Jen Ezpeleta

All Ball Sports: Dodgers’ Turner unsafe at home. Ditto for Chargers’ Lynn, Ram’s Goff

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by Paul Teetor

Justin Turner should never be allowed to play another game for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And if he manages to catch on with some other team next season, Major League Baseball

Commissioner Rob Manfred should suspend him for 25 or even 50 games to start the season.

These are not easy words to write about one of the all-time favorite Dodgers, a home-town kid from Fullerton who made it big in LA after being cut loose by the New York Mets six years ago.  But given his crazy, defiant behavior in the midst of the worst pandemic to hit America in the last 100 years, they are necessary words.

On the field the slugging third baseman has been one of the Dodgers’ best players since they signed him off the free agent scrap heap in 2014. He just got better and better every year until he completed the journey from scrub to star in December 2016, when he signed a $64 million, 4-year deal.

Off the field he has been one of the best community ambassadors the Dodgers have ever had. Loyal Dodgers fans know him as the scruffy, red-bearded, Yosemite-Sam style player who, before every home game gives an autographed baseball to an honored military veteran. He is also a three-time winner of the Roy Campanella Award, named after the late, great Dodgers catcher of the 1950’s who was paralyzed in a tragic car accident.

But all that accumulated goodwill was washed away by one of the most selfish, thoughtless and irresponsible acts ever committed by any professional athlete. Shortly after the Dodgers won the World Series last Tuesday night — an hour after he was pulled from the game when news of his positive test for Covid-19  hit the dugout — he came back onto the field and celebrated not just with his teammates but with all their friends and family hugging and kissing each other all over Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. For the group photo, he sat next to Manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor. Both were maskless.

It was a reckless and, frankly, stupid thing to do, even if no one else ends up getting infected.

And of course we won’t know the full consequences of what he did for 7 to 14 days, just like we didn’t know at first that President Trump had hosted a super-spreader event in the White House Rose Garden last month when he introduced his new Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

And here’s the truly crazy part about this totally indefensible incident: Turner was the Dodgers player representative who helped negotiate MLB’s Covid-19 protocols before the 60-game season began. So he certainly knew what the rules were, and yet he chose to break them anyway to satisfy his own selfish desire to be part of a World Series celebration that he had every right to be a part of – until the moment he tested positive.      

In addition to putting dozens of people at serious risk of catching the virus, he also put his teammates in an impossible dilemma when the media inevitably asked them what they thought of his behavior. Should they criticize him for his irresponsible actions and violate the unwritten clubhouse code against throwing teammates under the bus? Or should they undermine their own values and credibility by publicly excusing his selfish, willful behavior? 

Exhibit A: Mookie Betts, the Dodgers outfielder who proved to be the difference between this year’s world championship team and the Dodger’s 7 straight Western Division champs who failed to win a World Series over the last 7 years.

“He’s part of the team,” Betts said when asked about Turner joining his team’s celebration in violation of Covid-19 protocols. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him.”

Does anyone honestly think that’s what Mookie, a Boy Scout on and off the field, the product of a good family and a tight-knit small-town community, really thinks?

Of course not. But because of the player’s code, a close cousin to the bro code, he said what he knew he was expected to say once Turner had put him in an impossible spot.

In a prepared statement issued a day after the game, MLB said it was “wrong” of Turner to leave his quarantine in a Stadium doctor’s office and return to the field. It said he had “emphatically refused to comply” when MLB Security told him he had to immediately leave the field. 

MLB didn’t add any details beyond that, but it’s easy to picture the big, burly Turner simply ignoring and verbally overpowering MLB security people who didn’t want a physical confrontation that would draw attention away from the Dodgers’ magic moment and their joyful celebration.

Now MLB is conducting an investigation into how Turner managed to get from his quarantine back onto the field, and why he wasn’t simply escorted off the field once security became aware that he was violating Covid-19 health protocols.

There will surely be some punishment for Turner, and perhaps for the Dodgers too.

So how did this travesty happen?

Turner, who will turn 36 later this month, is now an unrestricted free agent after his contract expired at the end of the World Series. It’s plausible to think that in the excitement of the World Series win, he realized the Dodgers – analytics driven and always putting business before loyalty – probably were not going to pay him what he wanted for his remaining years as a viable major leaguer. So why not do something wildly inappropriate, grossly unethical and profoundly selfish? What did he have to lose?

And what a way to go out!

It’s not fair to say he has completely ruined the Dodgers’ historic achievement, but he certainly has dropped a big, stinking turd in the team’s postseason punchbowl.

That’s why he should never be allowed to play for the Dodgers again, and why MLB should issue a harsh punishment that will kick in if he ever tries to play major league baseball again.

Just because President Trump won’t follow his own government’s Covid-19 guidelines doesn’t mean high-profile professional athletes should be able to get away with it too.

With infections soaring at a rate of 100,000 new cases a day and deaths spiking to over 1,000 a day, someone has to set a proper example as we enter the worst phase yet of the pandemic.

