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Nationals will part ways with Bob Boone, others after vaccine mandate

(Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
2 min

The Washington Nationals are undergoing a staff shake-up after mandating a vaccine requirement for non-playing employees, including the impending departure of longtime front-office adviser Bob Boone. The Nationals also told eight scouts that their contracts will not be renewed for next season, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, with two of those decisions based on unwillingness to comply with the vaccine mandate.

The Nationals informed employees of the vaccine policy Aug. 14, saying they had two weeks to provide proof of full vaccination or a first shot (or a medical exemption). Unvaccinated employees are now on unpaid administrative leave and have until Sept. 15 to comply or have their contracts terminated. Boone, 73, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he and the club are “unfortunately” parting ways. Three people said they expect more changes to be made because other baseball operations employees have refused to get vaccinated.

Brad Holman, the Nationals’ minor league pitching coordinator, told The Post that he is on leave and has not resigned. As for the six other scouts who were not renewed for 2022, multiple people with knowledge of the discussions said that was performance-based and the team plans to fill the positions.

Boone had served in a variety of roles since joining the Nationals in 2005, including assistant general manager and vice president of player development. He has long been a trusted adviser to Mike Rizzo, who took over as Washington’s general manager in 2009. In a 19-year playing career, Boone caught more games than only two players in history. His son, Aaron, is the manager of the New York Yankees.

The vaccine mandate applies to salaried and hourly employees on the coaching staff, in the baseball operations department, or working in the stadium, ticketing, business or in-game entertainment, among others. “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,” the Nationals said a statement in August.

Washington and the Houston Astros initiated vaccine requirements around the same time. That makes this the first reported instance of a Major League Baseball team cutting ties with an employee because of their vaccination status. The Washington Examiner first mentioned Boone’s departure. The Athletic was first to report details of the scouts who will not return to the organization.

Of the eight, four were pro scouts and four worked on the international side, according to people familiar with the matter. And since the Nationals expect to replace them, the non-vaccine-related decisions can be seen as a restructuring of their scouting department. Multiple people with the club expect similar shifting for the player development staff in the coming months. Most expiring contracts end in early November, when the MLB’s 2021 calendar finishes and the offseason begins.

Players are the only Nationals employees who can be unvaccinated and remain with the team. They cannot be subject to a vaccine requirement unless that is collectively bargained for by MLB and the players’ union.

Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.