See below for an update to this story.
The Houston Astros took a 2-1 lead in the World Series on Frida,y but it was an eyebrow-raising gesture by Cuban-born Astros player Yuli Gurriel that has the sports world buzzing.
Gurriel hit a monster home run in the second inning off Dodgers losing pitcher Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent. Sitting in the dugout after the homer, Gurriel appeared to make a racial gesture, pulling his face to make his eyes squint like an Asian person.
Gurriel, who played in the Japanese pro league for a year in 2014, apologized.
After hitting a home run in the second inning off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, Gurriel returned to the Astros dugout, where he used his fingers to motion at his own eyes in a mocking gesture and appeared to mouth a derogatory term in Spanish.
In a statement, an MLB spokesman said: “We are aware of the situation and the Commissioner intends to speak with the player tomorrow.”
Speaking through an interpreter after the game, Gurriel said he made the gesture because he hasn’t had success in the past against Japanese pitchers. In particular, he was 1-for-7 with one strikeout this season against Darvish.
“I did not mean it to be offensive at any point,” Gurriel said. “Quite the opposite. I have always had a lot of respect [for Japanese people]. … I’ve never had anything against Darvish. For me, he’s always been one of the best pitchers. I never had any luck against him. If I offended him, I apologize. It was not my intention.”
The 33-year-old Gurriel is a native of Cuba who played for the Yokohama DeNA Baystars of the Japanese Central League in 2014. Darvish is of Japanese and Iranian descent.
Darvish took the high road:
“I feel like, of course, Houston has Asian fans and Japanese fans, and Asian fans live all over the place,” Darvish said. “And acting like that, it’s just disrespectful to people around the world, to the Houston organization. It’s not OK.
“Including him and I, nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s different. We’ve just got to learn from it. He made a mistake, and we’ve just got to learn from it. We are all human beings. It’s just learn from it, and we’ve got to move forward.”
That’s about the best advice I’ve heard from someone who was the target of what, at the very least, should be seen as an impolite, ill-mannered, and boorish gesture.
And yeah, it was racially insensitive too.
So, what does Major League Baseball officialdom do about it? Darvish’s classy response should mean that the league will express their displeasure and fine Gurriel a pretty penny but stop short of a suspension. That’s what they should do, anyway.
But in the current racially charged atmosphere, would that be seen as punishment enough?
UPDATE October 28, 8:55 p.m. Eastern:
The Astros’ Yuli Gurriel will be suspended five games without pay next season. Will undergo sensitivity training. Won’t miss World Series.
— Matt Young (@Chron_MattYoung) October 28, 2017