The Cubs tried pushing back Monday’s scheduled start time by an hour, but snow fell steadily for most of the morning. It covered the seats on the lower level and the playing surface at Wrigley Field in a scene more reminiscent of December than April.
“On the way out to the park, I had no idea if I was going to the Cubs convention [in January] or Opening Day, so I thought it was the right thing to do,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The game was rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, which was previously an off day for the first series between the National League Central rivals.
“Opening Day is always very special,” Maddon said. “We’ve already played nine or 10 games, so it’s a little different. You’d rather go out there with your uniform on and not five layers of clothing [though].”
Pittsburgh is off to a surprising 7-2 start. It took three of four against Cincinnati in its previous series.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Consecutive championships for a city in the Super Bowl era
Los Angeles is title town, for the time being.
It’s not often that a sports city or metropolitan area follows up one title by also winning the next major sports championship awarded — not to mention three teams from the same city pulling it off.
With the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas, L.A., in 2020, joins an elite list.
Let’s take a look back at the rare times it has happened during the Super Bowl era, which began in 1966.
2018-19 Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots
In October 2018, the Red Sox won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim their fourth title in 15 seasons. Boston won a club-record 108 games during the regular season before going 11-3 in the postseason, including 4-1 in the World Series. The Red Sox outscored the Dodgers 28-16 during the Series and Steve Pearce, who hit three home runs, was named MVP. David Price was the winning pitcher in Games 2 and 5 for Boston.
The Patriots followed the Red Sox’s championship with another title of their own, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. Julian Edelman was named MVP with 10 catches for 141 yards as New England won a record-tying sixth Super Bowl. Sony Michel‘s 2-yard run in the fourth quarter was the only touchdown in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Tom Brady threw for 262 yards and became the first player to win six Super Bowls.
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
Ben Roethlisberger‘s 6-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left gave the Steelers a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Florida. Holmes, who had 131 yards in nine catches, was named MVP as Pittsburgh won its sixth Super Bowl and second in four seasons. The Steelers also became the first team to win three Super Bowls in the same state. They previously won Super Bowls X and XIII in Miami.
On June 12, 2009, the Penguins kept Pittsburgh’s success going with a Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. With the victory, Pittsburgh became the only city to win a Super Bowl and Stanley Cup consecutively. Evgeni Malkin was named MVP with two goals and six assists during the series as the Penguins avenged their loss to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final the previous season.
2004 Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots
After 86 years of despair, the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series for their first championship since 1918. Boston had to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees just to make it to the World Series. But once there, the Red Sox left no doubt, outscoring the Cardinals 24-12 in the four games. Manny Ramirez was named MVP, driving in four runs on seven hits, including a home run.
The Patriots kept Boston’s party going with a 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb. 6, 2005, in Jacksonville, Florida. With 11 receptions for 133 yards, Deion Branch earned MVP honors in the Patriots’ third Super Bowl win in four years. Rodney Harrison made two interceptions, including one with nine seconds left that ended any last-second comeback hopes for the Eagles.
2002 Los Angeles Lakers and Anaheim Angels*
The Lakers won their third straight NBA Finals in 2002 — giving head coach Phil Jackson his ninth ring — with a sweep over the Nets. Behind Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who averaged 36 points and 12 rebounds in the Finals and was named Finals MVP, the Lakers secured the franchise’s 14th NBA championship trophy.
Four months after the Lakers capped another title run, the Angels advanced to their first World Series in franchise history. The 2002 Series was the first contested between two wild-card teams. The Angels were eight outs away from falling to the Giants in Game 6, but they rallied from a five-run, seventh-inning deficit to win and force a decisive seventh game. A three-run double to right field by Garret Anderson proved to be enough for the Angels, who won 4-1 to clinch their first World Series title.
* The Stanley Cup Final ended one day after the NBA Finals in 2002, technically not making the Lakers and Angels’ titles consecutive, but we decided they were close enough that they deserved to be mentioned.
