Hochman: Disappointing decision by Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado could affect playoffs | Benjamin Hochman

If the St. Louis Cardinals make it to the World Series and play the Toronto Blue Jays — currently the team with the third-best record in the American League — unvaccinated All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado won’t be able to play in the road games.

At least that would be the case under current regulations in Canada, where vaccination against COVID-19 is required in order for people to enter the country.

Could you imagine if this happened?

Well, it actually could happen.

But first, the Cardinals have to make the playoffs. Their next two games are in Toronto. Because unvaccinated people aren’t allowed to enter Canada, St. Louis won’t have Goldschmidt, Arenado and backup catcher Austin Romine. This lack of offense could cause the Cardinals to lose both games.

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And it’s quite possible that they’ll make or miss the playoffs by one or two games.

Earlier this summer, Arenado told reporters: “I don’t want to win the wild card anymore. … You want to win the division. It’s important to win the division.”

It’s important to win the division to Arenado, but on his skewed terms, it seems.

Arenado is confusing. His dedication to his craft can be defined as elite. Hey years to win. He has forced his way into the lineup this season on occasions his manager wanted him to take a day off. He even pulled out of the All-Star Game in his hometown stadium so he could rest his back for future regular-season games. Yet he’s willing to miss two important games — and hurt his team’s chances at winning them — because he refuses to get a vaccine that is backed by the CDC and scientifically proven to be safe.

looks Before we go any further, clearly there is a percentage of Cardinals fans who side with Arenado here. The initial stltoday.com article on this news story inspired more than 300 comments within four hours. And Sunday on Twitter, fans shared their personal beliefs about vaccines vociferously and sometimes with vitriol.

With all that acknowledged, Arenado and Goldschmidt (and Romine) made a selfish decision, one that could cost their team a chance at the playoffs. Their decision affects people they care about — and the title-hungry fans who care about them.

Yes, of course, no two players have done more to help the Cards win than Arenado and Goldschmidt. But that doesn’t make them exempt from criticism. They’re purposely sitting out two games, while the rest of the team is vaccinated and will play hard for each other this week. If anything, more of the onus and responsibility is on the All-Stars because they are so good and important to the team.

“I don’t feel like I needed to get it…” Arenado said of the vaccine to reporters Sunday in Cincinnati. “I’m a very healthy man and it’s just a personal choice. I’m not trying to do a political stand here or be a spokesperson. … I’m just choosing to do what’s best for me and my family. I mean no harm.”

Incidentally, the Cards sure need to win some games. They just lost a series to the wretched Reds. They’re 8-11 in July. They have a slew of injuries. They are desperately hanging on to the third — and final — wild-card playoff spot.

As for the postseason, one is reminded of another unvaccinated athlete from across the state—the Kansas City Royals’ Whit Merrifield, who could be traded to a contender. He told reporters that “if what was standing between me and the playoffs was this vaccine, I would consider getting it.”

So you’re super-convicted unless it’s suddenly inconvenient?

That leads us to Goldschmidt and Arenado. Two superstars who have never played in the World Series. Two superstars who came to St. Louis because of the chance of playing in the World Series.

If the Cardinals and Blue Jays both make the playoffs, will they then get the vaccine, in case the Cards make the World Series against Toronto?

Arenado told reporters in Cincinnati that he would then, at least, reconsider his decision. Goldschmidt told reporters he didn’t want to answer any hypothetical questions.

It’s worth pointing out that these games against the Blue Jays possibly won’t affect the season’s outcome. Win or lose, the Cards could still win their division title and the World Series, whether it’s against Toronto or another team. But it doesn’t change the principle of the whole thing. And if the Cards win both games in Toronto, that doesn’t erase the fact that Arenado and Goldschmidt made this decision in the first place.

To some, their Cardinal uniforms will forever have a virtual “Scarlet U” for unvaccinated; to others, they’ll be considered actually brave for their stance.

It doesn’t matter how well Arenado and Goldschmidt play in the other 160 games if the Cards lose the two in Toronto and miss the playoffs. Their decision will be part of their St. Louis legacy.

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