Red Sox will need to be creative to navigate COVID restrictions
Spring training games kick off tomorrow and with that, Red Sox Nation, baseball will officially be back! Some may have celebrated when the lockout was lifted. Others when players started showing up in camps.
But for me, it’s when that first pitch is thrown in a game that I pop the cork and celebrate a new season. As we saw in both 2020 and 2021, COVID will likely dominate the storylines and with heavy restrictions in place, Boston could both benefit and be hurt by some rules.
There are two big restrictions or regulations that I’ll be diving into today. The first relates to our friends in the Great White North as Canada has instituted that any athlete not vaccinated will not be permitted entrance into the country. Considering the Red Sox play ten games in Toronto this season, that could be huge.
The second is one that will affect them stateside, as in New York City athletes that aren’t vaccinated cannot participate in home games in the city. On the surface, this means Boston won’t have to see some of the Yankees in their house but it also plays a bigger role in the 2022 campaign.
Obviously, the Yankees have 81 games at home this year and if either restriction doesn’t lift or minds don’t change they’ll be missing some big firepower, namely Aaron Judge.
Of course, the Red Sox also has players that aren’t vaccinated as they’re one of a handful of teams still under the 85% threshold for vaccination status. Two of the bigger names that were known to be unvaccinated are Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts.
This week we learned that Bogey had received the vaccine, as well as, Christian Arroyo and Kevin Plawecki. Sale confirmed today that he was still unvaccinated and didn’t seem to be changing his mind anytime soon. That wasn’t the only bad news we received about Sale today but that’s for another article, this one is all about COVID, sadly.
So now that we have the foundation laid in place, let’s take a look at how the regulations and restrictions in both Canada and New York will impact the Red Sox in 2022.
How COVID restrictions will help the Red Sox in 2022
I’m going to start on the more positive side of the COVID coin before I go to the more depressing side of things. I hinted at the biggest benefit of the NYC restrictions above but let’s dig a little deeper into it. As I said above, the Yankees aren’t fully vaccinated and Aaron Judge is the biggest name that seems to be on that list.
The big outfielder was questioned in spring training this week and made it clear he was going to wait out the restriction before deciding. If New York is without Judge for their entire slate of home games that instantly helps the Red Sox. Missing more than half the season, once you include the Toronto games, is a blow for Judge as he’s set to be a free agent in 2023.
Not having to deal with one of New York’s scariest hitters in a very hitter-friendly park for 10 of their 19 meetings is something the Red Sox should be thrilled about. Boston hasn’t splashed big at all in free agency yet so they may need to rely on other factors to help them in the AL East. Having their chief foe without one of their biggest weapons is one hell of a factor.
The New York regulation also only affects those employed within the city. So away teams coming to town to face either the Yankees or Mets can still play at full strength even with unvaccinated players. Being able to march into Yankee Stadium with a full arsenal while the other side is missing ammunition is an advantage in every definition of the word.
Now that we’ve gone over how certain restrictions can help the Red Sox, we have to look at the ways they’ll hurt the team in 2022.
How COVID restrictions will hurt the Red Sox in 2022
Pack your bags, grab your toques, and make sure you have your appetite for some poutine because we’re heading to Canada! Leaving New York and heading to Toronto it’s time to look at the regulations that will hamper the Red Sox in 2022. Again, the biggest hurdle is unvaccinated players not being allowed to join their squads when they play the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Before this week and finding out that Bogaerts, Arroyo, and Plawecki had been vaccinated I was much more nervous about this one. Granted we still have some big names still without the shot in Sale and likely J.D. Martinez, that will hurt Boston. We don’t know for sure if Martinez is still unvaccinated but based on his past outspokenness on the subject I think it’s likely he still feels that way.
Not having one of your best hitters along with one of your best pitchers against a team that was already dangerous and only got more scary this offseason, is not the best situation. While Alex Cora could dip into his bag of tricks and find ways to work around not having Sale and Martinez is the last thing the Red Sox need against the Jays in 2022.
The Red Sox shocked the baseball world by making it deep into the ALCS in 2021 with such low expectations going into the season. They’re already seeing many of the same predictions as FanGraphs feel they’ll finish fourth in the AL East this season. Much of that winning squad is returning for 2022 but they’ll need to find that magic once again to see success. COVID will play a massive role in the season once again this year and it’ll all come down to how Boston manages the rough seas.