The MLB season was capped off Tuesday night with a Dodgers World Series win, and a stark reminder of how ludicrous this season was from top to bottom. After several teams struggled to contain Covid outbreaks throughout the year — leading to positive tests and shifting schedules — Dodgers slugger Justin Turner was pulled mid-way through the decisive Game 6 after he tested positive for the virus.
The lab that ran the test Turner took on Monday reported that it came back as inconclusive during the second inning of Game 6. The lab then ran the rest Turner took earlier that day and it was positive, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. MLB informed the Dodgers of the situation and Turner was removed from the game at the top of the eighth inning, according to commissioner Rob Manfred, was told to isolate.
There was just one problem: after the Dodgers won Game 6 to claim their first World Series championship since 1988, there was Turner back on the field celebrating with his teammates and coaches.
Not only did Turner fail to protect his teammates after knowing he was Covid positive, but he sat down next to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor who sought medical advice before the start of the season to determine if he was at higher risk considering his history.
Team doctors told Roberts he wasn’t at elevated risk due to his history with Hodgkins Lymphoma, however the CDC notes that cancer survivors are at elevated risk from Covid-19, and has special pages on their website giving heightened guidelines to survivors, including more stringent social distancing measures — which Turner clearly violated in the photo above.
Turner tweeted this statement after the game:
Thanks to everyone reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA#WorldSeriesChamps— Justin Turner (@redturn2) October 28, 2020
It’s important not to shift all the blame in this situation on Turner. Obviously returning to the field without a mask is not only reckless and stupid, but it never should have been allowed in the first place. The fact neither the Dodgers, nor MLB had a system in place to stop Turner from taking the field, putting into risk his teammates and anyone he came into contact with is simply ridiculous.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said “it’s a bittersweet night for us,” confirming the events surrounding Game 6.
“We learned during the game Justin tested positive,” Manfred said. “He was immediately isolated to prevent spread.”
While having Turner play third base was considered too much of a risk, having him return to the field without a mask, and without protocols in place was not. In addition, it’s unclear why it took so long for the Dodgers and Turner to get his test results, and why there weren’t more stringent measures in place to protect players.
Turner still played the vast majority of the final game of the World Series with Covid, potentially infecting those around him, then still allowed to celebrate in close proximity with teammates after the fact, with no way of it being stopped.
On Wednesday MLB said it was opening an investigation into Turner’s celebration, which to pointed blame at the player. They said Turner was told not to celebrate, and broke from MLB protocols, as well as refusing to listen to MLB security.
“...Following the Dodgers’ victory, it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols and the instructions he was given regarding the safety and protection of others,” it said. “While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.”
Turner has not responded to MLB’s claims at this time.
Also, this happened:
Teammate Mookie Betts defended Turner returning to the field, offering his opinion that Turner belonged.
“He’s part of the team,” Betts said. “Forget all that, he’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
There’s no doubt this was an incredibly difficult situation. Players wait their lives to win a World Series, and not being able to celebrate because of Covid would have been devastating. You know what, though? We’ve all had to endure devastating scenarios because of this virus. Birthdays missed, loved ones we haven’t been able to see. Some people haven’t been able to attend graduations, and weddings, and funerals — all life events as important to people as a World Series is to a baseball player. But we did it, because it was the right thing to do.
It isn’t wholly Justin Turner’s fault that he returned to the field with Covid. People make bad decisions, especially when it comes to snap choices about missing out on an event they’ve waited a lifetime for. It was incumbent on the Dodgers and Major League Baseball to step in and prove, when it mattered most, that safety was more important that sport. They didn’t. They failed, and hopefully the lack of protocol won’t lead to more players testing positive, or putting more people at risk.
In the end MLB got what it wanted: For everyone to forget about the virus and just play ball. Now they’ll wash their hands of the situation and move on, even if those exposed to Covid as a result of their negligence won’t have the same luxury.