After a championship drought that spanned more than three decades and included a recent stretch of heartbreak for the core of the Los Angeles Dodgers roster, they reached the pinnacle on Tuesday by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series.
However, a night of jubilation wasn’t without some concern and disappointment with respect to Justin Turner. He was replaced by Edwin Rios at the start of the eighth inning, and that later was reported as being due to a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test.
Turner was not seen in the dugout for the final two innings of the game, nor on the field when the Dodgers began celebrating their title.
“It was basically the trainer telling me he had to come out immediately because he tested positive,” manager Dave Roberts explained. “At that point in time I was still trying to manage a game to get other guys ready to go. I haven’t seen Justin yet, so that’s all I know.”
Roberts returned to the field after his press conference, and Turner had emerged from isolation. He wore a mask and embraced teammates prior to and after taking pictures with the World Series trophy.
“I think having a mask on and staying socially distanced, he wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “Can’t state strongly enough about how big of a role in the success of this organization.
“I think for him, just being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is going to play out, I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out. From at least my perspective — not watching it super closely with everything going on — I think he was mindful of other people. Especially other people he hadn’t already been in contact with.
“This is something we’re going to wrap our arms around tonight and in the morning, and figure out where we’re going from here. It was obviously a really unfortunate endpoint of this incredible series. It definitely affected some of the joy from winning, just because of how much J.T. has meant to us.
“Him not being able to be on the field for that final out, with everything he’s done for this organization, it’s something that’s no one’s fault. It’s just how things played out. We’ll figure out how to proceed going forward.”
Because of the pandemic, Turner and the Dodgers have come under scrutiny for their handling of the World Series celebration. Friedman was pressed on the matter multiple times, and he reiterated Turner had already been in contact with those he rejoined.
“Obviously from our standpoint, the contact tracing and figuring out who’s been around him, the test results are going to be incredibly important from this point moving forward,” Friedman added.
“It’s hard for me to say specifically about the on-field, because I didn’t see everything that happened or didn’t. We’ll figure out more as we go.”
Dodgers teammates feel for Turner
Beyond officially becoming a free agent Wednesday morning, Turner’s importance to the clubhouse, organization and city has been touted for several years. That sentiment resonated with Mookie Betts.
“He’s part of the team,” Betts said. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
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