Anthony Rizzo shared on the radio Friday that he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, counting him among the number in the Cubs’ organization that’s keeping the team from reaching the 85% threshold needed to loosen restrictions.
Speaking to David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood on ESPN 1000 before the game against the Cardinals, Rizzo did not offer context on why he isn’t vaccinated, other than that declining the vaccine was “a tough decision.”
After the game, Rizzo elaborated on his choice and left the door open to getting the vaccine at some point.
“For me, it’s just one of those things, I’m definitely not against getting it,” Rizzo said. “It’s just taking more time to see the data on all of it. There’s definitely personal reasons, as well, but it’s just one of those things where as we continue to get more data, I’ll continue to be more educated on it.”
Rizzo said that team doctors have worked to inform him but the decision ultimately is his.
“To me, it really is an individual choice,” manager David Ross said. “With everybody’s choices, you try to respect everybody and come together with trying to win ballgames and respect everybody’s decisions. There are some things we just can’t control, and guys’ choices [are] one of them.”
Ross and team president Jed Hoyer have said that they aren’t very optimistic about the team getting to the 85% vaccination rate, which would ease some of MLB’s COVID-19 protocols.
Hoyer said the pessimism doesn’t mean they have relaxed on trying to get more guys on board.
“We’re not going to stop trying to do it,” Hoyer said. “Any one person that we change their mind is still a positive for the group, even if we’re not at 85%. We shouldn’t only focus on the 85%. We should focus on getting guys vaccinated.”
The team has worked to educate and provide resources for players, according to Hoyer. With a group of close to 100 people comprising Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel, there are a lot of individual opinions and choices to consider.
“I believe the science was clearly behind [the vaccine], but obviously not everyone agrees with that. If everyone did agree, we’d be well above 85%,” Hoyer said.
Inside the clubhouse, the players are maintaining a united front, at least publicly.
Javy Baez chose to get vaccinated to protect his children, he said, and while he and the other vaccinated players respect the individual choices of teammates such as Rizzo, there have been some animated discussions in the locker room.
“If you want to call it, we argued about it, but at the end of the day, we are all men here. We respect each other,” Baez said.
That respect might be the key to preventing a rift from forming if players or Cubs personnel are frustrated that the Rizzos in the clubhouse are avoiding the vaccine. Having Ross as their manager — he called Rizzo one of his best friends — could help keep a locker room division from forming.
“That doesn’t change my outlook on Rizz,” Ross said. “I still respect Rizz a whole lot, his decisions. He’s one of the big pieces of our team. We’ve moved forward in a great way this season with everybody’s decisions, not just his. … I don’t want to lose sight of how well these guys have gone about their business in the environment we’ve had to deal with and all the protocols.”
The Cubs are one of eight MLB teams below the 85% mark.
“If we get there, fine, if not, we’ll stay the same and we’ll stay together,” Baez said.
There’s a possible competitive disadvantage to staying below the vaccination threshold, and Rizzo said his choice was a very tough one.
“This is bigger than baseball,” Rizzo said. “This is a life decision, this isn’t a career decision, and it definitely weighed hard.”