Arturo Munoz
Sports Editor

Last week, the L.A. Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, receiving their seventh championship in franchise history. It was a time for celebration for all of L.A., but it was most celebrated by the players, who, for the past four years, had trouble finishing as champions. From losing in the World Series in 2017 and 2018 to exiting early in the postseason in 2019, these players stuck with the team. However, there was one player who was not able to celebrate with the team as intended: Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ third baseman. Unfortunately, it was revealed during the seventh inning of game six that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Turner was immediately taken out of the game during the seventh inning and was taken to be isolated, leading many to wonder whether he was injured or if it was a move in the chessboard for Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts. It would later be revealed that Turner had tested positive for COVID-19 from tests that were conducted on Monday, October 26, and was immediately told to isolate upon receiving the results. As the Dodgers struck out the last batter of the series, cementing them as champions for 2020, fans may have felt a relief that had built up for the last 32 years, but many also felt sorry for Turner, who deserved to be out celebrating. Turner had become one of the Dodgers’ star players, who rose from a mediocre player with the New York Mets to an all-star third-baseman, and not seeing him in the celebrations was truly heartbreaking. Understandably, though, it was something that needed to be done.  

Then, as the Dodgers rushed the field in celebration, I saw something that I did not expect to see: Turner was on the field after celebrating with his teammates. At first, it seemed like he would be celebrating from a distance with his mask on to prevent putting others at risk. Then, he did something that likely disappointed many fans; he started to hug his teammates and joined in a team picture, at which point he decided it was a good idea to take off his mask. 

With almost a quarter of a million deaths related to COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, Turner’s actions were inexcusable for someone who is a leader to the team, as well as a role model to fans. His actions were not only selfish but also dangerous — for both himself and his teammates. He made a lot of poor choices after the Dodgers’ win: he joined in on celebrating close to his team, made physical contact with them, and took off his mask near them for a picture. He even sat next to Manager Dave Roberts, who is a cancer survivor (cancer survivors are more at risk of COVID-19 complications than other people).

Do I find Turner’s actions wrong and irresponsible? Yes, I do. I understand why he did it, as well. He had been working all his life to get to this moment; he failed in two previous visits and did not know if he would ever get this chance again. It is a difficult situation he was going through. What would many of us do? Would we comply with safety precautions and miss out on celebrating the achievement of our one goal in our career? It is a question that no one can answer until we are living in that same exact moment. For now, it is something that will be talked about and will divide people for quite a while.  

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith would also speak on this predicament. First, he looked at what Turner might have been thinking after being in an almost complete game with his teammates, during which he did not even know if he had tested positive or not. Then, he defended his view on why Turner might not be at total fault for this situation. He asked how the MLB can be pointing fingers at Turner when the MLB itself put him at risk to infect others in the first place by allowing him to play without knowing the results of his test.

That is something else that needs to be accounted for: whether or not the MLB needs to take some of the blame for this. Whether or not the season would end with a World Series winner, or if it would be canceled halfway through, was in question. As teams like the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals also had multiple cases or even full-on outbreaks of COVID-19, the MLB caught some fire from the media regarding why there was not a bubble for the entire season, as the season was cut to 60 games. That would be even more difficult than what the NBA was able to pull off, not only due to more players having to be accounted for but also because every team would be participating since the season just started. 

Once the MLB had a chance to create a bubble for the postseason, or at the very least the World Series, they did not take the chance. According to Dodgers Pitcher Joe Kelly in an interview with Boston Radio Station WEEI, the MLB’s version of a bubble was not even a bubble. Instead, it was called a ‘Secure Zone.’ Kelly would also say, “[it was the] first time in my life I have felt insecure. I was insecure in the ‘secure zone,’” speaking on how people were allowed to enter the hotel that they stayed at alone without being in an enclosed area, which would help them be protected. This brings up another question: how did Turner contract the virus when the MLB did everything possible to keep the players and their families safe?

The MLB chose to not pull Turner in the second inning, when the results for his test initially came back inconclusive, instead of waiting until the eighth inning, when results came back positive. He had already been in the game for over an hour; why were his results, from tests that were conducted by the MLB, not known before the game? If they had known, Turner would not have had the chance to enter the game at all and put others at risk as a result. The MLB also could have made the decision to cancel the game, and wait to see if more players and other personnel had the virus. Overall, it was just a sloppy job done by the MLB, who was just trying to find a way out of the mistakes they had made when the blame could be placed on them. 

Turner’s actions can not go unnoticed, for they not only make it seem as if he chose to disregard the current situation of the world, but also that he disrespected those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, as well as those who are currently risking their lives to work against this virus, by not taking it seriously. After a thorough investigation conducted by the MLB on this situation they have decided to not punish Justin Turner due to his actions, MLB commissioner Robert Manfred released a statement on why this is the case. Justin Turner also issued an apology and said that he regrets the decision which he made at the time. The Dodgers Organization also issued a statement about the incident. All three statements can be found here. The personal opinion of whether Turner was in the right or wrong, and if the MLB is to blame as well, is up in the air for everyone to make — so you, yourself, can decide how to view this situation.

Feature image: Courtesy of Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

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