ARLINGTON, Tex. – Major League Baseball’s COVID-plagued season and World Series ended just as one might have expected—at a neutral site with a positive COVID test.
Just an inning before the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their first World Series title in 32 years with a tense 3-1, Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, their third baseman Justin Turner was pulled from the game Tuesday night at Globe Life Field after the club learned he had tested positive. He was replaced by Edwin Rios.
MLB confirmed the test results.
Dave Roberts, finally a winning manager in his third World Series appearance with the club in four years, said he was stunned in the dugout when told he had to make the move.
“It was basically the trainer telling me [during the seventh inning] he had to come out immediately because he tested positive,” Roberts said. “At that point in time I was still managing a game and getting guys ready to go. I haven’t seen Justin yet, so that’s all I know.”
The victory came in the eighth season since Guggenheim Baseball Management purchased the Dodgers from Frank McCourt in 2012 for a then-record $2.15 billion. The holding company almost immediately sold Dodgers cable TV rights in the Los Angeles area for $8 billion. Since then, the organization has spent $1.8 billion in player payroll, including an MLB second-highest $107.9 million during this prorated 60-game season.
Guggenheim has eight consecutive National League West titles, three NL pennants and now a World Series championship to show for its investment.
“This victory is for our fans,” said Mark Walter, the team’s owner and chairman, after the game. “You know, 2020 has been a year of such hardship, but this trophy is for you, the best fans in all of baseball.”
That hardship would come down to the final innings.
Shortstop Corey Seager, the MVP of his club’s 4-2 World Series victory, was equally as stunned when he jogged to his position in the eighth to see Rios instead of Turner and his shaggy red beard. Turner, at 36, is one of six Dodgers free agents now that the World Series is over. He’s respected and well-liked by his teammates.
“I don’t even know what to ask. We don’t even know what to ask,” Seager said. “For it to happen to a dude like that, a guy who reinvented himself when he came here, what he’s meant to this organization, this franchise, this community to take that [celebration] away from him, it’s gut-wrenching. It hurts me. I can’t imagine how he feels.”
When the pandemic began sweeping the globe earlier this year, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus March 11 and that night’s game at Oklahoma City was canceled and the remainder of the NBA regular season suspended. The next day MLB and the NHL followed suit, with baseball ultimately shut down for four months.
Tuesday night, there was no immediate announcement about Turner’s predicament, nor even a short pause in the game at that moment. The band played on. MLB officials speculated in the aftermath that it was fortunate the Dodgers had won because Game 7 probably would’ve been postponed.
In any event, the Dodgers embarked on a long postgame celebration on the field full of hugs, many of them not wearing masks and certainly not socially distancing. No one knew at that point who else might be infected. Turner even returned to the field to take a team picture.
When the Dodgers returned to the bubble hotel where they’ve been staying for the past four weeks, they were all expected to be administered rapid COVID tests. It’s still to be determined if they will have to quarantine in the area for several more days.
Commissioner Rob Manfred finally acknowledged Turner’s positive test to Fox Sports after the game.
“Obviously we’re concerned when any of our players test positive,” Manfred said. “We learned during the game. He was immediately isolated to prevent spread.
“It’s a bittersweet night for us,” he added.
MLB had its issues with COVID throughout the abbreviated season. Despite traveling only regionally, six clubs were infected, losing as much as two weeks of play to as little as two days. A number of players and staff tested positive during preseason camps, and then 57 more were found to have been infected during the season.
Since the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs entered their respective bubbles days before the postseason began, MLB and the Players Association had reported no positive test results until Turner on Tuesday.
Up to now, no Dodgers player has reported to have tested positive since reliever Kenley Jansen missed the start of the season recovering from the coronavirus.
Just as around the rest of the U.S., Texas has suffered a recent increase and now has had 904,769 total cases, 6,296 Tuesday, both figures the highest of any state in the nation.
The greatest cataclysm of all for MLB occurred on July 26 at Philadelphia when the Miami Marlins were allowed to take the field after several players tested positive. As a result, 18 players and three staff members were found to have been infected. Not only were the Marlins quarantined for a week, the Phillies also had to miss seven days when a visiting clubhouse attendant tested positive.
After that, MLB didn’t hesitate to postpone games when players tested positive “out of an abundance of caution,” 47 in all as the season played itself out.
When the St. Louis Cardinals suffered an outbreak on July 31 and lost two weeks of games, Manfred considered halting the season. But baseball played on after owners urged Manfred to do so during a conference call.
There was evidently not an “abundance of caution” taken when Turner tested positive Tuesday night. It dampened the Dodgers’ joy, though, considerably.
“That hurts,” Roberts said.