dugger and Misiewicz were activated off the COVID list after they tested negative. Each had received at least one dose of the vaccine, Servais said. “They had to be out a day to make sure they were good,” Servais said. “Their tests came back negative . . . Every situation is a little different with the contact tracing and where they’re at . . . we’re lucky to have them back.” No further positive tests were reported.)
Then the Mariners played a game as if they were indeed lost in the woods.
They were pounded, 16-1 (box).
It was not possible to parse whether the abominable outcome was because of distractions, injuries or a perverse brand of baseball that features the game’s worst offense combining with the fresh hell of a decimated bullpen.
Post-game, Servais wasn’t indulging much in the way of excuses.
“It’s a little bit of a pile-on with everything else that’s happening recently,” he said. “You know, one thing you need to do as a professional baseball player is compartmentalize. You need to kind of set it aside. You got a job to do.
“If you can’t compartmentalize, it takes up too much of what’s going on between your ears.”
To compartmentalize what’s going on with the Mariners, you would need a head the size of the moon. Here’s a summary the transactions of the past couple of days.
- RHP Keynan Middleton reinstated from 10-day injured list (strained right biceps)
- LHP Aaron Fletcher recalled from Triple-A Tacoma
- RHP Wyatt Mills recalled from Tacoma
- RHP Yohan Ramírez recalled from Tacoma
- INF Eric Campbell selected from Tacoma
- C Jose Godoy selected from Tacoma
- C Jacob Nottingham claimed off waivers from Milwaukee
- INF Jack Mayfield selected from Tacoma
- INF Dylan Moore 10-day injured list (left hip strain)
- C Luis Torrens optioned to Triple-A Tacoma
- RHP Brady Lail designated for assignment
- INF José Marmolejos designated for assignment
- RHP Robert Dugger placed on injured list
- LHP Anthony Misiewicz placed on injured list
- RHP Drew Steckenrider placed on injured list
- RHP Will Vest placed on injured list
Roster tumult due to injuries and incompetence was already severe — Nottingham, a catcher, played the whole game at first base, where previously in his major league career he had spent 1.2 innings in 2019. Godoy, 26, made his major league debut mid-game after nine seasons in the minor leagues.
Then Dugger, Misiewicz, Steckenrider and Vest took themselves out of play apparently by refusing to vaccinate, although the reason was not cited by the team.
In the pre-game, Servais, typically an even-tempered sort, was irked.
“I know a few of our players have just bought themselves a ticket to spend the next 10 days at the Omni Hotel in San Diego, as they’ll be quarantined here,” he said. “They will not travel with us going forward until that 7-to-10-day period expires and they can rejoin the team or try to get back in shape again after being out.
“I would hope that a few more (unvaxxed players) might jump on board and get the vaccine, but you can only hope. I can’t force anybody to do it.”
The Seattle Times reported via MLB sources that fewer than half the players on the active roster and injured list opted to get vaccinated when first offered by the team in mid-April. General manager Jerry Dipoto said last week that the minor leagues were “90-plus percent across the board” but “lagging behind with our big league club.
“Hopefully that resolves itself soon, because like as happened at other places around the game, eventually it’s likely to crop up. It seems impossible that we’ve been able to avoid it for this long.”
Turned out it was impossible. The club is not alone; MLB and the players union jointly reported Friday that 14 of the 30 clubs have reached 85 percent. Nor is MLB all that different from other industries dealing with a small segment of employees who refuse to grasp the common good ahead of irrational fears.
“Take my emotions aside, they really don’t matter,” Servais said. “It’s about trying to keep our players healthy and doing the right thing. (Players) need to understand, yes, it’s a personal choice, but it does affect a lot of other people.
“So even though it is a personal choice, there’s different things you need to look at there.”
Stakes are far higher in the rest of world than losing a few ballgames. But each of us has a little part to do what we can, and pro athletes are more influential than many.
The Mariners, as with all clubs, have been careful, polite and supportive to the resistant ones. Didn’t quite get ‘er done. Here’s a vote for a dunk tank full of scorn — in case 16-1 isn’t enough humiliation.