CINCINNATI — The fact that his two best players, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, won’t be available to him in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday doesn’t upset Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol at all. At least that’s what he was saying Sunday after the announcement was made that his two stars had chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and thus are ineligible to travel to Canada for the two-game series.
The country requires people to have been vaccinated in order to enter.
Marmol, who also won’t have backup catcher Austin Romine for the same reason — the players will not be paid while they away and will be on the restricted list — said he “completely” respected the players’ decision not to be vaccinated.
“I’ve talked to all of team and I respect it and agree with their decision,” Marmol said. I’ve got zero issues with it.”
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Goldschmidt, who homered twice and knocked in all the runs for the Cardinals in their 6-3 loss Sunday to Cincinnati said, “Obviously, not an easy decision.
“Over the last year-plus, I’ve tried to talk to as many doctors and many medical professionals as I could and figured out as much as I could. I just decided the potential risks outweighed the potential benefits. It stinks that I can’t play in Toronto. I hate that part of it.
“It’s a very personal, private medical decision. Unfortunately, it becomes public with this. You’ve got to put your health above everything. For me, this was the best decision for my health and, unfortunately, I have to suffer these consequences.”
Marmol said he didn’t think the decision by Goldschmidt and Arenado, who both were chosen for the recent All-Star Game, would be taken ill in the clubhouse.
“I look at it the other way — the ability of that clubhouse to respect the decision of the two guys who have carried this team all year,” he said. “We’re talking about a personal decision to put something in your body that you don’t agree with.”
Goldschmidt said, “I know there could be reactions on both sides and that’s a consequence of the decision. I just have to do what I feel is best and live with the consequences.”
Across the clubhouse, Arenado said, “I feel healthy. I don’t feel like I needed to get it. I’m very safe. I don’t really go out around people. But those are the rules of Canada. I can’t go.
“I’m not trying to do a political stand here or be a spokesperson or this stuff. I’m choosing to do what’s best for me and my family. I mean no harm. But it’s a decision I made and I’m pretty confident about it.”
Assistant hitting coach Turner Ward also did not go to Toronto, apparently having a medical issue whereby he can’t be vaccinated.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, who made the announcement about the players not going to Canada via Zoom, said, “It’s a personal decision. The one positive here is that it’s only two games. From that standpoint, life will find a way of going on.
“I don’t think it’s in anybody’s best interest to try and pass judgment (or) try to make this more than it is.”
The Cardinals, Mozeliak said, had hoped that policy in Canada would change, but it didn’t. But Mozeliak said added that he had hoped the Goldschmidt/Arenado decision wouldn’t “fracture” the clubhouse.
“We all have strong opinions on what we think the right answer should be,” Mozeliak said. “I think we also all understand it’s hard to convince people to do something they’re not comfortable doing. It’s not that we don’t try to promote the vaccination, but again it comes down to the individuals’ decision. We sort of talked about it but it wasn’t something (where) I thought anybody was going to change their minds.”
Marmol said he was sure the clubhouse wouldn’t be fractured.
“I’m 100% sure that it won’t,” he said.
And Mozeliak said that Goldschmidt and Arenado “are still going to have a lot of political capital in the clubhouse and still be respected.”
Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas, who hadn’t been vaccinated until after many others, said he wished he hadn’t been.
“A lot stuff coming about (the vaccine) is not great,” he said. “I’m pretty healthy. I don’t think it was 100% necessary.
“When I got it at the time, it seemed like a good idea. But looking back on it, it’s one of those things where maybe I’d rather have not gotten it.”
Mikolas, who has four children age 5 or under, said he got it for them.
With the Cardinals embroiled in a division race, first, and then a potential quest for a wild-card playoff spot, one or two games at less than full strength could be critical.
“I know it’s only two games but it’s an important two games we’re playing,” Arenado said. “It hurts. I’m not happy about it. It just stinks. I was actually excited about going to Toronto because Toronto is a great place. I was hopeful they would get rid of that ban.”
Arenado sat out a game at the end of the first part of the season and didn’t play in the All-Star Game because of a sore lower back, and he isn’t fond of Toronto’s turf.
“If there’s one positive to this, it’s not playing on that,” he said. “Obviously, that’s not why I’m not going.”
“You obviously want your best players every game,” said Marmol, who cited the loss of several other key players for various portions of time this season. “But I have a very strong opinion — which I’ll keep very mild here — that I do not at all see this as an issue. I respect their decision to not be in Toronto.”
Goldschmidt and Arenado flew back to St. Louis Sunday night and will work out this week at Busch Stadium. Arenado said he would not watch the games on television.
“Makes me a little nervous,” he said.
Marmol continued to support the players.
“They’re not just in the lineup,” he said. “I don’t mind it. We’ll figure out a way to win without them for those two days.
“But, obviously, it has to be the topic of conversation today. You’re talking about two guys that completely shape the culture daily in that clubhouse.”
If Goldschmidt and Arenado weren’t on this team at all, there wouldn’t have been much need for Sunday’s interrogation. The Cardinals would not be contenders anyway.