Why not MLB?

 

It’s Time for Anthony Lynn to Look in the Mirror

 

Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn set a new NFL record Sunday afternoon: he became the first head coach ever to blow leads of 16 points or more in four consecutive games. Last week his star rookie quarterback Justin Herbert was able to bail him out and lead a huge comeback in a 39-29 victory over hapless Jacksonville.

But this week, after staking his team to a 24-3 lead by picking apart a great Denver Broncos defense, Herbert was unable to overcome Lynn’s absurdly cautious second-half play-calling and soft-as-Charmin defense. He had to watch in obvious agony from the sidelines as the Broncos pulled out a 31-30 win by scoring a touchdown on the very last play of the game.

Lynn is by all accounts a gentleman, a stand-up guy who says what he means and means what he says. And he is generally liked by his players and respected around the league.

But his job security is now in question, as it should be.

A shaken Lynn faced a skeptical press corps like a man. He said he knew the reality about his job status but couldn’t focus on it. “I’m never going to turn this around or do what I need to do here if that’s all I’m thinking about,” he said. “We’ve got to figure this out right now.” 

Well, Coach, the numbers don’t lie. And neither does the video tape of the last five games.

The plain truth is that after he gets a lead, Lynn is killing his team with conservative play calling that doesn’t take advantage of the nuclear weapon he has in Herbert, who threw for 278 yards and three TD’s once again. That made him the first Chargers quarterback ever to throw for three TD’s in four consecutive games. Dan Fouts didn’t do it, Drew Brees didn’t do it and Philip Rivers didn’t do it.

Coming into the game, Herbert was the number one rated quarterback in the entire NFL in terms of third down efficiency. That is unprecedented for a rookie. Third down, of course, is the most important down because your team either gains enough yards to produce another first down or is forced to kick the ball away. 

Yet instead of taking advantage of Herbert’s running and passing talents, Lynn tried to sit on the lead and run out the clock by calling rushing play after rushing play. Not only did it make the Chargers attack too predictable, but it ignored just how good the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Herbert has already proven he is.

Then when the Chargers’ elite defensive end Joey Bosa had to leave the game with a concussion, Denver QB Drew Lock suddenly had more time to set his feet and throw the ball. He started moving his team consistently, but Lynn made no changes in his defensive scheme while Denver ran off a 28-6 run that gave the Chargers the 1-point, supremely frustrating loss.

Now the Chargers need to either get a new head coach or convince Lynn to build his offense around Herbert’s multi-skilled package. And even more important: to keep attacking once he has built a lead.

History shows that head coaches who get a lead and then play not to lose rather than play to win for a full 60 minutes usually end up losing the game – and their job.

With a 2-5 record that should be 5-2, Lynn can either keep going with the same approach and lose his job, or turn Herbert loose and play to win once he has a lead.

We’ll know his choice next Sunday when the Chargers host the Las Vegas Raiders at So-Fi Stadium. Raiders QB Derek Carr is a good quarterback with a great coach in Jon Gruden.

But Herbert is a great quarterback. It’s time Lynn starts acting like a great coach.

 

Rams Falling out of Contention

 

Are the 5-3 Rams struggling because quarterback Jared Goff, two years after he made the Pro Bowl, has mysteriously regressed to the jittery, inept, tentative form of his rookie season, before Coach Sean McVay arrived just in time to save his career and turn the Rams around from chumps to contenders?

Or is Goff struggling because the Rams, two years after making it all the way to the Super Bowl, can’t protect their quarterback and give him enough time to run McVay’s complex, high-octane offense?

The answer, after Sunday’s embarrassing 28-17 loss to the 3-3 Miami Dolphins, appears to be a bit of both. Goff looked terrible, but his offensive line was a sieve and he rarely had any time to go through his progressions and find an open receiver. He was battered and bruised to the point where you felt sorry for him – until you thought about his $134 million contract.

Goff committed four costly turnovers in the first half – two fumbles and two interceptions – and before long a 7-0 lead had been transformed into a 28-7 deficit.

Goff recovered a bit in the second half to throw a TD to Robert Woods, but it was far too little and far too late. He ended up connecting on 35 of an incredible 61 passes for 355 yards with two TD’s and two interceptions. But most of that yardage was piled up as the Rams desperately tried to dig out of the hole Goff had created in the first half.

The Rams now get a week off to contemplate what has gone wrong in their quest to get back to the Super Bowl. They better come up with some good answers because waiting for them is the toughest part of their schedule: they host Seattle, the best team in the  league; they travel to Tampa Bay, where a rejuvenated Tom Brady is proving age is just a number; they host San Francisco, which destroyed them two weeks ago; and they travel to Arizona, where Kyler Murray is already proving to be one of the league’s best QB’s. 

In other words, the next month after their bye week is going to be brutal. It will determine if they are true contenders or just pretenders.

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com

Follow: @paulteetor

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