What do Bob Boone, Al Leiter and John Smoltz have in common? The obvious answer is that they were all outstanding players who had lengthy careers and earned multiple All-Star selections. However, more topically, all three have been adversely affected this week by their decision to not take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Boone, an advisor to Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, parted ways with the club after their decision to mandate vaccinations for all non-playing employees. Leiter and Smoltz are both analysts for MLB Network, and have not been let go by the media outlet, but are now forced to work remotely as all employees are required to be vaccinated in order to work in-studio.
In addition to Bob Boone’s departure, the Nationals have also let go of eight scouts, with at least two of those decisions coming about due to vaccination status. The team issued a statement in August, saying, “As a company, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep one another safe and felt that mandating vaccines was the absolute right thing to do for our employees and our community.”
Bob Boone, a Phillies legend and member of the illustrious Boone family, had a lengthy 19-year big league career where he piled up 27.4 WAR, as well as four All-Star nods, seven Gold Glove Awards and a 1980 World Series ring.
Al Leiter also comes from a baseball clan, as both his brother and nephew pitched in the big leagues, and his son Jack was this year’s second overall draft pick by the Texas Rangers. As for his own career, Leiter put together an outstanding 40.0 WAR over 19 seasons, while earning two All-Star berths and two World Series rings.
John Smoltz is by far the most noteworthy of the three men in this week’s news, as the 21-year veteran put together a 69.0 career WAR as both a starter and closer, and was part of the Atlanta Braves dominant three-headed monster with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in the 1990’s. A 3.33 ERA pitcher, Smoltz racked up 213 wins and 154 saves, and stuffed his trophy case with 8 All-Star selections, a Cy Young Award, a 1995 World Series ring and a 2015 Hall of Fame induction.
MLB has done well so far this year to limit game cancellations due to COVID-19 outbreaks and vaccines have certainly helped in that regard. However, team and league employees, like many Americans in these uncertain times, are increasingly finding themselves pressured by all sides to take or not take the vaccine. The ousting of three legends of the game is sure to be only a warning shot in this burgeoning battle over vaccination, and more heads are sure to roll before the issue is finally sorted out.