The Dodgers finally- finally won the World Series. After years of heartbreak, the Dodgers got to celebrate. The Dodgers have had the best team in the National League for the last 3 years and the best team in baseball for the 2 of those. They have been dominate in the regular season and faced heartbreak (and cheating) before finally reaching the summit Tuesday night.
The unique aspect of the Dodgers is for the most part the team has stayed together and was built by the Dodgers. They aren’t the Yankees who buy star players developed by other teams. Their core is their core. Some, like the dominating pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias came through their farm system. Even their core positions in offense and defense like 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager were developed by the Dodgers.
Some of their key players were castoffs from other teams that they made into powerful pieces of the best team of the last 5 years. Max Muncy was released by the A’s but is a lock for OPS in their dangerous lineup. But the heart of this Dodgers team is and has been Justin Turner.
Turner grew up a Dodgers fan in the LA area. He came up with the Reds but was eventually released after batting an unimpressive .265 with the Mets. The Dodgers took a chance on the 3rd baseman, and both have thrived in the partnership. Turner has been part of every single one of the heartbreaks of the last 5 years. But when the final out was made and trophy handed out, Turner wasn’t on the field. Actually, he was conspicuously absent.
As a heritage-member Dodger fan as I sent texts of celebration around the country to family and friends, the common theme was, “Where is Turner?”
Turns out, Turner tested positive for COVID, in the middle of a series-clinching game.
Turner won the Roy Campanella Award three times in the 6 years he’s been with the team. The Roy Campanella award is given to a Dodger every year who exemplifies its name-sake. It is given to the player that shows leadership and spirit and is voted on by members of the Dodger organization. Nobody but Turner has won the award three times.
Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball, said he was in isolation. What a gut punch that was to hear, that Turner who had given his best to the Dodgers wouldn’t get to be there as his team finally made it.
Eventually he came out, mask-less and celebratory. Manager David Roberts welcomed him.
Mookie Betts said, “He’s part of the team. Forget all that, he’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
His team rallied around him. They didn’t isolate him or shun him because of the test, they welcomed him into the celebrations.
When asked about it the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said, “If there’s people around him without a mask, that’s not good optics at all.”
This story shows where people are with COVID 7 months in. Reports all around the world have confirmed, people are tired of COVID. They are tired of life not being lived.
COVID is here to stay. Even with a vaccine, there will now always be those that die from COVID. Just like the flu and other diseases that continue to plague mankind until the Second Coming, COVID is here.
MLB put a lot of work and money into stopping the spread. They isolated, they went to a neutral location. But a positive test still emerged. And for optics reasons they were going to deny a man the opportunity to celebrate his greatest individual and team achievement of his career.
Most people will celebrate the gracious way the Dodger teammates treated Turner. The phrase, “Treating them like they have the plague” used to be a condemnation. In 2020, it has been the norm. Through the nearly year of this COVID pandemic the greatest fear I now have is we’ve lost our basic decency toward each other. From people screaming at people for not wearing masks or being forced to wear a mask. We have moved to a place where random strangers are seen as a threat and even our friends and loved ones are kept at arms distance.
I celebrate Roberts and Betts and Kershaw, not just for their win, but for their kindness and compassion towards a teammate. For seeing the person and not just the positive test result. For being welcoming when they could have ostracized. I celebrate them for their basic humanity and hope moving forward we will treat our fellow humans with similar grace.