It goes without saying that Justin Turner is one of the most loved and respected players in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. If you are a fan of the team, then it is easy to understand how this man can be a fan favorite. One year, Sports Illustrated called the Dodgers the best team ever and who did they add on the cover? It was Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig celebrating after a come from behind victory. The Dodgers won the NL West Division in 2013 and one year later Justin Turner was signed as a free agent in 2014. The Dodgers have never looked back since. They have won the NL West Division each year and have been to the World Series 3 times and finally won it this year. It took a cheating Astros 7 games to defeat the best team ever in 2017 and then again cheating Red Sox team to defeat the Dodgers in 2018. Finally, in 2020, the Dodgers win the World Series. In a year with a pandemic hitting the world and political and social unrest, the Dodgers battled in arguably the most difficult season in Major League history. Justin Turner’s tenure has been a part of this historical 8 year NL West Division Title run. Dodger fans will forever connect him to this era. Let’s take a quick look at Justin Turner’s numbers over the years.
In 2014, Justin Turner made a splash with the Dodgers after signing as a free agent with them for 1 year for 1 million dollars. The Dodgers had struck gold with a kid out of Mayfair High School out of Lakewood, CA who had also played at Cal State Fullerton. After playing multiple infield positions with the New York Mets, the Dodgers felt they had found the player who could man the hot corner and that is exactly where he settled into. With the limited amount of at bats during the 2014 season, Justin was able to put up some impressive numbers. He hit for a .340 batting average and had a solid .404 on base percentage. The Dodgers were impressed. They ran away with the NL West this year and felt they had found someone who could solidify the hot corner.
In 2015, the Dodgers won their 3rd NL West title in a row. Justin Turner missed 36 games due to some minor injuries and he wound up hitting .290 batting average with a .370 OBP. What stood out this year was that his power numbers had increased. JT had put on some muscle and hit 16 home runs. In the playoffs they lost to the Mets which must have hurt JT since that was his former team. This year, Justin Turner had done enough to earn himself a JT Bobblehead, fans began arriving to games with the Turner Beard, he began taking fake selfies with Adrian Gonzalez, and he continued his stellar performance on defense day in and day out. JT was here to stay.
In 2016, the Dodgers won their 4th NL West Title in a row. JT was finally able to play a full season this year without getting hurt and his hard work had paid off. The Dodgers avoided arbitration by signing him to a 1 year deal for 5.1 Million. He went off to hit 153 base hits, a whopping 27 HRs, and 90 RBI’s. Turner solidified himself as a Dodger leader on the field as well as in the clubhouse. This year began a series of years where the Dodgers would go on to lose 4 years in a row to the eventual World Series winners. This year they lost to the Cubs in the NLCS and the Cubs went on to defeat the Indians in a 7 game series to win the World Series. At the end of the 2016 season the Dodgers offered to extend Justin Turner’s contract for 1 year worth 17.2 million dollars. However, JT declined, only to negotiate and then sign a 4 year contract worth 64 million. This secured Justin Turner’s home through 2020. JT’s big payday had arrived and he would make sure that Dodgers and the LA fan base got their money’s worth the following year.
In 2017, the Dodgers won their 5th NL West Division Title in a row. The team was heating up. They wound up with the Sports Illustrated front cover as the “Best Team Ever” that saw the Dodgers win 104 games, tying the 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers for 3rd all time in team history. This was enough to catapult them through the playoffs and into the World Series rather easily. However, what will always be remembered about this World Series performance by the Dodgers is that they fell one game short. Perhaps if Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t get hurt towards the end of the season, perhaps if Cody Bellinger doesn’t strike out 17 times, perhaps if Roberts small balled to move players over when the game was on the line and the game was tied with runners on second and no outs, or perhaps if the Astros wouldn’t have cheated with the trash cans. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Definitely a forgetful and painful series for the players and for the fans. That is an article for another day. How did Turner do in 2017? He batted .312 with a .415 on base percentage with a career high in slugging at .530. 2017 reminded Dodger fans of a phrase once heard in elementary, “Close, but no cigar”.
In 2018, the Dodgers won their 6th NL West Title in a row. Justin Turner continued to pad his numbers despite missing 59 games due to injury. He hit for an average of .312 and an OBP of .412. He hit 14 home runs and once again, the Dodgers fell short in the World Series to the Boston Red Sox. Once again, the cheating that had occured in the 2017 season had followed them into the 2018 season as a former Dodger had taken his cheating strategies from Houston and taken them with him into Boston as Head Coach. The Boston Red Sox looked dominant and there were a few players on that squad that seemed to elevate to a higher level. Average players appeared to be All Star players in that series against our dominant pitching. Fast forward to 2020. On January 7, 2020, The Athletic reported that the Red Sox used their video replay room to steal signs in 2018. MLB later investigated and by April of that year determined that “the Red Sox sign stealing behavior was limited in scope than what the Astros did, and determined that they did not cheat in 2018.” I had to read that a second time. So they cheated, but it was limited in scope, unlike the Astros, but they didn’t cheat? Yet, they suspended the Instant Replay Operator and they “parted ways” with Alex Cora? I wonder if anyone has asked Mookie Betts what “limited in scope” meant? Perhaps without it, the Red Sox do not even get to the playoffs. Perhaps, perhaps. Another year of “Close but no cigar”. Justin, and the Dodgers were beaten and LA parted ways with another fan favorite, Yasiel Puig who had been alongside JT over all of these NL West titles.
