Major League Baseball, who told the world 10 days ago how angry they were with Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, threatening harsh discipline for his actions in their World Series celebration, instead turned around Friday and apologized in statements that almost read like a love letter.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he will not suspend, fine or even discipline Turner in the slightest for leaving his isolated room, returning to the field, ignoring requests to leave while even taking off his mask, less than an hour after being informed he tested positive for COVID-19.
In return, Turner and his attorneys dropped any threat of filing a grievance in case MLB was planning to issue discipline, where he might have also let everyone know that if the protocols were followed more closely, and the coronavirus tests were done in time, he never should have been permitted to even play in Game 6.
In the end, everyone looked rather silly, with hopes that the matter is erased from our memory forever.
Here are their stories, and, boy, they’re sticking to them.
Justin Turner poses with the World Series trophy after the win. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)
“As is often the case, our investigation revealed additional relevant information that, while not exonerating Mr. Turner from responsibility for his conduct, helps put into context why he chose to leave the isolation room and return to the field,’’ Manfred said in a lengthy statement. “First, Mr. Turner’s teammates actively encouraged him to leave the isolation room and return to the field for a photograph. Many teammates felt they had already been exposed to Mr. Turner and were prepared to tolerate the additional risk.
“Second, Mr. Turner believes that he received permission from at least one Dodgers’ employee to return to the field to participate in a photograph. Although Mr. Turner’s belief may have been the product of a miscommunication, at least two Dodgers’ employees said nothing to Mr. Turner as he made his way to the field, which they admitted may have created the impression that his conduct was acceptable.
“Third, during the somewhat chaotic situation on the field, Mr. Turner was incorrectly told by an unidentified person that other players had tested positive, creating the impression in Mr. Turner’s mind that he was being singled out for isolation.
“Finally, Major League Baseball could have handled the situation more effectively. For example, in retrospect, a security person should have been assigned to monitor Mr. Turner when he was asked to isolate, and Mr. Turner should have been transported from the stadium to the hotel more promptly.’’
And, oh yes, Manfred said, Turner did apologize.
And, yes, Manfred apologized to Turner, too.
And just to make sure the incident will not cost Turner a penny in free agency, Manfred was almost a walking PSA for Turner, profusely praising him.
“By all accounts, Justin is a leader in the clubhouse, a contributor to his community and a responsible person who was instrumental in the Dodgers diligently following the health protocols all season long,’’ Manfred said. “Staging a baseball season during the COVID-19 pandemic was an incredibly difficult undertaking and it required significant sacrifices and an enormous amount of work by players, club staff and the Commissioner’s Office. We all have made mistakes as we navigated these unprecedented challenges and have tried to learn from those mistakes so they are not repeated.
“With this in mind, I am closing this matter by applauding Justin for accepting responsibility, apologizing and making a commitment to set a positive example going forward.’’
Wow, a dramatic contrast from the statement issued a day after the World Series.
Remember this one?
“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. “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.’’
Well, only that wasn’t quite the truth, it turns out, with Turner offering his explanation why he left the doctor’s office that was adjacent to the clubhouse, and joined the celebration as if he was diagnosed with nothing more than the sniffles.
“I will not make excuses for my conduct, but I will describe my state of mind,’’ Turner said. “Winning the World Series was my lifelong dream and the culmination of everything I worked for in my career. After waiting in the isolation room while my teammates celebrated on the field, I asked whether I was permitted to return to the field with my wife in order to take a photograph.
“I assumed by that point that few people were left on the field. I was under the impression that team officials did not object to my returning to the field for a picture with my wife. However, what was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask. In hindsight, I should have waited until the field was clear of others to take that photo with my wife. I sincerely apologize to everyone on the field for failing to appreciate the risks of returning to the field. I have spoken with almost every teammate, coach, and staff member, and my intentions were never to make anyone uncomfortable or put anyone at further risk.’’
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Oh, and just in case any teams may be hesitant to bid on Turner because of his actions that evening, Turner was permitted to even issue his own free-agent campaign ad, courtesy of MLB.
“Kourt and I hold ourselves to the absolute highest standards,’’ Turner said. “We worked diligently to comply with all of MLB’s protocols throughout the season. We were heavily involved in the planning of player/family safety to ensure the possibility of a postseason and World Series. We helped local businesses stay afloat by ordering meals to help the DreamCenter of LA feed almost 1 million Angelenos during COVID lockdown. Through my foundation, I will continue to support organizations in the Los Angeles area that assist our community in the battle against the virus.’’
The Dodgers, who had also been mum since that night, jumped right in too, and if they decide not to re-sign him as a free agent, well, please feel free to call them any time as a reference.
“Through much hard work and sacrifice, the Dodgers were successful at preventing COVID-19 infections throughout a very difficult 2020 season,’’ Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. “No player was more instrumental in allowing the Dodgers to overcome the adversity created by the pandemic than Justin Turner, as he set an example for his teammates and advocated for enhanced safety measures that went above and beyond league requirements. Justin’s leadership played a large part in helping the Dodgers safely complete the entire season, which culminated in a World Championship.
“While the events following the conclusion of the World Series were unfortunate, there is no question about who Justin Turner is, and what he means to his teammates, the Dodger organization and the City of Los Angeles. A three-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award as Baseball’s top humanitarian, Justin and his wife Kourtney represent the best of the Dodger organization through the positive impact of the Justin Turner Foundation and their continued commitment to making Los Angeles a better place.”
So, there you have it, everything is now forgotten.
We still don’t know if all of the Dodgers’ and Rays’ players are still in self-quarantine. And we may never know if anyone else was infected from that evening, with families and at least one pregnant woman on the field during the celebration.
All we know is that Major League Baseball, Turner and the Dodgers all want this to go away, and pretend like it never happened.
Perhaps one day, we’ll know the full truth.
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