1989 Oakland Athletics and San Francisco 49ers
The Athletics swept the Giants in the World Series, but this one will go down as one of the more memorable Fall Classics in history. Prior to Game 3 on Oct. 17 in San Francisco, a 6.9 earthquake rocked the Bay Area, causing damage to Candlestick Park and knocking out power. The game was postponed and was eventually played on Oct. 27. The series concluded the following day, with the A’s outscoring the Giants 32-14 in the four games.
San Francisco also got to celebrate a championship for the 1989 sports season. The 49ers made it two straight Super Bowl titles and the fourth in franchise history with a 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncos on Jan. 28, 1990. The 55 points were the most scored by a team, and the 45-point margin of victory was the largest in Super Bowl history. Joe Montana was named Super Bowl MVP for the third time after completing 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and a then-Super Bowl record five touchdowns. The 49ers also became the first team to win consecutive Super Bowls under different head coaches, with George Seifert having taken over for Bill Walsh, who retired following the previous season’s championship run.
1988 Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers
The Lakers capped off the 1987-88 season with their 11th NBA championship, defeating the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the Finals to become the NBA’s first repeat champions since the Boston Celtics in 1968-69. The title was the last for the Showtime-era Lakers, a team that had Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as head coach Pat Riley, who famously guaranteed the repeat.
The most memorable moment from the Dodgers’ win over the A’s in the World Series remarkably came in Game 1. National League MVP Kirk Gibson, who could barely walk due to injuries suffered during the NLCS, drilled a pinch-hit, walk-off home run off future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley. Just four months after the Lakers’ repeat, the Dodgers would go on to win the series in five games behind the arm of Orel Hershiser, who set the all-time scoreless inning streak at 59 innings during the regular season. Hershiser pitched a shutout in Game 2 and a complete game in the decisive Game 5 to take home MVP honors.
1986 New York Mets and New York Giants
The Mets cruised to the postseason in 1986, earning 108 regular-season wins and capturing the NL East by a whopping 21½ games over the Philadelphia Phillies. They won the NLCS in six games over the Houston Astros, but it appeared the Mets’ run would come to a disappointing end in Game 6 of the World Series versus Boston, which led the series 3-2 and took a two-run lead in the top of the 10th inning of Game 6. The Mets were down to their final out … then the improbable happened. The Mets recorded three straight singles, cutting their deficit to 5-4 with runners on the corners. A wild pitch scored the tying run and put the winning run on second base. Mookie Wilson then hit a roller to first that Bill Buckner let go under his glove, allowing Ray Knight to race home with the winning run. The Mets went on to win Game 7 at home, denying Boston its first World Series title since 1918.
The ’86 Giants kept spirits high in New York, dominating the competition en route to the Super Bowl. The Giants went 14-2 in the regular season, then outscored the 49ers and Redskins by a combined 66-3 in the NFC playoffs. In Super Bowl XXI, Phil Simms led the way, going 22-for-25 passing for 268 yards and three touchdown strikes in a 39-20 victory over the Broncos. But the story for the Giants was their defense, which finished No. 2 in the NFL in points and yards allowed. Linebacker Lawrence Taylor, one of eight Giants Pro Bowlers that season, was the unanimous league MVP after recording 20.5 sacks, and Bill Parcells was named NFL Coach of the Year.
1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers
It was only fitting that the Pirates’ theme song was “We Are Family” during the 1979 season. They had to stick together like one to capture the World Series. After sweeping the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, the Pirates found themselves in a 3-1 hole against the Baltimore Orioles in the Fall Classic. But the Pirates, led by NL MVP Willie Stargell, won Game 5 at home, then went to Baltimore and won the final two games. Stargell, at 39 years old, was named World Series MVP after hitting .400. He went 4-for-5 in Game 7, hitting two doubles and a two-run homer in the sixth inning that put Pittsburgh up for good.
The Steelers’ dominance in the 1970s continued during the ’79 season. They captured their second straight Super Bowl and fourth title in franchise history with a 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20, 1980. Experience probably helped the Steelers prevail in the game played at the Rose Bowl in what was part of the Rams’ home market in Pasadena, California. The Rams led 19-17 entering the fourth quarter, but the Steelers, led by Terry Bradshaw, scored 14 points in the fourth to pull out the win. Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP by completing 14 of 21 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns, overcoming his three interceptions.
