October 29, 2020

MLB Refused To Follow Its Own COVID Policies, So Please Blame Justin Turner

The MLB Commissioner's office is working to divert attention from its failures regarding COVID-19 testing and protocol and setting up Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner as the sole bad guy. After being told he had tested positive and the Dodgers had won the World Series, Turner wandering around the field, at times without a mask, hugging, celebrating, and posing for pictures with his championship-winning teammates.

Turner is a selfish, irresponsible fool for knowingly putting dozens of people at serious risk for a deadly disease. Who would disagree with that? Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported that after Turner was told by MLB security that he had to remain in isolation, he said: "Fuck it, I'm going out there.

But there is also no doubt that MLB bears a significant portion of the blame. After MLB was told in the second inning of Tuesday night's Game 6 that Turner's test results were "inconclusive" (from samples taken on Monday), MLB made a deliberate decision to toss its protocols out the window and wing it.

The game should have been stopped in the second inning. An inconclusive result is supposed to be regarded as "positive" until further testing determines otherwise and earlier in the season, MLB treated inconclusive tests seriously, postponing several games. But not in the World Series. MLB requested the results from Turner's Tuesday samples as soon as possible. If they came back negative, then no one would ever need to know anything. But, as we know, the results were positive. 

Commissioner Rob Manfred has yet to even attempt an explanation or provide a more detailed timeline. How many times (and in how many ways) can he prove his lack of leadership? It seems there are infinite examples. Manfred's office did not do nothing, though. It issued a statement putting all the blame on Turner (my emphasis):

Immediately upon receiving notice from the laboratory of a positive test, protocols were triggered, leading to the removal of Justin Turner from last night's game. Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him. However, 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. While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner's decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.

The Commissioner's Office is beginning a full investigation into this matter and will consult with the Players Association within the parameters of the joint 2020 Operations Manual. . . .

Note: There is no mention of the inconclusive test results which MLB was told about in the second inning. Manfred tossed that down the memory hole, while also indirectly praising himself with the first words of the statement. It appears that most sportswriters are accepting Manfred's spin and highlighting Turner's on-field behaviour.

At some point, Manfred will have to answer (or refuse to answer) why Turner was not pulled from Game 6 when MLB was told of his status in the second inning? Why did MLB choose to ignore its own policy? (And how did Turner contract the virus if everyone involved with the World Series was supposed to remain in the bubble?)

Stephanie Apstein (SI) reported that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman disagreed with the suggestion that his team had behaved badly.

"Having a mask on and staying socially distanced, he wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy," he said. . . . 

In fact, for much of his time on the field, Turner did not wear a mask, nor did he stay socially distanced. Friedman should know: He spent several minutes chatting from inches away with a maskless Turner. Turner posed for photos with the trophy and with several teammates. He sprawled on the grass in the center of the team picture.

In a season nearly derailed by risky behavior, this was the most irresponsible moment yet. The league has protocols restricting behavior by people who have contracted the virus. . . . But on Tuesday, the scientists in baseball pants were allowed to make public-health policy based on what seemed most fun. . . .

Friedman argued that because everyone celebrating on the field had been sealed inside the playoff bubble for a month, Turner probably did not expose anyone who would not already have been exposed. (It's worth noting that Turner managed to contract the virus despite the supposed impermeability of that bubble.) . . .

It's true that players next to whom Turner had been lounging in the dugout were probably at no higher risk an hour after the team learned he was positive than an hour before, and most team employees knew he had tested positive and could have avoided him. But most players and staffers had their spouses and children on the field with them, many of whom were likely unaware. Studies suggest the effects of COVID can linger for months or longer, and even people who exhibit only mild symptoms can develop serious, debilitating brain damage. Should the toddlers crawling around home plate have been made to take that risk?

Some of the Dodgers are at a higher risk. Manager Dave Roberts is a cancer survivor. Pitcher Kenley Jansen dealt with the virus earlier this year and has a heart condition. At least one of the players' wives is pregnant.

Friedman said: "I haven't seen the pictures. I totally understand the question. If there are people around him without masks, that's not good optics at all." Despite claiming ignorance, Friedman himself spent several minutes inches away from a maskless Turner.

Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told NBC News:

It's not just about this one particular player . . . and it's not just about the players he's near. People need to see you doing the right thing and taking it seriously. Anytime you test positive, the right thing to do is to stay isolated — despite these wonderful achievements that you want to celebrate, that you want to be part of. . . . People in the general public are doing this. They're missing weddings, missing achievements and funerals and losing jobs because they're staying home and following recommendations of the CDC. Everyone needs to be held to the same standards.

On Tuesday night, the Dodgers downplayed the situation, saying his teammates were already among those who'd be subject to contact tracing. NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar said that reasoning was "absolutely ridiculous".

That argument does not fly. Your risk has to do with the number of human interactions you have, the duration of that exposure and the proximity of that exposure. So it's just a numbers game. Statistically, the more time you spend around someone who's positive, the greater the likelihood or the risk is that you yourself will test positive. So that doesn't work.

1 comment:

Nick Sincere said...

Whenever people in a position of responsibility refer to "optics" it's sure that they don't really give a shit