Major League Baseball will not discipline Justin Turner for his actions following Game 6 of the World Series, the league announced. Turner, of course, was removed from the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ series-clinching victory after testing positive for COVID-19. He subsequently returned to the field to partake in the Dodgers’ postgame celebration in violation of league protocols.
Despite roundly criticizing Turner’s actions in the immediate aftermath of Game 6, Commissioner Rob Manfred struck a much more conciliatory tone this time around. From Manfred’s statement:
As is often the case, our investigation revealed additional relevant information that, while not exonerating Mr. Turner from responsibility for his conduct, helps put into context why he chose to leave the isolation room and return to the field. First, Mr. Turner’s teammates actively encouraged him to leave the isolation room and return to the field for a photograph. Many teammates felt they had already been exposed to Mr. Turner and were prepared to tolerate the additional risk. Second, Mr. Turner believes that he received permission from at least one Dodger’s employee to return to the field to participate in a photograph. Although Mr. Turner’s belief may have been the product of a miscommunication, at least two Dodgers employees said nothing to Mr. Turner as he made his way to the field, which they admitted may have created the impression that his conduct was acceptable.
Third, during the somewhat chaotic situation on the field, Mr. Turner was incorrectly told by an unidentified person that other players had tested positive creating the impression in Mr. Turner’s mind that he was being singled out for isolation. Finally, Major League Baseball could have handled the situation more effectively. For example, in retrospect, a security person should have been assigned to monitor Mr. Turner when he was asked to isolate, and Mr. Turner should have been transported from the stadium to the hotel more promptly.
The commissioner went on to note that Turner expressed regret over his actions (as he did in a statement of his own). Manfred also pointed to Turner’s status as a clubhouse leader and his positive work in the community as mitigating factors. Dodgers president Stan Kasten also lauded Turner’s broader work in the community and noted that events “unfolded rapidly and chaotically” over the season’s final few hours.
Potential mitigating factors notwithstanding, it registers as a surprise Turner escaped without any form of punishment. As the commissioner noted, other Dodger players, staff and MLB do bear some amount of responsibility for the way things transpired. That said, Turner’s actions flew in the face of the overwhelming level of precautions the league, players and staff took over the course of the season to help get to that point. The situation also made for terrible optics for the league at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the upswing in various parts of the country.
Regardless, Turner will enter free agency without a potential suspension hanging over his head. Potential discipline seemed unlikely to affect his market much either way, but he’ll now move forward without any lingering uncertainty.