1970: Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Colts
The Orioles defeated the Reds in five games to win the 1970 World Series. Both teams won more than 100 games in the regular season, something that wouldn’t happen again until 2017. MVP Brooks Robinson put on a show, driving in six runs on nine hits, including two home runs to lead Baltimore past Johnny Bench and the “Big Red Machine.” The 1970 World Series was the second of three straight for the Orioles but the only of those that they won.
The Colts overcame seven turnovers for a 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V on Jan. 17, 1971, in Miami. The game has been referred to as the “Blunder Bowl” because of all the turnovers and penalties. The teams set a Super Bowl record with a combined 11 turnovers. Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, who made two interceptions, was named MVP, the only time a member of the losing team has won the award. It wasn’t pretty, but the Colts kept the good times rolling in Baltimore.
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is the viral star of the 2020 World Series
He has already been a league MVP and batting champion. He’s a four-time All-Star playing on a 12-year, $365 million contract. He has even won a championship before. But this postseason with the Dodgers, everything Betts did seemed to become an instant trend. Anytime he did something, his name was all over social media, LeBron James was there with multiple exclamation points, and his plays became viral moments celebrating the amazing.
Here are the best moments from the postseason that made Betts a viral sensation:
Betts can do it all, as further proven by this postseason. The defense burst out in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Down 3-1 in the series and trailing 2-0 in the game, he sprinted in to take away a Dansby Swanson hit that would have led to a run. Betts then threw home and got the double play.
We’re still 😧 at this catch. pic.twitter.com/fCyx1GBv8a
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 17, 2020
Oh, but that was just the beginning. He had more ridiculous, momentum-swinging, run-saving catches that robbed more hits in Game 6.
Anyone who doesn’t think this is a spectacular catch — momentum going backward, leaping high into a wall, having the body control and wherewithal to track the ball — is just wrong. Add in context — potential elimination game, a run would’ve scored — and it’s that much better. https://t.co/lsBjy6xcZG
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 17, 2020
And Game 7.
MOOKIE AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/SlSttMLcVj
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 19, 2020
They were all huge plays with L.A. rallying back to win the NL pennant. Betts added another acrobatic catch in the World Series.
Best social reaction
Mookie Betts is a mood https://t.co/n5zWSOWQdn
— Dodger Yard (@DodgerYard) October 17, 2020
I really appreciate that for the next decade plus any time Mookie Betts does something amazing all of baseball twitter gets to come together to clown on the Red Sox 🥰 https://t.co/5Lt6FHcTsf
— sarah (@slwein) October 17, 2020
Hitting, stealing and tacos
Betts went 7-for-26 at the plate in the World Series. He’s the first person since Babe Ruth in 1921 to steal two bases in one inning of a World Series game.
Thanks to Taco Bell’s “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco” promotion, Betts won America free tacos with the first steal of the inning. For his Hall of Fame credentials, he’s baseball’s all-time leader for stealing bases that lead to free food. He stole the first base of the 2018 World Series while playing with the Boston Red Sox.
This is the moment Mookie Betts won America free tacos.
Follow along for live updates: https://t.co/Lz5mdqRar9
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) October 21, 2020
— Mookie Betts (@mookiebetts) October 21, 2020
Best social reaction
MOOKIE!!! Safe @mookiebetts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 21, 2020
If Mookie steals two bases, does that mean I get two tacos? 🌮🌮 pic.twitter.com/wBuLrRbXAK
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) October 21, 2020
Betts also homered in Game 1.
Our account actually stands for @ Markus Lynn Betts. 😱 pic.twitter.com/zKhVLUQC8E
— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2020
Mookie Betts, Oppo Taco. pic.twitter.com/XImoxS8jYf
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 21, 2020
He stole two more bases in Game 3. Though, when you’ve coined “oppo taco,” how does it get better?
Game 6, that’s how. After striking out twice against Rays starter Blake Snell, Betts came alive after Snell was lifted from the game. In the sixth, he doubled and scored the go-ahead run on savvy baserunning on an infield grounder. Betts then homered in the bottom of the eighth as the Dodgers won their first World Series in 32 years.
