Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel opened the scoring in Game 3 of the World Series by scorching a Yu Darvish fastball down the left field line for a solo home run into the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park. It sparked a four-run outburst, which propelled the Astros to an eventual 5-3 victory over the Dodgers.
Gurriel seemed pleased with himself for his production. In the dugout, cameras caught him apparently mocking Darvish by slanting his eyes and he then appeared to say “chinito,” which translates to “little Chinese.” Darvish, of course, is from Japan. He considered the gesture “disrespectful,” per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.
Chad Moriyama of Dodgers Digest has a screencap and video of Gurriel’s actions. It’s difficult to think of any kind of scenario that makes this a whole misunderstanding. Tyler Kepner of the New York Post reports that MLB will review the incident and “consider discipline.”
On Twitter, Craig referenced a few incidents from past years in which players faced punishment for bigoted behavior. Yunel Escobar, then a shortstop for the Blue Jays, was suspended three games in September 2012 after writing an anti-gay slur in his eye black. In May this year, Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar shouted a homophobic slur at Braves reliever Jason Motte and received a two-game suspension. Two months ago, Athletics outfielder Matt Joyce was also suspended two games for using an anti-gay slur when responding to a heckling fan.
There is precedent for players to be punished for such behavior, but they all happened in the regular season. Major League Baseball has an important choice to make now. If, after reviewing the situation, Gurriel was found to have been in fact mocking Darvish in a racist way, commissioner Rob Manfred can suspend Gurriel during the World Series when it would matter, taking a stand against racism. Manfred can also weasel out and wait for the completion of the World Series to announce a punishment, which would mean Gurriel pays a fine and/or misses the first few games of the 2018 regular season. Smart money is on the latter, sadly.