MLB is trying to pin another massive scandal on its players, but it won’t work this time

How did Justin Turner end up on the field after Game 6 of the World Series, celebrating without a mask and kissing his wife after a positive coronavirus test? It’s the question that could end up being at the heart of an indoor superspreader event with more than 10,000 people present. (“Superspreader” is the word at least one GM used,  according to ESPN.)

It’s strictly Turner’s fault, according to Major League Baseball.

“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,” the league said in a statement. “While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came into contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.»  That’s all plausible, and Turner made an unconscionable decision to potentially spread the virus. But it doesn’t exactly square with what Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said Tuesday night.  “I think having a mask on and staying socially distanced, he wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy,” Friedman said. “Can’t state strongly enough about how big of a role in the success of this organization.” (Turner was visibly not wearing a mask at times.) 

“I think for him, just being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is going to play out, I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out. From at least my perspective — not watching it super closely with everything going on — I think he was mindful of other people. Especially other people he hadn’t already been in contact with,” Friedman said.

This does not match MLB’s rhetoric about a rogue, plague-ridden Turner overpowering security, even if you can see how baseball is giving a technically accurate version of events. Whatever Turner did on Tuesday night, he clearly did with the blessing of the Dodgers’ front office.

Blaming the players involved for an attention-grabbing scandal is an MLB strategy dating back to at least the steroids era, if not decades longer. It “worked” with HGH and cocaine, in the sense that fans and media largely blamed players. It was a bit less effective with the Astros, even as the Astros’ former executives strenuously pretend that they weren’t involved with that team’s brazen cheating. It’s not going to work at all with Turner, who got an explicit blessing from his boss before MLB could help Friedman wash his hands of it.

Published reports serving as Manfred’s mouthpiece are already going further than the statement, making Turner out to be some kind of infected, unstoppable Hulk. Unfortunately, no overpowering strength was necessary for Turner to get on the field Tuesday night. The Dodgers were fine with him being there.