Justin Turner Is Now the Unmasked Face of Baseball and the Nation

Kyle Koster
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in a triumphant display of overcoming adversity, capping a difficult, pandemic-dictated, shortened season. Thrilling baseball, controversial managerial moves, and the crescendo of a new Face of Baseball. Everything was magical for about, oh, 11 minutes in the victorious afterglow of a proud franchise's first championship since 1988.

Then, with almost alarming matter-of-factness, Fox's Kevin Burkhardt welcomed the world back from break and informed us all that Justin Turner, who mysteriously disappeared mid-game, had actually tested positive for COVID-19.

It took a bit for all of this to sink in, but soon the obvious questions came flooding in like two-out Dodgers runs. How, exactly, does a person get the go-ahead to play without a negative test? How many of his teammates are also going to regrettably catch the virus in the future? What's this all going to mean for efforts from everyone from the Dodgers to Rays to fans to family to media in their efforts to leave the bubble?

And most hauntingly, just how close did Major League Baseball come to the nightmare scenario in which Tampa Bay won Game 6 and Game 7 was delayed days or even a week while the giant clusterscrew was untangled bit by bit with dejected fury, like two kids trying to play Nintendo in a moldy basement only to encounter a rat's nest of cord-tangling?

Just how big is this situation, which felt like the opening scenes of a major scandal, going to grow?

What a depressingly naive thing for a bleary-eyed person to wonder before abandoning best-laid plans to simply go to bed and catch up on the news upon waking. Because we should all know by know that a stupid situation in 2020 is only going to get more stupid.

In theory, people should be surprised that Turner did not comply with the common-sense measures he was asked to take, considering the stakes. In realty, no one should be surprised that he made his way out onto Globe Life Field to hug his baseball brothers, kiss his wife, and flashy those pearly whites for all to see in a team photo.

It's tough to think clearly or default to an abundance of caution after just reaching the apex of one's profession, exponentially so when it's an emotional, physically-taxing endeavor like baseball. Hell, even the smartest people in the room may find themselves giving perplexing on-the-record quotes.

Let's be clear and fair. Ultimately it may come to pass that Major League Baseball's shoddy decision-making and Turner's shortsighted indifference didn't cost anyone else a thing. It's possible he returned a false positive. In fact, that's what every decent person is rooting for here.

But the damage of seeing all involved make a complete mockery of the protocol and accepted best practices -- the paragons baseball had successfully established -- the moment the final out was recorded is done. It laid bare what we've always sort of known. That it's not about safety at all and the so-called safety-first approach was a clever marketing tool to allow the season to continue and money to roll in.

You may not care and, honestly, that's understandable. Turner's actions will not directly impact you. But that's sort of the point here. They are emblematic of the country as a whole right now. We feel destined to arrive at a place where we simply accept putting others at risk of a potentially deadly virus because it's easier. Or more convenient. Honestly, maybe we're already there in some early stage.

The count is either 0-2 or we're already walking back to the dugouts to wait for our next chance to handle the curve.

You may hate reading stuff like this or snark on Twitter. It may all seem joyless. And you're not wrong. Yet baseball sending a message in 96-point font that a long, dark winter is coming and it will not only be shrugged off, it will be intentionally worsened, is pretty bleak and ominous stuff.

The Face of Baseball is not Mookie Betts, who announced his ascension loudly and with superhuman vigor. It's not Clayton Kershaw who finally found salvation at the end of a three-act Greek redemptive story.

No, the Face of Baseball is unmasked. Red-bearded and smiling, living in the moment, planning to deal with the sweeping consequences at a later day.

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