— MLB (@MLB) October 28, 2020
— MLB (@MLB) October 28, 2020
🎶Mookie did a good thing,
he won’t regret this thing at all, if you’re wondering what he did,
we’ll show you what he did,
he did a gooooooood thing🎶 pic.twitter.com/Tu1MXrDzaK
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 28, 2020
Best social reaction
MOOKIE OF THE YEAR. pic.twitter.com/J7P8MPfMUo
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 28, 2020
— The Walking Dead (@TheWalkingDead) October 28, 2020
Mookie Betts about to make baseball cool again
— Kazeem Famuyide 🍎 (@Kazeem) October 28, 2020
EVERY SINGLE CENT!!!!!! https://t.co/QIXlWiYpW9
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 28, 2020
THE JOB IS FINISHED!!!!! This one’s for you LA – the City of Champions! Enjoy the hell out of it, but you know these boys aren’t done chasing rings!!! pic.twitter.com/rifShjVtke
— Mookie Betts (@mookiebetts) October 28, 2020
World Series 2020 — The oddest of World Series ends with the most 2020 moment of the season
ARLINGTON, Texas — In this oddest of years, this most peculiar of baseball seasons, there was perhaps no more telling snapshot of the United States, circa 2020, than a COVID-19-positive man sitting on the ground, maskless, next to a cancer survivor, maskless as well, with indelible grins spread across their faces. Sports is and always will be a metaphor for society.
The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series on Tuesday night, and in the moments after, the world learned that Justin Turner, the team’s third baseman and pulse of the clubhouse, had contracted the coronavirus. Turner was asked to isolate. He did not abide. He strode onto the field, where his teammates were celebrating their 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6, and joined. He removed his mask to pose for pictures with his wife, whom he kissed. He planted himself on the ground as the team gathered for a photo to commemorate the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years. To his right sat Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, who 10 years ago was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. To Turner’s left, gleaming, sat the World Series trophy.
The bizarre aspect of the scene was undeniable. The Dodgers had spent the past three weeks at a resort in Irving, Texas, about 20 minutes from Globe Life Field, ostensibly bubbled from the world. They were supposed to go from the hotel to the stadium and back and nowhere else. Security personnel roamed the property to ensure nobody ran afoul of protocols, whether players, coaches, front-office staff or the family members who had joined them. Nearly two months had passed without a player testing positive. Baseball, the sport that nearly shut down early in its season due to outbreaks on two teams, was on the verge of crowning a champion with no complications.
Then came the eighth inning, when Roberts removed Turner. It was curious; only once had Turner left a game this postseason before its conclusion, and that was in a blowout. The revelation of why turned a moment that would’ve been so undeniably joyous into something more complicated — a referendum on behaviors, choices, responsibility. On America and how its response to the pandemic, more than nine months after it landed on these shores, remains the most divisive question in the most divisive of times.
Justin Turner signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 6, 2014. For more than two months, he had sought a guaranteed deal after the New York Mets nontendered him — told him, essentially, he was not worth the money he would make in arbitration. He wound up signing a minor league deal with the Dodgers, made the team out of spring training and batted .340. He won the third-base job outright the next season and has made more than $50 million and an All-Star team since.
In those years, Turner had evolved from cast-off to the emotional fulcrum of the mega-team the Dodgers had spent years building. When they went down three games to one in the National League Championship Series, Turner was the player who sent the text message to his 27 teammates telling them: “This is the chance to do something special.” For all the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw, the future Hall of Fame starter whose playoff foibles long had vexed him, all the steadiness of Kenley Jansen, the closer whose regression had left the ninth inning no longer his, all the talent of World Series MVP Corey Seager and the indomitable Mookie Betts and ace Walker Buehler, Turner, his red beard a follicular metaphor for the fire with which he played, is the Dodgers’ conscience. To the Dodgers — to Los Angeles — a championship without him would not feel like a championship at all.
“He’s part of the team,” Betts said. “We’re not excluding him from anything.”
So out Turner went, to revel in what he’d done, what they’d done — how they’d avoided the embarrassment of the likely multiday postponement of Game 7 had they lost.
