The Phillies are charging towards the top of the NL East, but they're trailing many teams around the league in their COVID-19 vaccination rate.
Lack of vaccination already led to Alec Bohm testing positive for COVID-19 and Aaron Nola missing substantial playing time due to contact tracing - Nola's start Tuesday night against the Yankees will be his first since July 6 - and could cost them again in the playoff chase as unvaccinated players face stricter COVID protocols than vaccinated players.
But all of that hasn't led to the Phillies' roster being more willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccines; Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes reported Tuesday that roughly half of the Phillies' roster has refused the vaccine so far:
"Two sources connected to Phillies ownership and management have said in the past weeks that about half of the 26 players on the current roster have refused the vaccine, a number confirmed by team and league sources Sunday."
Considering two-thirds of Major League Baseball reached the 85% vaccination threshold a month and a half ago, that's a startling figure.
The figure has since been disputed both by Joe Girardi and by a report from The Athletic's Matt Gelb:
"The Phillies have vaccinated well above half of their major-league roster, according to multiple team sources."
Teams that reach the 85% vaccination threshold are able to relax COVID protocols including eliminating requirements for face masks in dugouts and bullpens, plus loosening restrictions during road trips.
Phillies general manager Dave Dombrowski sat down this week with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark on an episode of the Takeoff with John Clark podcast to discuss, among other things, the team's unsuccessful vaccination efforts, and explained why he doesn't feel he can require his players to receive the vaccination:
"First of all, yes, we've encouraged the players to be vaccinated. We've done that from the beginning of the season, really from spring training until the beginning of the season, and have continued to do so. We've educated them, given them material, had presentations made to them. But I also do think it's a personal decision.
"Do I wish all players were vaccinated? Yes. I'm vaccinated, I think it's good, my family's vaccinated. But I can't prevent what other people think in that regard, so I think you just have to react accordingly. It would make our lives a lot easier if everyone was vaccinated, but I don't think that's something you can force on anybody. I think it's an individual choice, and we just have - unfortunately, in some cases - have a lot of players that choose to not be vaccinated, for all these particular reasons.
"I have talked to some of them about it - I would never force them to do it, but I have tried to get their reasonings. They have their reasonings, and if I agree with them or don't, it really doesn't make a difference. It's their particular decision."
The Phillies are also in the hunt for potential additions ahead of MLB's trade deadline, but Dombrowski said a particular player's vaccination status won't affect whether the team decides to make a trade.