ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball was just two innings away from pulling off an upset, completing its 2020 season in the middle of a global pandemic.
It was showing the world it was possible to safely return to work providing health and safety protocols are followed.
A phone call, and subsequent irresponsible actions, left a scar for all of the world to see.
Commissioner Rob Manfred got the telephone call that Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19. He immediately telephoned Dodgers owner Mark Walter and president Andrew Friedman, and ordered them to get Turner off the field quickly as possible.
Turner was removed and ordered to stay in isolation in a room outside the clubhouse. The game wrapped up, the World Series trophy celebration commenced and Manfred left the field, only for Turner to return and join the celebration.
WORLD SERIES: Season ends with galling breach of protocol
‘UNFORTUNATE ENDPOINT’: Dodgers win marred by Turner’s return
Turner had been instructed by MLB security not to leave the clubhouse, but he refused, went onto the field, took pictures holding the trophy, hugged teammates, and even was in the front row of the team picture, with no mask, sitting alongside manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor.
Manfred and MLB officials were absolutely livid, and issued a strong, powerful statement condemning Turner’s actions.
“Following the Dodgers’ victory, it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols and the instructions he was given regarding the safety and protection of others,” MLB said in a statement released Wednesday.
“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.”
It’s still unknown how Turner contracted the virus after being in a soft bubble with teammates for three weeks in a Dallas hotel with the Tampa Bay Rays, but MLB is launching a full investigation.
“We really don’t know yet,’’ Manfred told USA TODAY Sports. “I prefer not to speculate. It’s important for us to trace obviously what the health situation is, and whoever was in the hotel, before turning them loose to travel.
“And after the fact, figure out if we can how this might have happened, so if we’re confronted with the need to do this again, we’ll be better at it.’’
The Dodgers were hoping to travel back to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning, but they are awaiting test results to determine if any other players, staff members or family members tested positive.’’
If the Rays had won Tuesday night, it’s possible that Game 7 of the World Series may have been postponed for days.
“It depends on what we found in terms of the follow-up testing,’’ Manfred said. “I don’t want to speculate about that. It really was dependent on whether it had spread and how we evaluated the situation.
“Fortunately, we didn’t have to face that one.’’
Manfred, who had just landed in New York, was pained by the horrible optics ending the season. Major League Baseball had been the role model during the pandemic, proving that if everyone safely followed protocols, the game can go on.
There had been frequent inconclusive tests throughout the season that turned out negative, Manfred said, so MLB instructed the lab to re-run Monday’s sample and Turner’s new test from Tuesday morning at the same time. The result would take two hours.
“There have been a number of inconclusive tests,’’ Manfred said. “We did exactly what we had done before. We re-ran in an effort to determine what exactly what we had. And in this case we were fortunate because we had the second sample as well.’’
Should MLB had been more forceful, assuring that Turner did not leave the clubhouse? Should Turner have still been at Globe Life Park, and not taken immediately back to his hotel room and remained in isolation?
“The protocol doesn’t dictate removal (from the ballpark),’’ Manfred said, “it dictates isolation. So the protocol was followed.’’
The importance for Manfred issuing a strong statement is to help assure there are no missteps going forward in 2021. It’s quite likely that players still will have to follow the same strict protocols next year until there’s a vaccine. It’s unknown how many teams will be permitted to have fans, or how limited attendance will be at ballparks.
For now, MLB plans to sit back and exhale, knowing that with the second wave of the coronavirus hitting the country now, they got their World Series in, just in the nick of time.
“I do think because of the attention that we attract and the popularity of the game,’’ Manfred said, “our experience can be used as a model or an example of how it’s possible to operate. Not under normal conditions, but under conditions that recognize that we’re in a pandemic and we have a serious health issue on our hands.’’
Ok, so about last night?