Back again for another weekend World Series report. Unfortunately, Game 4 was a loss for the hometown heroes. The Dodgers bats finally erupted for a 6-2 win and perhaps even saved their post-season. They got great pitching from Alex Wood who carried a no-hit bid two outs deep into the sixth inning. When the first batter of the sixth, Astro George Springer, crushed a shot into the Crawford Boxes in left field, the 2017 version of Captain Hook (AKA Sparky Anderson) Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, pulled him. Yet the Dodgers bullpen held on while the Houston bullpen collapsed in relief of sterling starter Charlie Morton who left after giving up 2 hits and one run.

The loss was certainly painful for Houston fans who were looking to close out the Series on Sunday night. Now the Astros are guaranteed at least one game back in Los Angeles. With the Series shifting back to LA, the Astros face Dodger ace and Game 1 winner Clayton Kershaw. This is probably the most important game for the Astros as if they win they will head back to LA needing to win only one rather than two games to clinch the World Series.

It turns out the compliance lesson came to us from Game 3, although it exploded with force after the game and through most of yesterday. Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a home run off Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish in the game. In the dugout after rounding the bases, Gurriel pulled his eyes back to mock a slant-eyed facial expression. As reported by Gabriel Baumgaertner writing in Sports, “Gurriel’s gesture—the kind of old-fashioned naked racism that should have been abandoned generations ago. Gurriel’s slant-eyed gesture, mocking Darvish’s facial features, is one that most people of Asian descent have likely seen or experienced at some point. The Spanish National Basketball team made the gesture before the Bejiing Olympics in 2008. The Serbian women’s volleyball team did it at the 2017 World Championships. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s reminiscent of political cartoons from the Russo-Japanese War. It’s offensive by any standard. Some writers, like L.A. Times columnist Dylan Hernandez, partially defended Gurriel, writing that the gesture is “made with less vitriol” in Cuban and Latin American culture than in the United States. Even if that’s true, that logic would make ignorance an acceptable defense for racial insensitivity.”

In addition to the direct affront to Darvish, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts mother is Japanese. Darvish took a very high road, saying the gesture and its aftermath was a teachable moment. Astro Manager A. J. Hinch phoned Roberts to tell him the Astros would support whatever sanction the Dodgers sought against Gurriel. Then came the response of Major League Baseball (MLB), saying it would suspend Gurriel for five games, at the beginning of next season. And you thought only the NCAA was a bunch of gutless wonders.

This was about as pathetic a disciplinary act as one can imagine. MLB had previously suspended players for three game for making racial taunts. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that it “would be “unfair to punish the other 24 players” for Gurriel’s actions.”  Isn’t that the entire point of punishment in a team sport? You break the rules and your team suffers the consequences. Baumgaertner wrote, “This should have been an easy decision for Major League Baseball. Even if Gurriel meant no offense, there is no defense of his actions as appropriate. By suspending him for one World Series game, the league could have delivered a message that in today’s ever-diversifying sport, there is never room for racist gestures. It could have positioned itself as the league at the forefront of racial progress.”

He also noted that if such a gesture was made towards an African American player the suspension would have not been so light. The compliance lesson from this is about as straight-forward as it can get. Your discipline must be transparent and consistent. If you are going to suspend players for racially mocking gestures during the season and they make one during the World Series, they get suspended during the World Series. Manfred destroyed all MLB credibility with his moving the suspension back to next season. You either stop racial stereotyping and shaming or you don’t. Manfred certainly did not.

For the city whose professional football team owner publicly called his player “inmates running the prison” for having the temerity to protest, it seems there should be multiple lessons to be learned about race-baiting.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017