Unvaccinated coach has worked remotely all year for SF Giants

Brian Bannister, pictured in February?2021.

Brian Bannister, pictured in February?2021.

Austin Ginn/AP

The 2021 San Francisco Giants were the surprise success story of MLB, and that surprise largely came from developing unheralded pitchers.?

Under director of pitching Brian Bannister, a scrappy staff became one of the best in baseball. Longtime underachiever Kevin Gausman became an All-Star, and Logan Webb became one of the top young starters in the league, which Webb has largely credited to Bannister's coaching.

The staff has been without Bannister this year, though. In fact, they haven't worked with him in person since the start of the 2021 playoffs, as The Athletic reported Wednesday. That's because he's refused to take a coronavirus vaccine, as MLB requires for all on-field staff.

While Bannister is?not in the dugout for games, he is one of team president Farhan Zaidi's trusted lieutenants. As The Athletic put it, "there aren’t many minds within the game who are as adept at Bannister at communicating concepts and providing pitch-by-pitch feedback."?By refusing to vaccinate himself, Bannister is limited to video calls and phone communication with prospects and big leaguers alike.

While Zaidi clearly sees Bannister's influence as valuable enough to be worth the hassle, he admitted the "logistical realities" are a challenge. During the 2021 stretch run, Giants hitting coach Justin Viele was lost to the club for nearly two weeks due to being an unvaccinated close contact to a positive case. Viele has been in the dugout nightly this year, strongly implying he got up-to-date on his shots over the offseason.

Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey has been "in regular contact with MLB officials" about the vaccine requirements, according to The Athletic. (It's unclear why the Giants need a pitching coach to do their lobbying when they could just hire a lobbyist to do it.) It would be wholly unsurprising to see MLB quietly shelve the mandate this winter as soon as they see the opportunity, but until then, it seems the Giants' pitchers will have to hope they can get by with limited support from a pitching development leader prioritizing himself over the organization.