The 2020 Major League Baseball season began with an absurdly reckless decision to play Opening Night despite Juan Soto having tested positive for Coronavirus the day before. MLB’s COVID-19 riddled season ended just as absurdly, with Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner pulled during the 8th inning of the deciding Game 6 after it was found out that Turner had tested positive for the virus. What followed was a series of bad decisions that highlight not only why the United States has struggled so much to contain the virus but why MLB was selfish and greedy in even having a season under the current conditions in America.
The actual timeline of events is odd, macabre, and frankly, pretty freaking stupid. Just two innings into Game 6 the lab handling testing for MLB informed the league that Turner’s test from the day before had come back inconclusive. At that point, they set about running tests on Turner’s Tuesday samples right away and they came back positive. Turner was then pulled and he was not on the field when the Dodgers clinched the title. MLB officials had told Turner to isolate following his test, but according to reports Turner literally said, “Fuck it” and the Dodgers said okay, allowing him onto the field for the post-game festivities. Turner was hugging teammates, carrying the same trophy that they would all touch, sitting within spitting distance of them, and neither he nor his teammates were always wearing masks. Perhaps worst of all, in the “we won the World Series photo” front and center sits an unmasked Turner flanked by his cancer-surviving manager Dave Roberts, also maskless.
The oddness of the night didn’t end there, now it was the media’s turn to shine brightest. A local Texas beat reporter started arguing with people online that they’re all adults and if Turner wanted to be on the field that was his decision and his right. Ken Rosenthal erroneously reported that Turner had actually tested positive the day before, then retracted his error. The fact that the baseball world instantly moved on from Rosenthal’s gaffe instead of it rightfully sinking his career is proof positive of how out of control the night remained throughout. At the same time, neither Rosenthal nor any reporter followed up with the obvious story of how the way Turner’s results were handling meant that all season long MLB had been treating false negatives as actual negatives instead of probable positives. This is not the approach recommended by most virologists and flies in the face of the science at hand. Amid all this, there was rampant speculation about Rob Manfred’s health after he was visibly slurring his words during the trophy presentation. (It’s since been revealed that Manfred was dealing with mic feedback, which is valid, but doesn’t take away from the odd way that his presence at the moment fit in with the entire night).
There’s a lot to unpack in the series of events that signaled the end of MLB’s season. Anger at Turner, the Dodgers, MLB, and Manfred is certainly warranted. However, I find that a day later I’m not angry, rather I’m accepting. It’s odd to type that out because I don’t believe we should ever be accepting of a virus that has killed 1.17 million people worldwide and is only getting worse. Yet, accepting is the only feeling that makes sense to me because all Monday night showed is that we have accepted the coronavirus as our new normal. Turner didn’t think for one second about anyone but himself, the Dodgers only thought of their right to celebrate as a team, Manfred only thought of ways to spin the night as a great moment of accomplishment for the league, and MLB itself accepted that they could do nothing to actually control the actions of the Dodgers or Turner.
I’m a very pro-labor writer, I’ve never hidden that from my writing. Last night made it clear that while MLB, Rob Manfred, and the feeble social distancing protocols the organization put in place take the brunt of the blame, the players deserve plenty of the blame themselves. Turner last night, just like members of the St. Louis Cardinals before him and Miami Marlins before them decided that their own personal satisfaction outweighed any concern over a deadly virus. The idea that their actions could kill Freddy the 60-year-old groundskeeper or Timothy, Freddy’s 11-year-old grandson, never crossed their minds. Why would such thoughts matter when all that Turner and the rest cared about, was their personal freedom to make the choices they wanted, consequences be damned.
We like to pride ourselves in America on the idea of our exceptionalism and our individuality. We believe we are better than everyone else and that we are the gray wolf unwilling to follow along with the white sheep of the world. There are other words for what we are, stupid and selfish. Our willingness to put our needs over the needs of others knows no bounds. For our individuality, we are willing to sacrifice entire swaths of people to contracting a deadly virus. MLB is and always has been a microcosm of the state of America. When the Dodgers clinched the World Series we were given a first-hand account of the exceptional stupidity and selfishness of America.