An Open Letter to Justin Turner and M.L.B.
An Open Letter to Justin Turner and M.L.B.
Justin Turner, it’s time for you to apologize.
I lived in Los Angeles long enough to know how much you mean to the Dodgers — and to L.A. baseball fans who have watched you, a native Southern Californian, become the late-blooming linchpin of a team that just won its first World Series in 32 years.
You’re one of baseball’s brightest stars, but you followed up the greatest win of your life with a dim and dangerous move.
That postgame celebration after the title-clinching Game 6 didn’t just put everyone around you at risk. Being at the center of it while knowing you’d tested positive for the coronavirus bruised a championship team’s legacy and sent a terrible message to fans at a time when the pandemic is raging out of control.
Where is the remorse? What are we missing?
When your coronavirus test came back positive during the late innings of Game 6, you were pulled from the game and isolated. That’s protocol.
Shortly after the Dodgers won, you sent a tweet: “Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys.”
But then, there you were, out on the field to hang with your team, even as you knew you carried a dangerous virus. There you were, not just with your teammates but with a throng of others: with your wife, with the families of other players, with team executives, league officials and the media. You doled out hugs, backslaps and kisses. You sat next to your manager, Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor.
It’s a safe bet that not everyone knew you had the virus.
I’m trying to understand and find empathy.
Everyone gets that you waited for this moment your whole life. That this win must have been particularly special for a guy who grew up in L.A.’s suburbs and went to college nearby. A guy whose first baseball memories include being a toddler and watching on his grandmother’s television as Kirk Gibson’s homer won Game 1 for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series.
Your back story is one of perseverance. You were cast aside by the Mets in your late 20s after a string of unremarkable seasons, then became an All-Star third baseman and the emotional ballast for a World Series winner. All of this is a testament to grit.
That said, it’s not hard to imagine what you were thinking. “Miss this celebration? Screw that!” Maybe the discipline that carried you to that moment failed you at the worst possible time.
Nobody in the general public really knows.
You’d gone through so much to win this title. The long string of wrenching playoff losses. The two defeats in the World Series, including the 2017 loss to the Houston Astros, a team Major League Baseball later found had cheated.
Add in the pandemic with its pressures, tensions and pain.
Perhaps you succumbed to what psychologists call Covid Fatigue, which can lead to poor and sometimes dangerous decision making as we seek ways to taste some semblance of normalcy.
You knew the risks. You had a reputation as an enforcer of health protocols.
“I feel no symptoms at all,” you wrote in your tweet after the game. But you surely understood that feeling fine doesn’t absolve responsibility. You can feel fine but spread the virus to someone else who also feels fine, and that person can spread it to someone who ends up hospitalized.
You could not have been blind to the havoc the virus has wreaked globally. More than 229,000 people have died so far in the United States. Hopefully we will find out that you’re still feeling well and that you never have any Covid-19 symptoms.
There are potential long-term effects for those who get sick and survive. Kenley Jansen, your team’s star reliever, had undergone surgeries to correct an irregular heartbeat in years past and contracted the virus before this odd season began. Even when he was cleared to begin playing, Jansen did not feel right for weeks.
Your actions were a slap in the face to all who have died. All who have lost loved ones. All who have caught the disease and struggled. To the doctors and nurses, the grocery clerks and the postal workers. To the kids stuck at home, attending school over laptops.
You should make amends to your fans, to the fans of baseball, to everyone watching, and all who see you as a role model.
You owe it to your teammates, as well. They wanted you on the field to celebrate, but that doesn’t make it right.
This year’s World Series was already destined to be remembered as the first played amid the pandemic. But now, whenever future generations look back, along with Clayton Kershaw’s pitching and Corey Seager’s Most Valuable Player Award will be images of you, maskless and coronavirus-positive, sitting near your teammates with the championship trophy.
As I write this note, you have not apologized. Not publicly at least. Neither has Major League Baseball.
That means you, Rob Manfred. You’re the commissioner. This can’t all be blamed on one player whose judgment lapsed.
Sure, there has never been a season like this one. And after a terrible early going — with players infected in batches and games canceled — you were close to pulling it off with something like momentum. Until Turner, no player had tested positive for the virus in nearly two months.
You were even blessed by luck. One example: The series did not go to a seventh game. Could it have been played as scheduled with Turner having tested positive?
There is much for baseball to answer for. Turner’s test results came back during Game 6, not before play started, which was needed to ensure everyone’s safety on the field that night. So far, there hasn’t been a good explanation as to how that terrible a lapse occurred.
Sure, Turner defied protocol and rushed to the field when he was told not to. M.L.B. has already placed the blame squarely his way in a statement that announced an investigation.
But Mr. Manfred, who is ultimately responsible for what happens on the field? You are.
It’s time to own your part in this mess, just as Turner must own his.