Justin Turner was a fun baseball character. He had a signature look with long red hair and a great big bush beard that made him look like a wildling who could swing a bat. He had no shortage of big moments. In 2015, he went 10-for-19 in a series the Dodgers lost to the Mets. In 2017 he was MVP of the NLCS. He homered twice against the eventual champion Nationals in 2019. He had two more homers during this World Series as the Dodgers finally broke through and won their first championship of the century.
Now this. What was he thinking? Probably a combination of "I feel fine, so it must be fine." We have protocols that protect us! Masks! A few minutes won't hurt! The President was fine! Probably a lot of the same thinking that led to Turner numbering among the 74,000+ Americans who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Maybe, hopefully, Turner had some false positives. Maybe, hopefully, he's completely fine and wasn't actually in danger of spreading coronavirus. If that's the case, that's great, but it doesn't change his actions. It doesn't change the fact that he thought he had a contagious, possibly deadly virus that he could be spreading to teammates, their families, and his high-risk manager whom he sat next to - mask-less - for a team photo. And he was kissing his wife.
Even if Turner's teammates wanted him out there, they weren't thinking clearly. This was one of the most emotional moments of their lives. Of course they wanted Turner out there. A guy who helped them accomplish their ultimate goal. Besides, look at him. He looks fine. He feels fine. There are masks. Who wants to be the wet blanket to tell Justin Turner he should be sitting in a lonely room in the bowels of the stadium while his friends celebrate? It seems cruel if you ignore the whole deadly virus thing, which they clearly did.
So do you want to cut Turner some slack? Not overreact? Maybe wait to see how many teammates and family members and team employees get sick before we put a coronavirus-shaped asterisk on this celebration?
Or should we blame Turner for being incredibly selfish? Should we go back even further and blame whoever put Turner and the Dodgers in this position in the first place? How in the hell were the Dodgers getting test results from the day before during the game? This is the World Series. This is their premiere event. The culmination of what is usually a very long season. If this is the kind of thing they were doing throughout the season or postseason, how lucky did they get? Not to mention the fact that the Dodgers held on and MLB isn't scrambling to figure out how to play Game 7 when one whole team and probably a few opponents were close contacts.
This should be a black eye that follows the sport just as closely as the Astros scandal. Houston cheated and won, but that was sports. This could literally be life and death. This should be treated just as seriously.
Future teams and teammates should have real questions about Turner's decision making. How can you be considered team-first in a team sport when you literally put your teammates in danger because you didn't want to miss a party? It's irresponsible. It's completely inconsiderate and it's the perfect example of why we're in our third wave of COVID-19 without ever really getting past the first.
That's why this is the perfect example of 2020. And 2020 is the reason this will be just one more thing that happened. Wait a few hours and we'll be onto the next bad thing. Turner's irresponsible actions, condoned by teammates who weren't thinking critically about themselves and their families, will be a footnote. If they're lucky.