Why the MLB Commissioner Didn’t Suspend Yuli Gurriel During the World Series

Astros player made racist gesture during Friday's game, but will face punishment in 2018 season.

By Will Levith / October 30, 2017 12:58 pm

Social media lit up following the announcement that Houston Astros star Yuli Gurriel would be suspended—but not during the World Series—for making a racist gesture in the dugout during Friday night’s Game 3.

Many critics were outraged, and claimed Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred had gotten the call all wrong—that Gurriel should have been immediately suspended and not allowed to take part in the rest of the Series.

Not so, argues Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. Manfred was, in fact, avoiding a much messier run-in with the players union, Kepner writes, “which, in the postseason, would have required an arbitrator to decide whether to issue a stay of the suspension.”

Just to recap: Gurriel was suspended for five games without pay—a harsher punishment than any other one involving socially or racially insensitive behavior from the recent past—to be carried out during the 2018 season.

Despite two players being suspended for a pair of games for anti-gay slurs this past season, Manfred explained that this was a different case. For one, this wasn’t the regular season; it was the World Series. Also, Manfred said the other 24 Astros shouldn’t be punished for one player’s very bad decision. Argues Kepner: “Denying Gurriel a chance to help his team in the World Series would have severely affected him. It would also have allowed a fleeting gesture—an ugly one, for sure, but one that was done in the dugout, not on the field, and that did not appear to be premeditated—to unduly influence the World Series.”