MLB

Justin Turner celebrates with Dodgers after positive COVID test: Four lingering question as MLB investigates

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for the coronavirus and was removed from Game 6 of the World Series during the eighth inning in L.A.’s title-clinching victory on Tuesday night. After Major League Baseball learned of the positive test, Turner was taken to begin isolation. However, he returned to the field to celebrate with his teammates. 

Turner was told by league officials and security to remain in isolation. According to Ken Rosenthal, Turner had “the support of at least some club officials” to return for the on-field celebrations and photos.

In the second inning of Tuesday’s game, the lab that processes MLB’s COVID-19 tests informed the league that Turner’s test from Monday came back inconclusive, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported. It’s unclear why the test results arrived after the game’s 8:08 p.m. ET first pitch, since as Passan notes, the results usually arrive beforehand. The samples from Turner’s test on Tuesday were then run immediately at the lab and came back positive. That’s when the league informed the Dodgers, and Turner was subsequently pulled from the game.

Turner tweeted after the game that he was asymptomatic, but an asymptomatic person with COVID-19 can still transmit the virus.

On Wednesday, MLB confirmed that there would be an investigation of Turner’s actions.

This is still an ongoing, unresolved issue with a lot of lingering questions. Here are four of the biggest:

1. How did he get it if he’s in the MLB bubble?

The simple answer is it can happen. Bu, the answer also is it should not happen if the league’s bubble was set up and run like many of the other successful bubbles in North American pro sports. The league’s health and safety guidelines had kept those involved free of a positive COVID-19 case for over 50 consecutive days before Turner’s positive test. Ultimately, the baseball bubble broke and we’ll have to wait and find out if contact tracing will provide a clearer answer on how that happened.

The National Women’s Soccer League, the WNBA and NBA, as well as the National Hockey League all resumed and completed their 2020 seasons in a bubble setting. The purpose of a bubble environment is to create a small network — in the sports leagues’ case, players, coaches and personnel — who agree to abide by a shared set of rules to try to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus. The special isolation zones are proven to work. 

CBS Sports examined why Major League Baseball was the only of the major American professional sports leagues to forgo a “bubble” setup in its initial return to play this year. Most of the insiders who spoke to CBS Sports said that MLB would have been better off following the hub systems employed by the NWSL, NBA and WNBA among others. 

Of course, baseball operated on a neutral-site bubble for the World Series, but allowed up to 11,500 fans to attend the games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas for the Fall Classic and the NLCS. Fans were encouraged to wear masks and social distance, but there were more than a handful of times the Fox broadcast caught fans ignoring one or both of the guidelines.

For two of the six Fall Classic games, the ballpark’s retractable roof was shut. The league had previously said it preferred to keep the ballpark’s roof open, weather permitting, to limit any potential spread of the coronavirus — which is spread through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying the virus — among fans. Texas is currently averaging at the highest number of new coronavirus cases in the United States for the last week, averaging nearly 6,400 new cases every day, according to the CDC.

2. Why was Turner allowed to play?

Whether we can say this is a flaw of MLB’s testing or of the lab where they process tests is unclear. But why was Turner’s Monday test result not known until the second inning of Tuesday’s Game 6? And why was he allowed to remain in the game after the inconclusive result?

During the regular season, the league postponed the start of at least one game due to a delay in results. That was not the case on Tuesday. Not only was Turner allowed to play, but the game was held as scheduled despite the inconclusive test. 

3. Why was he able to rejoin teammates on the field?

This is really the big issue here.

Turner, after it was known that he tested positive, rejoined his teammates and joined in the celebration. He held the World Series trophy, was in close contact with teammates and was in the front of the Dodgers’ World Series photo.

MLB said it tried to stop Turner from joining the celebration and asked him to leave after he was on the field, but he “emphatically refused to comply.”

4. Will MLB punish him?

It’s unclear what MLB will do at this point, but the league has launched an investigation. Asking the question of whether Turner will receive a fine, suspension or another form of discipline is fair. If the league officials, security and health professionals told Turner he needed to stay isolated, and he disobeyed those rules, it’s a clear violation of the league’s determined safety protocols. On top of it, the Dodgers organization could also be in hot water here.

Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman told reporters after the celebrations: “I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him [Turner] from going out.” 

But there were officials there who told Turner to not go back out there, whose job it was to do so, for the purpose of prioritizing the safety of players, coaches and their families.

MLB released a statement regarding the incident on Wednesday. Not only did the league confirm that there would be an investigation of the events that transpired Tuesday night, it also said that Turner “disregarded 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.


During the abbreviated 2020 regular season, MLB was forced to postpone 43 games and two clubs — the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins — each experienced massive team-wide outbreaks. Following the outbreaks, the league implemented a compliance officer for each of the 30 MLB clubs to ensure that all players and coaches will follow to the health and safety protocols.

Although coronavirus is considered a respiratory illness, the disease can impact a number of systems and organs. That includes possible effects on the heart and the brain. Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who developed a heart issue from COVID-19, was shut down for 2020 MLB season. More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.



 

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