From the moment spring training started, the Dodgers were the favorites to win the World Series. On Feb. 11, two days before pitchers and catchers were due to report to spring training, they completed a trade for Betts, the star outfielder considered among baseball’s best players. The Dodgers had won NL West division titles the previous seven years. They had lost two World Series — the first, in 2017, in seven games to a Houston Astros team later sanctioned for a scheme in which they stole signs and relayed them in real time to batters, and the other, in 2018, to a Boston Red Sox team that Major League Baseball disciplined this year for its own illicit scheme the league deemed “far more limited in scope and impact” than the Astros’.
All of this gnawed at the Dodgers, Turner included. When commissioner Rob Manfred referred to the Commissioner’s Trophy, given to the World Series winner, as “a piece of metal,” Turner, already aggrieved that the league had given immunity to Astros players involved in the sign-stealing, hauled off.
“At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy,” Turner said, “is that it says ‘Commissioner’ on it.”
Less than a month later, baseball shut down. At the sport’s highest levels, there was panic. As much as officials engaged with infectious-disease experts about this new virus, they could not know the unknowable. The coronavirus was, and still is, a mystery. And the idea of playing baseball in 2020 simply was not something they were willing to entertain, not as the pandemic roiled the country.
Before long, league officials started to map out potential plans. There was the season-long bubble idea, which never gained enough traction among players or owners. The league and players fought over money for nearly two months. MLB wanted to hold games at home, which allowed players to stay with their families but left them more susceptible to potential transmission. Manfred imposed a 60-game schedule. An abbreviated training camp, missed by dozens of COVID-positive players and personnel, culminated in a July 24 opening day. Two weeks into the season, after outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, baseball in 2020 was on the precipice of stopping — or ending — the season.
The fear among the Dodgers was palpable. This team they came into the season thinking was so good — it was. The hitting and the pitching. The young players and the old. The playoffs would be a crapshoot, but they always are. Never had this incarnation of the Dodgers, led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman in the front office, Roberts in the dugout, Turner and Betts and Kershaw in the clubhouse, believed in a group as much as they did this one.
The Dodgers would not fall prey to the same fates of the Marlins and Cardinals, not on Turner’s watch. On July 31, he texted Alanna Rizzo, who covers the Dodgers for their TV network, SportsNet LA, an iPhone note that outlined protocols the Dodgers would follow, lest any teammate dare incur his wrath.
“All players will wear face coverings in the dugout,” the first line read.
“Stressed 6 feet of distancing and face coverings in the bullpen where guys may have to sit in the stands to ensure space,” it continued.
“Also stressed avoiding public appearances for marketing,” it added.
And yet the Dodgers came to understand they were not immune from the complications of COVID either, no matter their stringency. Jansen, who had undergone two heart surgeries to correct an irregular heartbeat, had contracted it before reporting to camp. The symptoms were brutal. And he hasn’t exactly felt right since.
“Recovering from COVID was tough,” Jansen told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne this week. “You still feel side effects once in a while. Your body feels — I don’t know, fighting it.”
All season long, in some circles of the game, there was a discomfort that baseball was even being played — that as the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States exceeded 200,000, baseball was Marie-Antoinette, the season its let-them-eat-cake moment. Others applauded Manfred’s damn-the-torpedoes approach, arguing that a year without baseball would be destructive to the sport, especially as the NBA and NHL finished their seasons in self-contained bubbles with nary a COVID case.
Baseball, in many ways, was a microcosm of the country, of the balance that remains unstruck, of polarization. The league erred more on the side of those who see the pandemic as something scary. Masking was mandatory, socializing exceedingly discouraged. When two Cleveland Indians pitchers went out after a game in Chicago and were caught, they were demoted to the minor leagues. Even though the virus’ effects on strong, healthy 20- and 30-something men rarely leads to complications, the players weren’t the only ones engaging in this real-time experiment. There were coaches, trainers, front-office staff — people in their 50s and 60s and 70s, with pre-existing conditions, far more susceptible.
