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Cubs have a vexing vaccine problem

Some players are creating their own competitive disadvantage because they refuse to take one for the team.

Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. He says the knowledge is still unsettled.
Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. He says the knowledge is still unsettled.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s just plain pitiful the Cubs can’t get to the 85% COVID vaccination rate needed to relax all kinds of rules.

According to MLB spokesman Mike Teevan, 14 teams have reached that threshold, two more are waiting to be cleared and several others are getting close.

But not the Cubs.

The White Sox are there, and have been since mid-May.

These are but a few of the things they can do that the Cubs can’t: go mask-free in the dugout and clubhouse, go in groups to restaurants, meet with three or more teammates in hotel rooms, talk to managers without masks, go mask-free on the team airplane.

The list goes on.

Basically getting to 85% means you can become semi-human again in this crazy world. It means you can play baseball better, communicate better, be less of a virus threat to your fellow man.

What getting there entails is this: sit down, roll up your sleeve, get jabbed. Then, if you got one of the double-dose vaccines, do it again three or four weeks later.

Voila! You are protected from the coronavirus that has sickened 33 million Americans and killed almost 600,000.

To refuse the vaccine — which is available everywhere, even at many ballparks — is to draw a line in the sand that says something about your education, beliefs, awareness, personality, fears and empathy (or lack thereof).

You could hear the suppressed dismay verging on anger in Cubs president Jed Hoyer’s voice when he acknowledged the team’s failure to vaccinate.

“I think we’re at a place right now, candidly, where I’m not going to give up hope that we can get there, but my level of optimism is waning, candidly,’’ he said.

When you use “candidly’’ twice in one sentence, folks, you’re ticked off.

But, of course, these are modern times, and he daren’t offend a gazillion-dollar star player or even run-of-the-mill bench players because they might rebel. Or their agents might. Or their union.

Nor is this about something unknown, dangerous, experimental. Of course, the vaccine is new — COVID itself has only been around for 17 months — but this is as safe as we can get for now, and it’s for sure the vaccine is a lot more pleasant than a full-blown case of the disease.

Blame the internet and the damaging words of former president Donald Trump for a lot of the disinformation. Remember when he said getting bleach into the body might be a possible remedy? Or that the virus was “under control’’ when only 500 people had died? Etc.

And the anti-vaxxers and fake-news people never cease their screed on various websites and platforms. And players are free to believe all the anti-science they want.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta, who won’t get a vaccine, says the knowledge is unsettled.

“Seems like things change daily,’’ he said. “So who knows?’’

Well, experts do. And they want us all to get vaccinated.

I even have a scientific article declaring Bill Gates did not put controlling micro-chips in the vaccine. So rest easy, conspiracy-minded Cubs.

As best can be told, the holdouts are mostly white players. All the Latin players on the team apparently have been vaccinated. And there are few Blacks and no Asians.

Shortstop Javy Baez, from Puerto Rico, even did a public-service ad for Walgreens, urging people to get their shots.

Then there’s second baseman Eric Sogard, whose wife, Kaycee, went on Instagram and called MLB’s COVID policy “absolutely disgusting.’’

Third baseman Kris Bryant got his shots, and he has said he “feels great’’ and has “great peace of mind to just go out there and play baseball.’’

Yet a bunch of his teammates won’t budge.

You don’t fight illogic and false beliefs with logic and real facts.

But you could simply get angry about supposed teammates who won’t consider anyone else in their health equations, who won’t, quite literally, take one for the team.

We are even trying bribes to get reluctant people to get their shots. Free hot dogs, beer, money, hunting licenses, on and on. In Ohio, you can win $1 million in a lottery, kids can win free college scholarships — just for doing what every citizen should do.

Herd immunity, which probably means at least 70% vaccinated, is the dream for our country. MLB’s standard is even higher. That’s sweet. Pro sports should lead the way.

COVID and quarantining have wreaked havoc with starting lineups throughout baseball, and, as Hoyer said, getting vaccinated is a ‘‘competitive advantage.’’

This is undeniable.

Guess the Cubs like playing from a hole. One they dug themselves.