For most of Tuesday night, it seemed as if Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash’s decision to remove dominant starting pitcher Blake Snell from Game 6 of the World Series while he was cruising with a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning would hold up as easily the dumbest and most controversial thing we would see and remember.
Even if you look at the numbers and see that Snell tends to get hit a lot harder as games go on, there is a difference between the average game and the type of game Snell was throwing Tuesday. Cash deserves to be criticized for not recognizing how hot Snell’s left hand really was.
But he was let off the hook to a large degree by the aftermath of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory — whereby we learned not only that Justin Turner had been pulled from the game because of a positive Covid test but also watched him join the post-game celebration, post-diagnosis, including posing for a team picture and kissing his wife without his mask.
“I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said after the game of Turner joining the celebration.
How stupid and thoughtless can a sport, an organization and a player be?
(Quick conspiracy theory aside: The Dodgers learned of Turner’s confirmed positive test in the sixth inning — the same inning in which Snell was mysteriously pulled. Now there’s a tiny piece of me that wonders if Commissioner Rob Manfred ordered the Code Red, telling the Rays to stand down given any comeback victory would have led to a delay of Game 7 and even more embarrassment for MLB).
The sheer hubris of both decisions can lead a person into strange places. But one was a baseball move that can at least be argued with supporting data. The other?
Well, the data says there have been nearly 9 million Covid cases and close to 230,000 deaths this year from the viral disease in the United States alone.
The numbers say many parts of the country are experiencing a surge in cases — even as MLB brazenly turned the NLCS and World Series into a potential super-spreader event by allowing 11,500 fans, many of them with masks dangling from their faces or not visible at all, into every game.
Turner tweeted after the game that he feels great and has no symptoms. Good for him. But: The data says people with Covid are most contagious about 24-48 hours before they experience symptoms, meaning he is quite possibly at that peak.
The data says people with pre-existing conditions or compromised immune systems are vulnerable to more complications from Covid. Turner took off his mask at the exact moment he was posing for a team picture next to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor who also wasn’t wearing a mask.
There was not a shred of caution. There was an abundance of recklessness.
Turner decided he wanted to celebrate because he was entitled to it. The Dodgers and Manfred — who was there and surely could have stopped it, knowing both the optics and real consequences could be dire — instead enabled it.
Millions of Americans have gotten sick and will get sick. Millions more are feeling the effect of an economy ravaged by the barely checked virus. A lot of us are being as safe as we can be — forgoing outings with friends and dinners with extended family even if everyone is presumed healthy because we know that the virus spreads quickly and often asymptomatically.
But a known contagious baseball player celebrated with teammates, at times without wearing a mask, about an hour after getting pulled from a World Series game because of a positive test.
I guess the 2020 baseball season had a fitting end, which is not at all a compliment.