Whether it was the fear of the endangered season, better adherence to protocols or some combination therein, COVID cases more or less vanished as baseball approached its playoffs. And nobody had been better than the Dodgers. They went 43-17 — a 116-win pace in a standard season. They outscored their opponents on average by more than two runs per game. Only four teams had ever done that, the last being the 1939 New York Yankees.
The Dodgers were a juggernaut. They had coalesced around Betts, who enjoyed being a Dodger so much he declined to test free agency this winter and signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension on the eve of the season. They marveled at the resurgence of Seager, their beyond-talented 26-year-old shortstop, who played in the field with a grace that belied his size and hunted bad pitches like a he’d summoned them with a duck call. Of the five pitchers in their starting rotation, the one with the lowest ERA was the most talented, Buehler, and stalking into a postseason with him and Kershaw and Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias felt unfair.
Only the Dodgers for years had assembled this juggernaut — with money, yes, a payroll funded by their outsize local-TV deal, the years of crowds packing Dodger Stadium, all the inherent advantages. But also with a process that worked. Friedman cut his teeth with the Rays, building them into a winner on a budget. His goal when he joined the Dodgers was far loftier. He wanted to build an unrelenting machine, one that embraced analytics and emphasized scouting, that drafted and developed better than anyone, that would not just open a window to win a championship but break the damn thing off its hinges.
For whatever weaknesses the Dodgers may have had — their bullpen depth, sort of, or Roberts’ decision-making, sometimes — their talent always seemed to paper it over. Even at 35 years old, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, Turner managed to hit .307, to get on base 40 percent of the time. He hit a first-inning home run in Game 6 of the NLCS that proved the winning run of a must-win game. He homered in the first inning of Game 3 of the World Series and again in Game 4. Just like the team photo he’d eventually take, Turner was in the middle of everything.
After being removed from the game because of a positive coronavirus test, Justin Turner joins his Dodgers teammates on the field to celebrate their championship.
On Monday, the Dodgers submitted the same COVID spit tests that they have for months. During the season, the tests were administered every other day. Come the playoffs, the frequency increased to daily. The tests were shipped to the testing lab in Utah that MLB had retrofitted to serve as its nerve center for coronavirus testing. After some missteps early in the testing process that made GMs around baseball question the efficacy of MLB’s plan, the system wound up working out well enough to quell complaints. One GM, who had expressed significant skepticism about why the league was even bothering holding a season, said Tuesday morning: “MLB should be proud. It actually pulled this off.”
The exact time the Monday tests arrived in Utah, as well as when the lab ran them, is unclear. But one source with knowledge of the testing said the results, which typically have arrived before games are played, were delivered late. How this happened before a potential World Series clincher — and what it says about the league’s protocol — will be among the questions Manfred answers in the coming days.
In the second inning of Game 6, sources told ESPN, MLB received a call from the lab. One test had come up inconclusive: Turner’s. It showed some characteristics associated with a positive test, sources said, but the efforts to amplify the results by doctors running the results did not say for certain. Inconclusive tests are relatively commonplace in coronavirus testing. There are no known cases of the league pulling players from games for inconclusive tests. When Cincinnati outfielder Nick Senzel tested positive for COVID-19, he was informed immediately and taken out of the team’s handshake line.
The tests taken on the day of Game 6 arrived around the same time as the inconclusive result. Rather than re-run it, the lab was told to fast-track the test Turner had taken Tuesday. The results would take two hours. In that time, the World Series would be won.
Blake Snell, the Rays’ starter, was poised to force a Game 7. He struck out Betts, Seager and Turner in the first inning, carved through the rest of the Dodgers’ lineup and again punched out their top three the second time through. Los Angeles was helpless against his array of pitches: a fastball that ticked up to 98 mph, a changeup he feathered on the outside corner to right-handers at 90 mph, a slider he spun with bad intentions at 89 mph and a curveball that buckled knees at 80 mph. Snell had won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, and considering the opponent, the situation, the entirety of it all, he may have never looked better.
