Yuli Gurriel suspended five games for racist gesture, won't serve during World Series

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Big League Stew

Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has been suspended five games for his racial gesture directed at Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the World Series, commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Saturday. Gurriel will not be forced to serve his suspension until the 2018 season, meaning he’s eligible to continue playing in the World Series.

“There is no excuse of explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable,” Manfred said before Saturday’s Game 4. “Mr. Gurriel, to his credit, quickly realized last night that his behavior was wrong. He expressed remorse. I met with him today. He reiterated that remorse and he has assured me that he will be offering a private apology to Mr. Darvish.

Manfred added that Gurriel’s suspension will be without pay. During the offseason, he will be required to undergo sensitivity training.

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Gurriel, 33, was seen making a slanted eye gesture in the dugout after hitting a home run against Darvish in the second inning. Gurriel, who is from Cuba, appeared to say the word “chinito,” which translates to ‘little Chinese boy.” Video of the incident quickly spread, leading Gurriel to apologize for his actions after the game.

“I didn’t want to offend anybody,” Gurriel said after the game. “I was commenting to my family that I didn’t have any luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States. I didn’t want to offend anybody in Japan. I have a lot of respect for Japan. I played in Japan.”

Darvish also released a statement after the game encouraging fans to learn from Gurriel’s mistake.

Many, including Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, called for Gurriel to be suspended. Others, such as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, attempted to put Gurriel’s gesture in context. Hernandez, whose mother is Japanese, was not personally offended.

The five-game ban falls right in the middle of previous bans with similar overtones. Both Matt Joyce and Kevin Pillar were given two games earlier this season for using anti-gay slurs. Pillar’s suspension came directly from the Blue Jays. Umpire Bruce Froemming was suspended for 10 days without pay for making an anti-Semitic remark to an MLB employee in 2003.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the union fought hard against a one-game ban for Gurriel during the World Series. The argument being one game now would be equal to a 50-game suspension considering time left in the season. Manfred ultimately agreed and gave his reasons why.

“The suspension will be served at the beginning of the 2018 season. I’ve decided on that timing really for four reasons:” 

“First of all, I thought it was important that the suspension carry with it the penalty of lost salary.” 

“Secondly, I felt that it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster. I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer.”

“Third, I was impressed in my conversation with Yu Darvish by his desire to move forward and I felt that moving the suspension to the beginning of the season would help in that regard.

“Last, when I originally began thinking about the discipline, I thought that delaying the suspension would allow the player the opportunity to exercise his rights under the grievance procedure.” 

“It now appears, and I have every expectation, that he will not be exercising those rights.” 

The Astros had an opening to hand down their own punishment ahead of Game 4. Instead they released a statement supporting the league’s decision while expressing surprise and disappointment in Gurriel’s actions.

The Astros will donate Gurriel’s foregone salary to charitable causes.

On the field, it will be business as usual on the field. Gurriel is in the lineup hitting fifth and playing first base.

Gurriel’s absence definitely would have been felt by the Astros. He hit .299 during the regular season with 18 homers and 75 RBIs. He’s been even better during the postseason, reaching base safely in all but two of Houston’s 14 games. His .340 average is second only to Jose Altuve (.345) among Astros regulars.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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