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Dan Shaughnessy

Major League Baseball needs to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, and other thoughts

Commissioner Rob Manfred, as a lawyer, knows he’ll never get a COVID-19 vaccine mandate past baseball’s Players Association.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, as a lawyer, knows he’ll never get a COVID-19 vaccine mandate past baseball’s Players Association.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Picked-up pieces while nervously waiting for the first Olympic fiasco . . .

▪ Memo to Major League Baseball: Just get the COVID-19 vaccine, fellas. It’s not about politics or a government plot to put a microchip in your body. Risks? Of course. There are risks that you could choke on your steak dinner. Have you stopped eating?

Enough with the boogeyman and the tin-foil-hat, science-denying. It’s pretty clear that the personal benefits from vaccination outweigh the potential risks. This is a public health issue. Stop piggybacking on the cooperation of the majority while endangering that majority (and yourself) by exercising your right to refuse. You have the “right” to push your way into a crowded subway car when you have the flu. How about stepping up for the greater good?

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Thank God smallpox and polio vaccines came along before all-knowing Dr. Google.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has ordered a mandatory vaccination policy for those who work in his office. He should do the same with his players, coaches, managers, and clubhouse workers. Unfortunately, Manfred is a lawyer and knows he’ll never get a mandate past baseball’s all-powerful Players Association.

I say, go for it anyway. Go all Kenesaw Mountain Landis “best interest of baseball” (with exemptions for legit medical or religious reasons, of course). Tell the fellows that playing major league ball is a privilege, not a constitutional right. Hit the vax-way or the highway.

Without it, we’ll have more situations like the one that postponed Thursday’s marquee Red Sox-Yankees matchup in New York, and the panic when four Phillies players went into COVID protocols before last Sunday’s game at Fenway.

Six Yankees tested positive Thursday, including All-Star Aaron Judge. The Red Sox are one of only seven teams that have been unable to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold. Alex Cora said that “some” of the Red Sox five All-Stars who interacted with Judge in Denver are not vaccinated.

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Mandate the vaccine.

▪ Love the way Kiké Hernández plays, and his versatility is useful, but he sure makes a lot of noise for a .237 hitter who has spent a lot of his career as a utility/bench guy. Prior to the All-Star break, Hernández was moaning about the Sox schedule — Adrian Gonzalez style — saying it’s not fair that the Sox and Yankees don’t get four days off for the break. He added, “But hey, MLB likes money and Red Sox-Yankees makes money. So, let there be money.”

Right, Kiké. It’s the same with those annoying Sunday night games they make you play when you are on the Red Sox. It’s a tradeoff of playing for a high-profile team.

When Sox-Yankees was postponed Thursday because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Hernández took a goofy victory lap, telling the Globe’s Alex Speier, “Things happen for a reason. It’s hard to make fun of the situation considering it’s the other team’s health . . . but everything happens for a reason. Everybody else got an extra day. We got our extra day one way or another.” Wow.

▪ Quiz: Name two Red Sox teammates who homered in the same game 56 times over the course of their careers (answer below).

▪ Is Danny Ainge going to take a job with the Suns or the Jazz? “I want to work again,” Ainge said from the West Coast this past week. “I just don’t want to do the crazy lifestyle that I had for the last 18 years. I have nothing right now. I just got done with a long walk and swim this morning. And taking my wife to tennis. We just got back from spending lots of time with our parents that we haven’t seen since the pandemic started, so we had some good times with our family and there’s nothing on the horizon as I see it. The [Massachusetts] house is for sale but we’re not moving for sure. We’re not certain on that.”

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▪ Irked that he lost a $33 million bonus for not making first-, second-, or third-team All-NBA, Jayson Tatum told the Globe’s Gary Washburn, “How could you watch my game and the season I had and think I wasn’t one of the best 15 players?” Tatum’s probably right, but the comment is unfortunate. Let everybody else say it for you.

▪ Can we hose everybody down now about the Red Sox draft? Yeesh. Those picks are not all going to be Corey Seager, David Ortiz, and Kyle Schwarber. Let’s see how they develop.

▪ Noting that Dan Duquette assembled more than half of the 2004 world champion Red Sox before he was fired by the “new” Red Sox owners at spring training in 2002, I asked the Duke if he ever received a championship ring after the Sox broke the curse. “No,” Duquette said, chuckling. “I got a watch when they retired me.”

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▪ Along the same lines, hope the Phoenix Suns don’t forget former general manager Ryan McDonough. A Hingham native and son of a great Globie, the late Will McDonough, Ryan is the guy who drafted Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, and acquired Mikal Bridges for Phoenix. McDonough was let go by the Suns in October 2018.

▪ US Olympic swimmer Michael Andrew demonstrated his team spirit by refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine because “I didn’t want to risk any days out,” adding, “We’re kind of a, I wouldn’t say conspiracy-theory type family, but we’re definitely on the side where we look for what other methods are.” Swell. Hope he finishes last.

▪ No sport has fallen off the map around here more than men’s tennis. Maybe it’s because we lost the inimitable Bud Collins in 2016. I am old enough to remember when Longwood was a big part of our sports summer. Anyway, if you remember a time when Pete Sampras set the record with 14 major championships in 2002, know that Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic (last weekend’s Wimbledon winner) each have now 20 won Grand Slam singles titles.

▪ Full circle: Haywood Sullivan hired Don Zimmer to manager the Red Sox in 1976. Whitney Goldstein, Zimm’s granddaughter, is head coach of URI softball and just hired Tori Constantin as an assistant. Constantin is the granddaughter of Haywood Sullivan.

▪ Catcher Michael Trautwein, son of former Red Sox pitcher John Trautwein, was drafted in the 13th round by the Reds. John Trautwein has dedicated his life to teen suicide awareness (Will to Live Foundation) since losing his son Will at the age of 15 in 2010.

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▪ Soul-crushing baseball numbers: According to Tom Verducci, in the last 26 minutes of the clinching Game 6 of last year’s World Series, there were exactly two balls put into play. Over the course of the entire game, the ball was put into play once every 6.5 minutes. Half of the outs in the game were strikeouts. George Will calculates that 36 percent of big league at-bats end in homers, strikeouts, or walks, with four minutes between each ball put into play. MLB batting averages have declined by 15 points over the last two seasons. Translation: Nothing is happening. How can MLB ask young fans to watch this product?

▪ More bleak numbers, these from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times: Nineteen percent of MLB players in 1986 were African-American. Today, it’s 7.6 percent. Mookie Betts was the only Black American player on the original 32-man 2021 National League All-Star team. There were 12 Black players on the NL All-Star team in 1972. Betts was also the only Black American to play in last year’s World Series.

▪ Lots of respect for veteran coach Gregg Popovich, but Pop needs to dial it down a little with his insulting dismissal of those who question him. He’s been around long enough to know it was going to get testy after his US Olympic squad was beaten in back-to-back games by Nigeria and Australia in pre-Olympic exhibitions. Condescending Pop sounds ridiculous when he pretends the United States has not “dominated” international competition in recent years.

▪ If you watched the finale of Stephen King’s “Lisey’s Story” on Apple TV+ you saw Jennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Allen beat up on a villain with a Patrice Bergeron-signed hockey stick.

▪ Former Red Sox coach Dave Jauss was the hero of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Now a Mets coach, Jauss went to Amherst with Duquette and served a succession of perfect meatballs to Mets slugger Pete Alonso on Monday night.

▪ This is the first NBA Finals in 15 years without Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry, or LeBron James.

▪ Quiz answer: Jim Rice and Dwight Evans.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.