In 2019, another NL West title, another loss to the eventual World Series winner, the Washington Nationals, and another solid season by Justin Turner and yes, more time on the DL. Justin Turner missed a total of 33 games and finished the season with an average of .290 and an OBP of .372. The Dodgers came close to a rematch with the Astros but the Nationals went there instead and defeated the sign stealing Astros who had not been caught yet. When the 2019 ended, so too began a controversial off season that started when a former Astros pitcher revealed to The Athletic the extent of the cheating strategies being used by the Astros. It was later revealed that Alex Cora had introduced the same cheating strategy to the Red Sox. ‘How the Red Sox ended up sending their best player to the Dodgers in the midst of this discovery’ is a head scratcher. It leaves everyone in the baseball world to speculate if this was possibly a hush move on the part of the Red Sox to sweep this problem under the rug. That is a wild speculation but it is wildly similar to someone being sued in court and to avoid a long drawn out trial you come up with some sort of settlement. Was this something like that? Justin Turner will probably never know. Someone knows. Let’s just say that this added fire to the fuel for JT and the rest of the team. The Dodgers now felt robbed. “How can this happen to us?” “They robbed us.” They thought. They wanted justice. In a fantasy world, a title would be vacated and perhaps the solution would be to give the title to its rightful owners or maybe have the series replayed without the cheating but in the real world everyone knew that this would never happen. In addition, no one wants to win a trophy that way. Titles are won on the field. However, everyone wanted some sort of justice from the commissioner. Everyone wanted to see him grow a pair and execute his powers to ensure that this would not happen again. You know, kind of like the hard stance they took on the Black Sox, Pete Rose, or more recently Robinson Cano. They did nothing against the Astros and the Red Sox. The Astros took the initiative and fired GM Jeff Luhnow and head coach AJ Hinch as token moves to demonstrate to the baseball world that they had taken action. The Red Sox fired Alex Cora and their replay operator. MLB did nothing. So it was great for Dodger fans to see the Commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred’s reaction when he presented the Dodgers with the trophy. The mostly 12,000 Dodger fans in attendance booed him so loudly that you could hear it through the TV. He literally looked around in shock that he got booed and it seemed like he had no idea why he was getting booed. I sure hope they boo his ass out of Dodger Stadium when they deliver the World Series Rings, if he shows up, and if we have a 2021 season with fans.
2020 was a different year for JT and the Dodgers. It started with the discovery of the cheating scandal. It continued with spring training being shut down due to a historic world wide pandemic. Players were sent home unsure of when and if the season would continue. After continuing with the short season, the Dodgers clinched their 8th NL West Title in a row. This time, they breezed through the Brewers, Padres, and stumbled a bit with the Braves. Eventually they got to the Tampa Bay Rays and defeated them in 6 games to add to the organizations 7th World Series title. It was a short season. No need to overanalyze the offensive numbers here. The point is that JT was a part of that team that won the World Series Title. They finally ended the long drought. JT was a key piece to that long run. His double play against the Atlanta Braves in game 7 of the National League Championship Series was super clutch. The Dodgers were losing 3-2 in a game that could have very easily gotten away from them had they not made the double play. The Braves had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. First of all Turner fielded a ball to his glove slide, quickly rotated and threw a strike to the catcher that led to a short chase. Turner received the ball back from the catcher, he threw his body like Superman, fully extended to barely graze the runners behind and firmly tag the back foot of Swanson who attempted to elude the tag. As he landed he popped up and threw the ball to Corey Seager who turned and tagged the runner trying to advance to third base for a clutch double play. The Dodgers went on to tie the game with a thunderous Kike Hernandez home run, and took the lead with a Bellinger home run. Urias came in to shut the door and it was off to face Tampa. That was probably the most important double play in the past 32 years. That helped them get to the World Series in which they ended up winning.
So that is it. That is Justin Turner’s career while in Dodger blue. The question is what happens next? The Dodgers will want to pay him less than the 20 million that he was set to earn in 2020. That amount got reduced due to the shortened season. Will the Dodgers be willing to offer him a 3 or 4 year contract? Or will they offer him a 2 year contract? WIll Justin accept a 2 year contract? Will another team come in and offer JT a 3 year contract to rip him away from the Dodgers? Will the Dodgers pursue a younger defensive option for a longer contract? There are many questions. Fans love him. He does so much for the community with his Justin Turner Foundation. Teammates love him too, but it is a couple of days before the Thanksgiving Holiday and still there is no offer on the table. Have we seen the last of JT in Dodger Blue? Or will he come back? Was this his farewell season? If it was his farewell season, what a season it was. The fans will surely give this man a standing O if he signs elsewhere. Likewise if he resigns, they will give him a standing 0. If the Dodgers pursue an Arenado trade option, can they sign JT and move him to 2nd base? That would be the ideal situation for fans but would it be the best idea for Turner? Too many questions. Whatever happens with Justin Turner, we must tip our caps to that man. He is a big piece of the puzzle to this year’s Championship team.