‘It’s an unfortunate endpoint’: Dodgers’ World Series win marred by Justin Turner’s return to field for celebration

ARLINGTON, Texas — In the most surreal celebration in World Series history, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally were the last team standing Tuesday night, grabbing their masks, taking turns holding their World Series trophy, while their team leader alone sat in their clubhouse after testing positive for COVID-19.

Yet, once the World Series trophy presentation was completed, and Commissioner Rob Manfred walked off the field at Globe Life Field after Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, there was third baseman Justin Turner holding the trophy, and sitting in the front row of the team picture.

Yes, the same guy who was yanked out of the game in the eighth inning after being notified that he tested positive.

When the Dodgers and their families returned to their team hotel, they immediately underwent rapid PCR tests, and will again Wednesday morning along with contact tracing without knowing if they’ll have clearance to fly back to Los Angeles.

It was a fitting end to the 2020 baseball season.

Justin Turner poses with the team after winning the World Series. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)

They play a season in the middle of a pandemic, starting, stopping, starting again, being quarantined, living the final four weeks in a bubble, only to still see the World Series almost end without a final champion.

So, what if Rays manager Kevin Cash didn’t make the colossal blunder of pulling Blake Snell out of the game when he was thoroughly dominating the Dodgers, the Dodgers lose, and there’s a Game 7.

Would it have even been played?

“Unclear,’’ the MLB official said. “Thankfully, we don’t have to make that decision.’’

And why in the world was Turner back on the field, celebrating with his teammates, holding the World Series trophy, taking off his mask for the team picture, when he was ordered to self-isolate?

“He’s part of the team,’’ said Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, who won a World Series two years ago against the Dodgers while with the Boston Red Sox, and proved to be the difference this season. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him.’’

It was during the second inning of the game when Turner’s test results from Monday came back inconclusive. The sample tests from Tuesday were quickly run, and it turned out positive. Major League Baseball officials immediately notified president Andrew Friedman, who sent word that Turner had to be removed from the game immediately.

“It was extremely surreal,’’ Friedman said. “Obviously, my mind was somewhere else and I had to quickly adjust to what’s happening. It speaks to what we’re all going through in 2020.’’

Turner left for the clubhouse, the Dodgers’ players were told they had to wear masks and be socially distant. When the game ended, the Dodgers ran out onto the field to celebrate, but there was no dogpile, and Turner was isolated in a doctor’s office in the spacious clubhouse.

“To have that happen to a guy like that … what he meant to this franchise, this community,’’ said shortstop Corey Seager, the World Series MVP, “it’s gut-wrenching for me. I can’t imagine how he feels. If I could switch with him, I could. It hurts. It hurts a lot.

“He should be out there taking pictures with the trophy.’’

Well, as it turns out, Turner had the same sentiments, and went onto the field to join his teammates, setting the social media world afire.

The Dodgers, moments after being World Series champions for the first time in 32 years, were the first team to get publicly scalded for their behavior.

“He wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy,’’ Friedman said. “Him being a free agent, I don’t think anyone was going to stop him from going out. I think he was mindful of other people, especially other people he hasn’t seen around.

“For him, having a chance to take a picture with the trophy was incredibly meaningful.’’

Then again, it could be construed as incredibly careless, too.

The folks in Los Angeles may be euphoric having the Dodgers bring a World Series championship to town, but pardon their enthusiasm being dampened with the fear of a coronavirus outbreak coming with them.

JUSTIN TURNER:Dodgers 3B tests positive for COVID-19 during Game 6 win

CASH OUT: Rays manager makes costly mistake in Game 6

“For us, the contact tracing will be incredibly important,’’ Friedman said. “From a contact tracing standpoint, we’re all in that web. Now, it’s important we all test negative how many times the protocols say so we don’t spread it to other people. The amount of contact in that bubble was pretty high.

“It’s an unfortunate endpoint to this incredible series.’’

Who would ever have envisioned that this is a World Series championship that cannot be tainted simply for playing only 37% of the regular season, but now is stained because of their post-game reaction?

The Dodgers will likely be penalized for permitting Turner to return to the field, with MLB wanting to send a message for next year, too, with strict COVID protocols likely in place when they report to spring training.

This is a season that few thought would ever be completed, or even started. It began four months late. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals had early outbreaks. Games were postponed because of positive tests, and even false positives. There were hurricanes and fires that halted games. Social protests prompted interruptions.

Yet, they somehow managed to complete the 2020 season with no fans until the National League Championship Series and World Series, $8.3 billion in losses, and ended with one of the game’s biggest stars testing positive in the season’s final game.

“This year’s been crazy, obviously,’’ said Clayton Kershaw, who exorcised his October demons by winning two of the Dodgers’ World Series games. “No matter what, we’ll look back on this and say we’re World Series champs. To get to say that, to look back, it’s so special.

“There’s a lot of emotions that go through it, the pure joy for the thing that you dream of for so long had been realized. There’s a definite a sense of relief. We’ve been the best team all year, but we been the best team before, and didn’t win.

“So to do in in this incredible year is incredible. The only thing would make it better is if we we’re at Dodger Stadium tonight. Bummer we’re not, but this place was all Dodgers’ fans.

The record will show that there were 11,437 fans in attendance, and perhaps most of them were Dodger fans, who were just as ecstatic as the Dodgers when Cash took Snell out of the game with one out in the sixth inning, having thrown just 73 innings, permitting two hits with nine strikeouts.

“Oh, man, it was kind of a sigh of relief,’’ Betts said. “If he had stayed in the game, he might have pitched a complete game (shutout). That was the Cy Young Snell that came tonight.

“Once he came out of the game, it was a breath of fresh air.’’

The Dodgers had been on this stage three times in the last four years, winning eight consecutive NL West titles, but always came home empty-handed.

The poster boy for their anguish and frustration was Kershaw, who has been the best pitcher of his generation, but was burdened by his struggles in October.

“I don’t care about legacy,’’ Kershaw said. “I don’t care about last year. I don’t think about any of the other stuff. The 2020 Dodgers won the World Series, who cares about all of that other stuff. The other stuff is pointless. We won.

“To be on the team to bring a championship back to the city of Los Angeles for the first time in 32 years, it’s incredible.’’

Kershaw was grateful to celebrate the greatest moment of his career in front of his family and friends in his hometown, thanking everyone for their support, but only wishing it could have happened in Los Angeles in front of 56,000 screaming fans at Dodger Stadium.

“It may not be the same the way we were able to celebrate,’’ Kershaw said, “but one day we will be able to celebrate. There will be a parade. I don’t know when, or how soon, but when that day comes, (Turner) will be there.

“No matter what, we’ll look back on this, we’re World Series champions.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

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