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Baseball, Manfred strike out on Gurriel's delayed suspension

MLB Commisioner Rob Manfred announces Astros infielder Yuli Gurriel will be suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season for his actions in Game 3 of the World Series.

The racist gesture made by the Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel toward the Dodgers' Yu Darvish on Friday night called for somebody in power to swing for the fences.

Instead, baseball bunted.

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After a nation witnessed Gurriel tugging on the corners of his eyes while using an ethnic slur about Darvish, Commissioner Rob Manfred needed to make a powerful statement Saturday that included an immediate suspension.

Instead, he offered words backed by weakness.

"There is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like we witnessed last night,'' announced Manfred.

Except, apparently, in the World Series, where Gurriel will continue to maintain his place without immediate punishment.

"There is no excuse or explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable,'' Manfred added.

Except for the excuse that, hey, everybody chill, we don't want to mess up the mojo of our Fall Classic!

In the second inning of Friday night's 5-3 Astros victory, Gurriel homered off Darvish, who is Japanese. In the dugout afterward, Gurriel pulled at the corners of the eyes while using the word "Chinito," which means "little Chinese boy."

For this, it was announced Saturday that Gurriel will be suspended for five games next season. Yes, next season. Six months from now. When nobody cares. A statement nobody hears.

Manfred offered four excuses for why Guerriel wouldn't be suspended now, four lame rationalizations falling under a single description: Baseball was taking the easy way out.

Manfred said he was concerned the union would immediately file a grievance, thus essentially nullifying the suspension for the rest of the World Series.

Yes, that would absolutely happen. There is no way Gurriel would serve a minute of a suspension no matter what.

The point is, just because the union would duck the punch doesn't mean baseball shouldn't throw it. Baseball needed to make an immediate stand for tolerance even if it wouldn't legally stand up. Make an example of Gurriel and let the union be the bad guys for taking him off the hook.

Manfred also said he wanted to make sure it would cost Gurriel five games of salary, which will be more than $330,000. Wait, you don't think being suspended during the middle of a World Series could have cost him infinitely more in public perception?

Manfred added he was honoring Darvish's request to move forward. Oh, so because the victim of a racist incident handles it with class and grace, that makes the incident less egregious?

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None of those first three reasons make such sense, but the fourth one is absolutely bonkers: "I felt it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster,'' Manfred said. "I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer.''

Yeah, because that should be his priority, keeping a bunch of baseball players happy at the expense of his sport's social integrity. Forget the nation of fans who saw the gesture and were offended.

So, really, baseball will initially tolerate the mocking of millions of Asian Americans as long as it doesn't do anything to inconvenience 24 ballplayers?

Baseball wasn't so forgiving three Octobers ago when it came to the Dodgers. Remember the 2015 National League Division Series against the New York Mets? Remember what happened when Chase Utley's takeout slide into second base in Game 2 broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada?

Utley was suspended for two games. Immediately. There was no waiting for next season. There was no worry about impacting the other Dodgers. There was no fear of fooling with the postseason. The suspension was delivered on the spot.

Yes, Utley appealed, so the suspension didn't force him out of the lineup, although he was benched for the next two games anyway. And yes, the suspension was overturned the following spring, so it also didn't cost him any money.

But the point was made that dangerous play would not be tolerated even on one of baseball's biggest stages.

When it came to racism at the World Series, sadly, stunningly, that point was lost.

Get more of Bill Plaschke's work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke

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