I will admit that I did not put a ton of personal research into getting vaccinated against COVID-19–my relationship to science is largely deferential to those who are smarter than I am, perhaps those who took a science class beyond prerequisites during their freshman year of college. And when there is an overwhelming consensus which points to one conclusion, my tendency is to believe it. The wisdom of the crowd effect is not fool-proof, of course, but if I am in a room with twenty people and nineteen of them tell me it’s raining outside and the twentieth insists that it is not, my first inclination is going to be to believe the nineteen. Perhaps the twentieth can offer me evidence that he is right–perhaps he can guide me to a door or a window outside–but merely yelling and screaming about how the other nineteen people are sheep is not going to be particularly persuasive.

In a sense, I did do my own research–I heard a bunch of people who know science better than I do say that getting vaccinated was a good idea for myself and others, so I got vaccinated. Famously, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill followed a similar journey in 2021, though his involved more thorough vetting of epidemiologists than mine. And when it came to light that Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt (and Austin Romine, who must feel at least a little bit sad that nobody seems to care about him) were unvaccinated and thus cannot travel to Canada for the team’s upcoming series against the Toronto Blue Jays, and therefore the Cardinals’ two best players would be unavailable for a tough stint against a likely playoff-bound team, it was fair to wonder what their motivations were.

It is frequently cited that the choice to get vaccinated or not is a personal choice (albeit one with societal ramifications), and in a sense that’s true–Arenado and Goldschmidt have a collectively-bargained right to not be vaccinated, and as such, the Cardinals have a collectively-bargained right to not pay the players for the games they will miss–$384,615 in the case of Arenado and $285,714 in the case of Goldschmidt, quantities which are somewhat ironically a reminder that the Cardinals’ corner infielders are far beyond the possibility of financial insecurity. The common follow-up sentiment, however, is one with which I cannot abide whatsoever–that you have to respect their personal decisions. You absolutely do not.

When asked why he chose not to get vaccinated, Arenado cited a desire to soon start a family with his wife. Furthermore, he stated that “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. 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.” Goldschmidt was less specific, but said, “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.” These quotes, in a vacuum, are reasonable enough–neither is attacking those who are vaccinated or even trying to sidestep the consequences of their actions.

But they are not steeped in any public scientific research. Counter to what Nolan Arenado implied, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that, unlike COVID-19 itself, infertility is not a potential side effect of the vaccine. Paul Goldschmidt cited that it was a private medical decision, and stated after the Cardinals’ game on Sunday that he “tried to talk to as many doctors and professionals as (he) could, figured out as much as (he) could, and (he) decided the potential risks outweighed the potential benefits of doing it.”

But is it not reasonable to ask, if Arenado and Goldschmidt have done so much extracurricular research regarding the COVID-19 vaccine which generated evidence so aggressively counter to the consensus of the public health community, why won’t they share this evidence with those of us who do not have eight-figure salaries and cannot reasonably commission these studies on our own? No, Arenado and Goldschmidt are not doctors–Arenado (wisely) skipped college for a $625,000 bonus after being drafted out of high school in 2009, and Goldschmidt (like me) has an educational background in business–but by virtue of their enormous paychecks, they have access that most of us can only dream of having. Why wouldn’t they share with us lowly commoners this information? Why didn’t they provide this evidence to their teammates, almost all of whom are vaccinated, and if they did, why did their teammates deem it insufficient to change their minds?

And perhaps most importantly, why are they not screaming at the top of their lungs to absolutely everybody they can reach–a number far higher than what you or I can reach–to warn us? Why would Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt wait until the news became public, two days before the Cardinals played in Toronto, before citing purported medical research that could benefit countless people? Surely, they aren’t arguing that the vaccine is ineffective, as countless Twitter reply guys have spent the last 27 hours doing with evangelical fervor–if one believes that the COVID-19 vaccine is effectively a placebo, then you might as well just get it because then you can get into Canada–they are arguing that a vaccine widely, if not universally, accepted to be an extreme net positive, is actually a net negative. As a person with three shots of Moderna coursing through my veins, I would like to know whether I am beyond falling into this trap or whether I can mitigate the disaster I have inflicted upon myself by resisting a fourth.

Ultimately, if Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt were strident ideologues who had railed against the Canadian vaccine mandate months ago and had the courage of their convictions to explain why they believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is so dangerous that they are willing to miss meaningful Major League Baseball games to avoid, I would be willing to listen to them. I almost certainly would not have viewed their reasons as valid, but I could perhaps at least comprehend why they felt so passionately. As it stands, the two best players on the St. Louis Cardinals are ineligible to play in road games at a potential World Series site and I have absolutely no comprehension of why this doesn’t bother them as much as it bothers me, a guy who isn’t even losing any money over the matter. Yes, I have to accept their decision. I absolutely do not have to respect it.

4 thoughts on “You absolutely do not have to respect Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt’s decision

  1. There is rarely only one reason for making a decision. While this vaccine decision is clearly fraught with many items and beliefs, I feel that a big concern with those not getting vaccinated is one of lack of trust in government, pharmaceutical industry, medical and political mouthpieces as well as the horrible climate of dealing with social media.
    A jilted lover usually does not return to their former partner because they have lost their faith in them.

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  2. They are making the wrong choice,but..
    1) baseball impact is overempasized. Two 8 WAR players mising 2 games will flip one loss to a win once in 5 times in a 2 gm seriez and flip 2 games once in 25 games. Losing matz is a much bigger deal and is barely being discussed
    2) i suspect the real facts they are focused on is they are young and healthy and it is clear according to the current science that demographic has very little risk of major covid consequences. Long-term side effects cannot be know for, well, a long time. So they are really making the selfish decision to not protect those around them who may be high risk . Something i would hope role models would do but….
    3)i want my role models to agree with me and push my values always but that is not realistic. I thought their statements were good given they have different values. They acknowledged the other side, the fact it would ideally be private and enough of their thought process. They are sill wrong IMO but if politicians put as much care and acknowledgement into the pros and cons these guys did i would be much more excited about our county’s future

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  3. If someone is acting legally and willing to accept the consequences, what’s not to respect? Goldschmidt and Arenado are fully incurring the consequences they bargained for and agreed to. If they refused to incur the penalties per the agreement, then maybe I’d agree with you.

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  4. One could probably list the various reasons to sit out a game and then rank them in descending order of validity. George Brett missing a couple of games in the 1980 World Series because of hemorrhoids and Sandy Koufax opting not to pitch game one of the 1965 World Series because of the Yom Kippur holiday would be at the top of my valid reasons list. Yu Darvish sitting out most of his first season with the Cubs gets his own gray area because only he, his doctor and his agent know if he was healthy enough to return that season. At the bottom of my list would be Mickey Mantle deliberately trying to get thrown out of a game so he could nurse a hangover caused by drinking himself into oblivion the night before. I’d probably put Goldschmidt and Arenado just slightly above Mantle. It seems they would rather see the Cards miss out on the postseason by one game than do a little research into the microscopic chance of adverse effects from vaccination compared to over a million COVID deaths in this country alone.

    Goldschmidt and Arenado have a unique opportunity to turn the Cardinals into a laughingstock this year. I’m tempted to suggest a Wrigley Field promotion where the first 10,000 fans at the next Cubs-Cards game receive giant fake plastic syringes or cardboard cutouts of Dr. Fauci. Imagine fans waving those around every time Goldy or Arenado stepped up to the plate.

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