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LA Dodgers: All parties to blame for Justin Turner COVID debacle

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LA Dodgers Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

LA Dodgers Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The star third baseman returned to the field to celebrate the Dodgers’ title win despite a positive COVID test which caused his early removal from the game.

Maybe it was too good to be true.

The LA Dodgers just won their seventh World Series title on Tuesday night, their first since 1988. In doing so, they dispatched of the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays in six games.

Clayton Kershaw finally earned a ring, debunking past “choking” narratives and padding a resume bound to send him to Cooperstown in due time. A feel good story for every baseball fan.

Julio Urias locked down the series-clinching save for the Dodgers, while Corey Seager capped off a historic playoff run with his second consecutive postseason series MVP award.

It all just seemed so good, so surreal on that Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. Los Angeles, now the city of champions, has witnessed their historic basketball and baseball franchises bringing home the title hardware within the same month.

Surely, nothing could have knocked the Dodgers and their fans off cloud nine…

Really, Justin Turner?

The All-Star third baseman was removed in the seventh inning of World Series game six due to a positive COVID-19 test in what would become a microcosm of the challenges the sports world has faced in the wake of this pandemic.

Turner had been tested for COVID prior to the game, with the results coming back as inconclusive. So, it’s debatable as to whether he should’ve been able to take the field at all on Tuesday night.

A question Major League Baseball must answer: why was Justin Turner’s inconclusive COVID test not treated as a positive test, causing his removal from the game last night?

— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) October 28, 2020

Alas, Turner did suit up, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before his early departure. A questionable decision, but we’ll give the benefit of the doubt in this case because MLB had gone 58 days without a positive COVID test to that point.

A second COVID test immediately after his removal would reveal Turner’s positive diagnosis. He isolated for all of one hour before re-emerging on the field to celebrate his team’s championship.

MLB has opened an investigation and says third baseman Justin Turner violated coronavirus protocols when he celebrated on the field with his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and he refused instructions from security to leave the field.#WorldSeries

https://t.co/39GdUk7daw

— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) October 28, 2020

Not only did Turner return, he did so without a mask at times and without socially distancing, all while openly embracing his teammates.

According to reports, Turner refused the overtures of MLB security to keep him in isolation during the celebration, further escalating the issue and prompting MLB to investigate the situation.

This is egregiously bad PR for the Dodgers, for MLB and for Justin Turner, now an impending free agent.

All parties involved appear to be in line for a share of the blame here. From the MLB and Dodgers’ standpoints, why wasn’t more done to ensure Turner’s complete isolation after a positive COVID test? Protocols are only as effective as those who enforce them.

MLB’s postseason bubble had worked without a hitch until that night, a miracle given how many pandemic obstacles the league faced at the outset.

Letting the veteran third baseman play in game six at all was controversial, as an inconclusive test does not completely clear an individual of having the virus. A neutral test should be treated as a positive to avoid any potential spread.

On the players’ end, Justin Turner acted selfishly and without regard for the health and safety of those around him.

Wanting to celebrate a hard-earned World Series title with your teammates is understandable. Receiving the positive COVID test was probably difficult to swallow, especially at that moment.

However, defying protocols meant to prevent the spread of the virus just because of one’s own desire to indulge in celebration is enough to elicit brushback or punishment, particularly in this case when all parties were aware of a positive test.

The team, including Turner, will have all off-season to interact with the trophy, as the only place it’s expected to go from here is back to Dodger Stadium.

It’s this kind of incident that can take some of the luster away from winning a championship and ending a three-decade long drought.

It’s this kind of incident that warrants bad publicity, something Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB can ill-afford given their withering reputations.

For the Dodgers, they saved themselves from a further PR disaster by winning the World Series in six games.

As for Justin Turner, his talent and production might just be his saving graces.

A player of Turner’s caliber who performed extremely well this postseason and throughout his Dodgers tenure will be sure to receive plenty more opportunities down the line, whether in Los Angeles or elsewhere.

But neither MLB nor any team looking to add the all-star third baseman as a free agent will soon forget this debacle, though. Turner is sure to serve as a cautionary example of a near-disaster stemming from this pandemic.

Tuesday night was one for the books, but not good enough to escape without controversy.

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