The statement released by Major League Baseball on Wednesday afternoon — noticeably unsigned by anyone, it should be noted — was stunning, for a couple of reasons.
First was the way the anonymous MLB powers-that-be went after Justin Turner, throwing the Dodgers third baseman under the proverbial bus for ignoring MLB rules and joining his teammates on the field to celebrate his team’s World Series championship.
“ … it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols …”
“… Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong …”
“When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.”
That last one raises a question: Who, exactly, are the people employed by MLB Security? Grade-school crossing guards? Freshmen hall monitors?
Turner had just tested positive for a virus that’s killed more than 220,000 Americans and MLB decided that “I don’t want to stay inside” was enough of a reason to let him do whatever the hell he wanted.
And that’s part of the second, equally stunning part of the statement. Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB are clearly taking the “we assume no responsibility” position in this situation. Turner should have been physically stopped from coming onto the field. And he should have been physically removed from the field once he got out there.
Sure, the optics of a World Series champion being removed from the field would have looked bad, but if the choice is bad optics vs. family members of players possibly becoming infected with a virus that’s killed so many Americans? That’s an easy choice, and MLB swung and missed at that one like they were flailing at a Blake Snell Game 6 slider.
By the way, the Dodgers are at fault for allowing Turner on the field, too. They don’t get a free pass here, either.
And that’s not even bringing up the way MLB bungled Turner’s COVID-positive result. The tests from Monday, it was reported, didn’t show up to the Utah lab on time, so MLB didn’t get a result until after Game 6 had started. And when Turner’s test came up inconclusive, a conclusive result wasn’t known until the seventh inning.
How does that happen during the World Series? Seriously?
MLB’s not-our-fault approach to this debacle is almost as revolting as Turner’s decision to come back on the field and sit down for a team photo, mask-less, next to his mask-less manager, Dave Roberts, a man who has previously had cancer and is in a higher-risk group because of that history. Almost.
Here’s MLB’s full statement:
“Immediately upon receiving notice from the laboratory of a positive test, protocols were triggered, leading to the removal of Justin Turner from last night’s game. Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him. However, 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. 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.
“The Commissioner’s Office is beginning a full investigation into this matter and will consult with the Players Association within the parameters of the joint 2020 Operations Manual.
“Last night, nasal swabs were conducted on the Dodgers’ traveling party. Both the Rays and Dodgers were tested again today and their travel back to their home cities will be determined after being approved by the appropriate authorities.”
Turner, who is now officially a free agent, spent his seven years with the Dodgers evolving into an unquestioned team leader, on the field and in the clubhouse. Without his years of sacrifice and selfless dedication to the Dodgers, the franchise almost certainly doesn’t win the 2020 World Series.
But leadership is making the hard decisions in the best interests of others at the very toughest moments, doing what’s right when it’s hard to do the right thing. And at that critical moment, when he should have been thinking of the health and safety of others, he chose the most selfish option possible.
Turner should have thought something like this: “This sucks. I wish I could be out there celebrating with my teammates. But you know what? I just tested positive for a virus that’s helped kill more than 220,000 Americans and infected millions more. Maybe I should just sit here and celebrate later.”
Instead, his actions told us exactly what he was likely thinking: “F— it. Let’s go.”
As mentioned in the statement, MLB is conducting an investigation. What, exactly, that means is anyone’s guess. Turner absolutely should face punishment. Serious punishment, in the form of a suspension and a hefty fine.
Will baseball do that, though? No way of knowing.
And, though they are two totally different things, it will feel weird if Turner’s suspended for this while the Astros players received no punishments for their sign-stealing scandal. And you know the Dodgers fans haven’t forgotten about that; remember how harshly they booed Manfred after the Game 6 clincher?
This was just a disastrous end to the 2020 season and there’s enough blame to go around.
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