Texas Rangers near 85% fully vaccinated, but won’t hit 100%. There’s a big reason why

Jeff Wilson
·3 min read

Sunday could be a landmark day for Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward, pending any changes to his schedule.

He is supposed to receive his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Round 2 was initially scheduled for Friday, but, well, stuff tends to pop up when you’re guiding an MLB team through a season.

He and the Rangers continue to move toward the magic number. The MLB health and safety protocols will be relaxed for any team that reaches a vaccination rate of 85%.

That is achieved once enough of the field personnel, those in Tier 1, have had the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single-dose of Johnson & Johnson for at least two weeks.

Woodward said the Rangers are right there, but they won’t reach 100%.

Getting vaccinated is not a requirement. It’s strongly encouraged, but no one is being forced to do something they don’t want to do.

“It is their choice,” Woodward said. “We haven’t forced anybody, but we’ve definitely given them the incentive of what it looks like when we get to 85%. It’s a lot better. It’ll be a lot better for everybody. It’ll resemble what we remember prior to COVID, and I think everybody is really looking forward to it.”

Fully vaccinated players will be allowed to meet with outdoors with anyone of their choosing, eat at restaurants, gather at team hotels without masks and carpool together. They won’t have to wear masks when working out, can choose to be tested for COVID-19 only twice a week, and won’t have to quarantine if they come in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Futhermore, teams at 85% won’t have to wear masks in the dugout, can ditch their tracing devices, and can reinstitute clubhouse amenities like pool tables and steam rooms.

Considering the strict lockdown teams were under last season, and again so far this season, why wouldn’t someone want to get vaccinated?

In many cases, it’s not that a player is an anti-vaxxer, but is fearful that potential side effects could take him off the field for an extended period. Not getting the shots is worth more lockdown time in the hotel as long the player stays on the field.

Players who have contracted COVID-19 have an increased chance of experiencing severe side effects. Right fielder Joey Gallo and left-hander Brett Martin tested positive during intake testing last season for spring training 2.0 last July. Right-hander Dane Dunning, the scheduled starter Saturday night against the Baltimore Orioles, said he tested positive in December.

The players who opt against getting vaccinated must adhere to the protocols when not in the clubhouse or dugout, and will stay on the same testing regimen.

MLB reported six new positive cases out of 11,713 tests last week. The Houston Astros placed five players on the COVID injury list last week, including second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman, for contact tracing purposes. All five had received their first doses.

Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons tested positive, reportedly after declining the vaccine.

The Rangers haven’t had any positive tests since Gallo and Martin last July, and the Astros’ case served as a reminder of what could happen if a team that isn’t at the 85% threshold gets loose with the protocols.

“I’m glad we’re not the team that it happened to,” Woodward said. “I know that other teams out there were becoming a little more lax, and understandably so. We’re all tired of it.

“Some people are vaccinated. Some people aren’t,” he said. “We see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But maybe when you’re the most vulnerable is when you think you’re not. The fact that it happened to the Astros is eye-opening to us. We could lose our lineup. We’ve got to remain diligent.”