There are 12 teams considered fully vaccinated by Major League Baseball. That number is expected to climb to at least 15 before the end of the week.
The Red Sox are not part of that group and won’t be for quite some time, if ever.
Part of that is a function of timing. The organization waited until April 19 to inoculate its players to abide by age-group rules for Massachusetts residents. Sox players and staffers started receiving their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine this week.
But a bigger part has been the hesitancy by some players.
For a team to be considered fully vaccinated, 85 percent of its 100-person “Tier 1” group must be vaccinated. That’s as many as 70 players and 30 staff members.
The player group includes the Triple A roster, as those players are subject to the same testing protocols as the major league players in the event they are promoted.
According to a team source, enough Worcester players have resisted getting the vaccine to keep the Sox from reaching 85 percent. There are some holdouts on the major league roster, too.
“We’re closer than probably 10 days ago,” Sox manager Alex Cora said Wednesday. “I don’t know how close to 85 [percent], but we are close.”
Within the organization, the hope remains the Sox will get there eventually. But there’s no certainty as the team tries to find a path across the cultural divide with Latin American players.
Vaccines are not as common or trusted in some of their native countries as they are in the United States.
The Red Sox have undertaken educational efforts — including presentations from Spanish-speaking medical professionals — to bring those players on board.
When the MLB Players Association put out a pro-vaccination public service announcement in conjunction with MLB, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez was included for that reason.
Ideally, all players would be amply motivated to protect themselves and their loved ones from a virus that has caused the deaths of 3.3 million people worldwide. Vaccinations are saving lives and returning society closer to normal.
But there’s no ignoring the competitive advantage, either.
The Yankees have been able to play this week despite some “breakthrough” positive tests among some vaccinated coaches because MLB and MLBPA officials determined the high rate of vaccinations among the team’s players, coaches and staff lessened the risk.
So rather than have some games postponed, the Yankees played on.
Meanwhile the Padres are playing without star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who tested positive, and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was a close contact.
Players on fully vaccinated teams also gain a series of personal comforts including being able to bring their families on the road, not wearing masks in the dugout, undergoing fewer tests, and meeting with friends outdoors.
I asked J.D. Martinez if he considered it important for the Red Sox to gain that same advantage as other teams, as it could make a difference in their season. He acknowledged that’s been mentioned to the players.
“That’s not a team decision,” Martinez said. “That’s a personal decision. That’s to each his own. Everyone has the right to believe and to think what they want to think about their body and what they’re putting into their body.
“It’s one of those things where it would be nice to have that kind of advantage. But it is what it is, you know?”
Is that really true? Doesn’t a member of a team also have a responsibility to his teammates, coaches and the organization to learn the facts?
If a professional golfer or a tennis player decides not to get vaccinated, that affects a handful of people. But the decisions made by baseball players affect hundreds.
The Red Sox have one of the best teams in baseball with the season nearly a quarter finished. Fans have emotionally re-invested in the team.
Cora is fully vaccinated and has mentioned it several times, saying he wanted to protect his friends and family. By being public about his decision, the manager is modeling responsible actions.
As one of the oldest and most successful players on the team, Martinez could have a similar impact. But he has taken a different route.
“Everyone has a right to their body and what they do,” Martinez said. “It’s a crazy time we’re living in. I think I understand that. So it’s one of those things. If you want to do it, do it. If you don’t, then don’t do it. It’s bigger than the game, you know what I mean? It’s your life. It’s bigger than just baseball.”
Martinez lives in the Miami area, a region of the country hit particularly hard by the virus. But he said that has not influenced his opinions.
So I finally just asked Martinez if he were vaccinated. He declined to answer.
“That’s one of those personal things for me,” he said.
For now the Sox will wait. Uneasily.