Griffin on the Wing: Positive COVID-19 test ends MLB season in disappointment

Major League Baseball went 58 days without a positive coronavirus test. The playoffs began, the player pool shrunk and the teams were moved into a form of isolation after tons of sacrifices were made by the players and logistics by the league and the potential grew that they would finish an improbable season.

Almost.

The season ended with a pair of gut punches for the champion Los Angeles Dodgers – one of them self-inflicted.

Third baseman Justin Turner’s positive test and sudden removal in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s series-clinching game six was a massive shock, especially considering that the players have been in relative isolation for the past month or so.

It’s hard to come up with an answer for how Turner could have contracted the virus while in MLB’s highly-secured environment in Dallas. Hopefully we can eventually, we’re still learning about this virus eight months after it became a serious problem in this country.

Transparency will be the key here. After the game ended, Turner clearly left an isolation room at Globe Life Park shortly after sending a tweet saying he was “feeling great” and that he “couldn’t believe” he couldn’t celebrate with teammates, joined his teammates in the on-field celebration along with families, photographers, front office executives and league officials.

It created a jarring visual, too. Turner took off his mask at times while hugging teammates, mingling and posing for photos – including a photo with him next to manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor. There was a real threat of him infecting someone else.

There are also millions of people watching the celebration on television having just learned of his positive test and seeing that. For people who have been locked down for months, distanced and unable to see certain loved ones with more than 228,000 Americans killed by this virus as of Thursday, many agree that it’s a frustrating thing to see. 

The MLB’s statement on Wednesday hit Turner pretty hard. It said that “Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols and the instructions he was given regarding the safety and protections 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 empathically refused to comply.”

The protocols were tightened during the season after the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals had serious outbreaks that threatened not only their own season, but the MLB’s as a whole. There were 43 games postponed for positive COVID tests during the season. Staying safe came with being a good teammate this season, even to the point where the Cleveland Indians possibly cost themselves a division title by punishing two players, trading one of them, when they went out during the season.

That’s where the accountability comes from the MLB, too. Multiple reports said nobody stopped him from going on the field. Many said they have to get Turner out of that stadium and into a hotel room and make sure he physically can’t get onto the field. A scenario where what happened happens just can’t occur.

It put a damper on the end of the baseball season and felt like a lot of good was turned upside down. It may serve as a reminder that this virus is still here and what we still have in store in 2021.

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