In the sixth inning, as Turner’s test spun, so did the Dodgers’ fortunes. The Rays live and die by their process, and they’d lived to the sixth game of the World Series adhering to the tenet that they don’t want batters to see a starting pitcher a third time. It is not hard and fast, but with one out in the sixth, with the Rays ahead 1-0 on a first-inning Randy Arozarena home run, with catcher Austin Barnes on first after a single, with Snell at 73 pitches, with two hits, no walks and nine strikeouts next to his name in the box score, Rays manager Kevin Cash emerged from the dugout. Snell unleashed an expletive. This was his game. This was their season.
Cash disagreed. He took the ball and handed it to Nick Anderson, their regular-season super-reliever whose postseason mortality had resulted in opponents scoring off his his last six outings. Betts smashed a double down the third-base line. A wild pitch scored Barnes. The Rays’ infield moved in. A Seager roller to first base was thrown home. Just as he had in Game 1, Betts slid headfirst and beat the throw. Six pitches after Snell exited, the Rays trailed, 2-1.
An inning later, in the seventh, Turner’s results arrived. The Tuesday test said he was COVID-positive. The lab reached out to the league. The league reached out to the Dodgers. The Dodgers filtered word to the dugout. Roberts pulled Turner from the game before the eighth and inserted Edwin Rios.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says “he cannot speak” as to why Justin Turner was pulled from Game 6 of the World Series.
In the ninth, Roberts sat in the dugout with his legs crossed, calm and cool. Betts had homered in the bottom of the eighth and added an insurance run. Julio Urias, who locked down the pennant with three scoreless innings to close Game 7, was primed to do the same in the World Series. Willy Adames stared at the final pitch, a 97 mph fastball that dotted the inside corner. Barnes stuck the ball in his back pocket as he ran to hug Urias. Kershaw materialized from the bullpen, arms in the air, look of joy across his face. Betts chucked his hat and ran to the dogpile.
This was it. This was what Los Angeles had waited for. This team, this time, this abnormal year producing a champion. And not a champion with an asterisk, because even though the season was short, everything it took — the discipline to follow protocols, the mental acuity to play games in front of no fans, the execution of it all amid the uncertainty — is more than worthy of the word.
How Justin Turner made it back onto the field to join his teammates is a question that was being asked around the sport early Wednesday morning, as the Dodgers rejoiced and the images of the scene spread quickly.
One general manager texted: “A superspreader event on live TV. Welcome to 2020.” A prominent player messaged: “what the f— is going on”
The answer: Turner ignored the protocol that calls for COVID-positive players to isolate. He did this with the support of his teammates and the organization. Next to nobody had been as important to the Dodgers as Turner over the last seven seasons. They had spent time in the bubble with him, ridden the bus to the stadium with him, shared the clubhouse with him. He was their leader. And if it meant taking the risk of contracting the virus, if it meant stoking the ire of those watching, those were consequences they were willing to suffer.
Every day, living in America, living around the world, there are behaviors, choices, responsibility. Why did Justin Turner choose to do what he did — to flout Manfred, who told Fox after the game that Turner “was immediately isolated to prevent spread,” only for him to proceed to the field, to hold the Commissioner’s Trophy? Was it personal? Did Turner consider that he was the one who had emphasized the protocols when baseball was consider shutting down? Or was it something simpler, a behavior and a choice that overwhelm whatever responsibility one might feel: that this was a moment he couldn’t miss, wouldn’t miss.
“Having a chance to take a picture with the trophy,” Friedman said, “was incredibly important and meaningful to him.”
Turner did not speak to the media after the game. He sent out a tweet, which said: “Thanks to everyone reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA #WorldSeriesChamps”
And eventually, once the coronavirus abates, once the world returns to normal, or whatever passes for normal, that will be the upshot of Oct. 27, 2020. It will be the day the Dodgers won the World Series again, the day they delivered ecstasy to a city and history for themselves.
For now, all of it is seen through the prism of Turner’s actions. Of the videos and the still photos. Of the hundreds of people on the field. Of the questions how, beyond the rapid testing the Dodgers planned to receive upon their return to the hotel, they’ll handle the coming days. Of whether Turner was being wildly irresponsible or just reaping what he earned. And we’ll argue because all we do is argue, fight, bicker, snipe, and it’ll wind up where it always does, sides divided, each convinced that it’s correct, America’s pastime indeed.
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