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Elephant Rumblings: MLB statement on Justin Turner coronavirus controversy

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World Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

No sooner had the Los Angeles Dodgers recorded the final out of a wonderfully thrilling World Series, than yet another scandal hit the baseball world. True to form in 2020, it took only minutes for a nice thing to become marred by controversy.

During the deciding game on Tuesday, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner received a positive test for coronavirus, causing him to be pulled in the 7th inning. He was placed in isolation, but after his team won he went back on the field to participate in the celebration in close contact with everyone else involved.

After a summer spent painstakingly sticking to tight safety protocols, with excellent success, that egregious lapse immediately sparked widespread criticism. MLB released a statement Wednesday, explaining what happened, their stance on the issue, and what they’re doing in response.

“Immediately upon receiving notice from the laboratory of a positive test, protocols were triggered, leading to the removal of Justin Turner from last night’s game. Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him. However, 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. 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.

“The Commissioner’s Office is beginning a full investigation into this matter and will consult with the Players Association within the parameters of the joint 2020 Operations Manual.

“Last night, nasal swabs were conducted on the Dodgers’ traveling party. Both the Rays and Dodgers were tested again today and their travel back to their home cities will be determined after being approved by the appropriate authorities.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of punishment, if any, the league decides to levy on Turner after this episode. Their statement casts him as a lone actor who directly and repeatedly violated rules in a significant way, which could be interpreted as requiring a hefty penalty, but on the other hand MLB does have a reputation for sometimes landing on the extremely* lenient* side* even in the face of loud public pressure.

For what it’s worth, Turner’s teammates were generally supportive of him after the incident. Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman downplayed it as well: “But I think from our standpoint, I think the people who were around him were people that would be in the contact tracing web anyway, with just how closely a lot of us have been around each other,” said Friedman.

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