ARLINGTON, Texas — It wasn’t difficult to spot Justin Turner on the field after the Dodgers won the World Series on Tuesday night. He was the guy with the bright red beard hugging teammates, taking his turn to pose for a photo with the Commissioner’s Trophy, then standing on the mound to kiss his wife, Kourtney.
When the Dodgers gathered for a team photo, Turner sat down in the front, took his mask off and smiled for the camera a foot away from manager Dave Roberts.
That Turner had been taken out of the game about an hour earlier and told to isolate himself after it was confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 apparently didn’t matter. At least to him it didn’t.
Major League Baseball made it clear on Wednesday that it didn’t share that view.
“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,” the league said in a statement.
“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 statement also said the commissioner’s office is beginning an investigation into the matter. That suggests Turner could be disciplined in some way.
This will be one time their crack sleuths won’t have to grant immunity to witnesses to get the truth. There are plenty of photos and video of Turner on the field.
His teammates readily acknowledged it, too.
“I mean, he’s part of the team,” Mookie Betts said. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
The Dodgers spent 24 days in a playoff bubble before Game 6. The players, coaches and their families spent all of their time at a resort hotel in Irving, Texas, when they weren’t at Globe Life Field for games.
They were frequently tested and not allowed to have any contact with the public. How Turner contracted the virus isn’t known and will be part of the investigation.
According to MLB, the Dodgers traveling party was tested late Tuesday night. Then both teams were tested again on Wednesday. Outside of Turner and his wife, the Dodgers' party then returned to Los Angeles.
MLB had gone 58 days without a positive test before Turner’s case. Until Tuesday, the playoff bubble had been an unqualified success.
Dodgers president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman tried to be the adult in the room, or in this case on the field. He admitted the bad optics of Turner being on the field without a mask. It also appeared at one point he tried in vain to convince Turner to return to the clubhouse.
But ultimately, a souvenir photo outweighed the health concerns.
“Justin wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy and did,” Friedman said. “From his standpoint, having a chance to take a photo with the trophy was incredibly important and meaningful to him.”
Friedman then said the Dodgers would take the necessary steps to conduct contract tracing and make sure the team is not the cause of an outbreak.
Those are good sentiments, hopefully not too late.
Let’s be honest. Many of us have disregarded the protocols for some selfish reason a time or two during the last eight months or we know somebody who has.
You’ll also hear arguments that Turner should be forgiven. He deserved to celebrate and, besides, young athletes will be fine even if they get the virus.
Tell that to Red Sox lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was knocked off his feet by it. There are, sadly, many other examples of young, healthy people who are no longer with us because of COVID-19.
Nothing can take away from what the Dodgers accomplished on the field. They were 43-17 during the regular season then won 13 of 18 postseason games and outscored good competition by 35 runs.
That MLB was able to complete the season was a significant accomplishment, too. It took a lot of coordination and cooperation.
But what should have been a victory lap for all involved will also be remembered for Turner happily ambling around the field and making his personal victory lap a bigger priority.
Suspending him for a few games would be warranted and might help MLB get through whatever the 2021 season is going to look like.