Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2020
From 2014, Justin Turner has been the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before coming to his hometown team, he was a journeyman infielder without any power while with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets. Almost 36, Turner is a free agent, but most Dodgers and their fans cannot imagine Turner wearing another uniform.
Turner came into the 2014 spring training as a non-roster invitee. Then, Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti wanted a fierce competition for the starting second-base job so that he signed Turner to compete with Dee Gordon and Cuban rookie Alex Guererro. No one thought Turner would be the third baseman. Juan Uribe, a fan favorite, played a marvelous defensive third baseman, but his poor knowledge of the strike zone caused Uribe to prone to prolonged offensive slumps. Yes, Uribe had power, but he struck out frequently.
Even a most devoted Dodger fan thought the chance of Turner making the Dodgers between slim and no chance, particularly when Gordon had a remarkable offensive spring training. Guererro had a poor spring performance and never made it to the Major Leagues.
Since Turner could play third base, he had more opportunities to play than other infielders. The previous offseason, Turner worked hard to revamp his swing, adding power. He used the whole baseball field. He had opposite-field power. His quick reflexes enabled him to be a great third baseman. Although at the beginning of spring training almost no one thought Turner would be a Dodger in 2014, after spring training, everyone saw Turner as a Dodger.
Since 2014, Turner has been a fixture at third base. If Turner did not play in the same league as Colorado Rocky Nolan Arenado, the likelihood of Turner winning a National League Gold Glove. In 2020, despite being hampered with a strained hamstring, Turner still displayed lightning-quick reflexes, a strong accurate throwing arm, and outstanding defensive smarts. During the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Turner’s smarts enabled him to turn a Brave base-running blunder into a critical double play, which helped the Dodgers to advance to the World Series.
Although the Dodgers have Edvin Rìos, Matt Beaty, and Max Muncy who can play third base, none of these players have the same defensive smarts as Turner has. Yes, Turner has lost a step at third base. His range has diminished. The Dodgers may want to consider moving Turner to either second or first base. The Dodgers should keep Turner on the infield.
With Gavin Lux’s issues during the 2020 season, the Dodgers need a second baseman. Although Muncy can play second base, Turner would be better with an increased range and stronger and more accurate arm.
Offensively, although Turner’s power numbers have decreased from 2018, he still had 9 home runs in 2020. He gets on base constantly with a .400 on-base percentage. During the 2020 season, Turner became a Dodger who has been hit the most pitches. He always had an important hit whenever the Dodgers needed it. To me, if Turner did not test positive for COVID-19 during Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, he would be a co-MVP for the World Series with his teammate Corey Seager. During the postseason, Turner has the most hits and home runs by any Dodger in history.
From the start of his Dodger career, Turner has been a clubhouse leader and community leader. He will talk to a teammate who had not been doing his best. He always encourages everybody. He tutored other teammates on how to improve their hitting.
During the 2020 pandemic, the Turners fed school children for free. In 2019, Los Angeles had a Justin Turner day since they wanted to honor Turner for everything he does for the community, from visiting children with cancer to participating in Kershaw’s ping-pong challenge.
The Dodgers need to re-sign Turner. It is conceivable Turner becoming a manager after Dave Roberts decides to quit.
Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2020