In an ideal world, as much of the 2021 MLB season as possible would be played after players and coaches and other personnel are vaccinated. No one wants to see professional sports enterprises jumping any lines, but when it is their turn, you’d love to see the sport deploying a scientific tool to make its game more safe. Moreover, where the sport is fully vaccinated, so to speak, you’re far less likely to have disruptions to the season.
But we know that the timeline for young and healthy individuals to be able to get a vaccine is probably not going to align perfectly with the start of the MLB season, particularly now that any hopes to have things bumped back by a month have been squashed.
Still, in the cross section there between the sporting world and vaccines and the lack of a delay for the season, there is some good news. The Athletic reports that the new president’s administration, while suggesting to MLB in a call this week that a delay of the season would be ideal, indicated confidence that players would be in a position to receive the vaccine before what would’ve been a delayed Opening Day – i.e., May 1. That confidence, per the government officials via The Athletic’s sources, “stemmed from the expected introduction of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s top medical adviser, said Wednesday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be authorized for emergency use “within a week or so.”
To put all that another way: the Biden Administration – unlikely to advocate line-jumping to support a sports industry – was communicating to MLB that they believed a delay to the season was appropriate because the players could likely receive the vaccine before May 1, given the imminent arrival of a third vaccination option, which is a one-dose version.
To be sure, the season is not going to be delayed. That ship has sailed, absent the government demanding it (which does not appear to be happening). So instead, the takeaway here is that the current administration believes some young and healthy individuals could start receiving the vaccine as soon as April (and far enough in advance of May 1, that all of MLB could’ve been vaccinated before that date). That seems … really encouraging, no? I mean, it seems really encouraging just for life in general, but also for various specific aspects of the MLB season ahead, from player and coach safety to limited interruptions to fan attendance for a larger chunk of the season.
I have to caveat here that this doesn’t mean all of baseball *actually will in fact* be vaccinated by May 1, after trying to weather an unvaccinated Spring Training and first month of the season. But, again, I don’t know that this administration would have reason to create unrealistic expectations for MLB or encourage line-jumping. So this all just feels like, to me, a good note about the state of the anticipated vaccine rollout for number three, and about the potential impact on the MLB season.
And once again, I think it’s worth pointing out some of the aggressiveness we’ve seen in the transaction market the last couple weeks among previously tight MLB clubs that appear to have only just now set their budget. I think there’s been optimism growing, and I think this is another signal.