ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball issued a statement Wednesday regarding Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner's positive coronavirus test and his subsequent presence on the field to celebrate the Dodgers winning the World Series on Tuesday, placing blame on Turner for refusing to adhere to rules.
The league stated that officials received word of Turner's positive test during the game, which prompted them to order the Dodgers to remove Turner. The third baseman received word during the seventh inning and didn't take the field in the eighth. Turner wasn't on the field for the Dodgers' trophy presentation but later emerged to celebrate with the team on the field.
"Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him," the league's statement read. "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."
Turner walked onto the field wearing a mask. He was given the World Series trophy and took pictures with it. Teammates gave him hugs and handshakes. He removed his mask for the team photo and sat in the front row, between manager Dave Roberts and the trophy. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman sat on the other side of the trophy. Nobody in Turner's vicinity wore a mask for the photo.
An initial round of postgame tests Tuesday night turned up no additional positives among players on the Dodgers and Rays, The Los Angeles Times has learned. Another round of testing took place Wednesday. One Rays family member tested positive.
Players and families from both teams cleared after testing are expected to get on flights to Los Angeles and Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon.
That Turner returned to the field to celebrate was far more concerning than any of the decisions the league made during the game, Emory University epidemiologist Zachary Binney said.
Despite the MLB statement, Binney said Turner was not the only party at fault.
"That was a really bad move by Turner, and a really bad move by the Dodgers and Major League Baseball," Binney said. "Somebody should have had the nerve to be the adult in the room and stopped him from doing that."
Binney said he understood how frustrated Turner must have been, to reach the pinnacle of his career after so many years. However, Binney said, the Dodgers and MLB should have promised him a celebration at another time and place.
Otherwise, he said: "What you're saying is, it was worth standing next to somebody with COVID, who we know is infected and likely is infectious, without a mask, in order for them to celebrate and get in a picture."
When MLB learned of an inconclusive test result for Turner in the second inning, the league expedited the processing of a pending test, one that had been taken earlier Tuesday. The game continued, with Turner still playing.
Binney said inconclusive tests do happen and, given the context, there was no reason for MLB to order Turner's removal at that point, or to halt play.
"I think it was fair to assume that inconclusive was more likely to come back negative than positive," Binney said, "because the players and staff had been in a bubble, which so far had not resulted in any cases."
He said the league also played it right in ordering Turner into isolation without stopping play for the final two innings.
"They were unlikely to continue to spread it that much by finishing that game, certainly from the Dodgers to the Rays," Binney said. "You would expect that any transmission from Turner to other people in the organization had happened both recently and already, so that playing the rest of the game arguably would not result in more spread among the Dodgers."
MLB officials have declined to say what would have happened had the Rays won Game 6, with a potential Game 7 scheduled Wednesday night. The league said only that it would have reviewed test results and consulted with medical experts Wednesday morning.
As the regular season wound down, MLB learned to shut down a team once a player had tested positive, to take a few days and ensure the virus had not spread throughout the team. At that point, however, players were neither tested daily nor in a bubble.
Binney said careful contact tracing would have shown how many players were in close contact with Turner, and the league would then have had to choose between quarantining those players or postponing Game 7.
"I don't think the game would have necessarily had to be canceled," he said. "But they would have had to do something very disruptive."
Jorge Castillo reported from Arlington, Texas, and Bill Shaikin reported from Los Angeles.
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