Dodgers’ Justin Turner: COVID-19 debacle after World Series clincher was ‘extremely difficult’

Justin Turner was prepared for the consequences of his actions in the moments after the Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series.

Ultimately, he faced none. 

Not from Major League Baseball, which excused Turner for leaving an isolation room after testing positive for COVID-19, its investigation determining Turner should not be punished because Dodgers employees did not dissuade him from joining his teammates on the field. 

And not from multiple teams bidding for his services as a free agent, a process that ultimately led him back to the Dodgers on a two-year contract that guarantees him $34 million. 

Turner agreed to the pact Saturday, ending a winter in which Dodgers fans, spotting him on dog walks with his wife, Kourtney, would lobby Turner to return. They were thrilled when the All-Star third baseman with the trademark red beard and locks announced his return on social media. 

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It was a far cry from the hours and days following Oct. 27, when the Dodgers won Game 6 of the World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays, minutes after Turner was lifted from the contest after testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Turner was roasted in the media and by fans, and MLB upbraided him in a statement, saying he "emphatically refused to comply" with MLB security. 

Days later, the tone changed, MLB noting in its investigation that Turner said he was incorrectly told other players had tested positive, "creating the impression in Mr. Turner’s mind that he was being singled out for isolation." 

Justin Turner with the World Series trophy. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

Friday, after the Dodgers officially announced his return, Turner said on a media video conference that those moments in isolation felt akin to an out-of-body experience, that he was again reduced to spectator after seeing the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox celebrate their respective 2017 and 2018 titles at the Dodgers' expense.

"It was extremely difficult," Turner said Friday from the Dodgers' spring training complex in Phoenix. "I think I experienced just about every range of emotions you can possibly have: Getting taken out of the game. Trying to figure out what was happening. Winning the World Series. Being thrilled seeing Julio (Urias) getting that last out. You finally accomplished your goal.

"But for me, sitting back in that room and watching the guys dogpile, personally it felt like the third time I had to sit and watch a team celebrate a World Series. That was tough. That’s something at the top of my list. I still have not been on the field for the last out to celebrate a championship and that’s something I’m determined to show up and work every day and have that experience at the end of this year." 

That chance could have come elsewhere. Turner said he had "conversations with other organizations and other competitive teams" and worried at times the Dodgers might go in another direction. 

And until that market developed, he wasn't sure how his flouting of COVID-19 protocols might impact his future.

"I didn’t know what it was going to do, if it was going to be a big factor in the Dodgers’ decision on wanting me back, or any other teams, for that matter," he said. "It was definitely a big question mark and a big unknown how people were going to perceive that and how people were going to pursue me.

"But once I got into conversations not only with the Dodgers but other teams, and cleared the air on that stuff, it all just kind of started moving forward and building momentum." 

So the man who slugged 116 homers, got on base at a .382 clip and produced an .886 OPS in seven years with his hometown Dodgers will return for at least two seasons – with his regrettable actions in the moments after the club won its first title since 1988 hardly leaving a mark.

"We're definitely a better and stronger organization with JT," club president Andrew Friedman said Friday. "In an ideal world, we wanted him back."

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