Major League Baseball’s Bad Example

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

In the 6th inning of game 6 of the 2020 World Series, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell was lifted by his manager, Kevin Cash. Snell had just given up a one out single to the number nine batter Austin Barnes, but that was only the second hit of the night for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Further, the next three batters Snell was due to face had gone 0-6 against him, with 6 strikeouts. It’s essentially impossible for a pitcher to more thoroughly dominate the top of the order.

Following the move, the Dodgers plated two runs to take a slim lead over the Rays, 2-1. That pitching change will no doubt be questioned for a long time by Tampa Bay’s dozens of faithful fans. However, while second-guessing is an enjoyable part of watching any sport, I’m focused on this change for a different reason. It turned out to be the first part of a chain reaction which led to Major League Baseball’s quintessential finish to the 2020 season.

You see, in the eighth inning, Los Angeles still held that slim 2-1 lead. Though the game’s result was certainly far from certain, Dodgers starting third baseman Justin Turner was abruptly removed from the lineup. At the time, the change was even more inexplicable than Snell’s, with announcers speculating about a possible injury. Only later was the reason for the switch revealed: Turner had tested positive for COVID-19. In an effort to stop the spread of this deadly virus that has taken so much and so many from the world, he was immediately isolated.

Until he wasn’t. When the Dodgers got the last out in the ninth and captured baseball’s ultimate prize, Turner made his way out of the designated isolation room. He came back onto the field to join the party. Sometimes masked, and sometimes not, he celebrated with his teammates. He hoisted the championship trophy. He posed, grin shining through his fiery red beard, for team photos:

Maybe Turner believed the nonsense coming out of the White House, including the outright lie that Donald Trump’s administration has ended the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the real world, however, positive cases are soaring to horrifying new heights. Hospitals in America are being overwhelmed, and hundreds of thousands of people have died from a disease that continues to spread like wildfire. Despite all that, a professional athlete was shown on television being incredibly reckless with the health of those around him.

I can certainly understand Turner not wanting to miss a moment he’d worked his entire life for. The desire to celebrate with the rest of his team was a natural one. I hope there are no further cases among the Dodger organization, and that no other players, coaches, or family members get sick. Perhaps this incident can quietly die down to a mere footnote.

But even if that happens, it will be by sheer luck. There is a deadly virus going around and around the globe, and we can’t simply ignore it. We can’t pretend our way out of this thing. The picture above is emblematic of the fact that collectively, we Americans still haven’t learned that sacrificing for others is essential in getting past this pandemic. That’s not something to celebrate.

Major League Baseball took incredible, unprecedented precautions to enable teams to play a 2020 season. Yet over and over, even in the final game of the year, the virus still broke through. Now, it’s left a stain on what should be the game’s ultimate triumph.


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