Column: There’s no way relationship between Justin Turner and Dodgers could have ended
The clock still hasn’t struck midnight in Justin Turner’s fairy tale.
The story of the twice-discarded utility man who attained unexpected stardom with his hometown team couldn’t end now, not like this, so the 36-year-old third baseman and defending World Series champions agreed to extend a relationship that symbolized the revival of one of baseball’s signature franchises.
For at least two more seasons, the pumpkin will remain a carriage, the mice will remain horses and the rags will remain a jeweled gown.
Turner will remain a Dodger.
The deal made too much sense for both sides to not happen.
Third baseman Justin Turner will return to the Dodgers on a two-year contract, even though it took until four days before spring training to get it done.
Turner, who was raised in Lakewood, stays home and plays out what probably will be the remainder of his career in front of fans who adore him. The Dodgers, who have become known for constantly turning over their roster, retain one of their most identifiable and dependable players.
Turner has batted .302 with 116 home runs and 406 runs batted in over his seven seasons with the Dodgers, but his value extends beyond the numbers.
He’s a leader the Dodgers lacked for a generation, maybe two, his voice transcending the cultural and generational boundaries that typically divide teams into cliques. His presence could be particularly valuable this year, as the Dodgers are introducing to their clubhouse a potential, if not likely, irritant in Trevor Bauer. In his introductory news conference, Bauer mentioned Turner as one of the players who spoke to him about the organization.
The two-year, $34-million contract, which is pending a physical, is shorter than what Turner was looking for on the open market.
Though the Dodgers wouldn’t budge on the years, they will be paying him an average of $17 million a year, which is $1 million more than they did on his previous four-year deal.
Turner’s salary elevates the Dodgers to a realm of the luxury-tax bracket that will result in their first pick in the next draft dropping 10 positions.
Turner is worth it.
He also deserved better than to have his days with the Dodgers end in controversy.
He had to be removed from the deciding sixth game of the World Series before the eighth inning because of a positive COVID-19 test. He was quarantined for the remainder of the game, but re-emerged on the field after the Dodgers won the championship.
His on-field celebration, especially in the company of cancer survivor Dave Roberts, made him the reluctant subject of a national story. Major League Baseball launched an investigation in which Turner was found to have chosen to disregard protocols.
Turner later apologized.
Regardless of how other parts of the country viewed the incident, Turner remained a hero in Los Angeles.
Here, the question of whether he would return overshadowed every other Dodgers story line this winter, including the possibility of landing Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
And rightfully so.
The Dodgers honor military veterans at every home game. Turner is always on the edge of the dugout, waiting to shake their hands and hand them autographed baseballs.
His foundation has benefited everyone from the homeless to cancer-stricken children to paralyzed veterans. He supports his teammates’ charitable efforts as well.
Trevor Bauer’s social media behavior has come under renewed scrutiny for incidents where he was accused of harassing women and spreading conspiracy theories.
On the field, he didn’t just hit, he hit when it counted.
Between the Dodgers’ World Series last year and their previous championship in 1988, this city endured 32 years without a championship. Pitchers self-destructed. Hitters stopped hitting.
The only consistent exception was Turner, who didn’t come to the Dodgers as a high-priced free agent but as a player on a minor league contract who was nontendered by the New York Mets.
This hard-working city related to his story about his humble beginnings and relished his down-to-earth demeanor.
And when the day comes for fans to return to Dodger Stadium, they will be able to do what they couldn’t do when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the team’s championship parade.
They will be able to stand and applaud him, not as a visiting player, but as a Dodger.
In a town that knows a good story when it sees one, Turner’s will have a proper ending.
Are you a true-blue fan?
Get our Dodgers Dugout newsletter for insights, news and much more.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.