Astros' Gurriel Suspended 5 Games Next Season for Racist Gesture at World Series

Image: World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros - Game Three
The Astros' Yuli Gurriel after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Dodgers in game three of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 27, 2017 in Houston.Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

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/ Source: Associated Press
By Chelsea Bailey and Ali Gostanian

Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is being punished after he was caught by cameras Friday night making a racially insensitive gesture toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the World Series.

Major League Baseball tweeted Saturday that Gurriel will be suspended without pay for the first five games of the 2018 regular season. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Saturday that there is "no place for this type of behavior in our game."

Gurriel in a statement posted on Twitter by the Astros on Saturday apologized and called the gesture "indefensible."

The incident started when Gurriel kicked off the second inning of Game 3 by smashing a home run off of Darvish, giving the Astros a 1-0 lead. But the run was immediately overshadowed when the first baseman returned to the dugout and was filmed pulling the corners of his eyes in an offensive jab at Darvish's Japanese heritage.

The Astros' Yuli Gurriel after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Dodgers in game three of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 27, 2017 in Houston.Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

The motion stunned fans and caused an outcry on social media that distracted from the Astros' eventual 5-3 victory over the Dodgers and the Houston team taking a 2-1 lead in the series.

After the game, Gurriel, 33, apologized for the gesture through an interpreter, and admitted he said "chinito" — a derogatory Spanish term that translates literally to "little Chinese." Gurriel, from Cuba, previously played in Japan.

"I didn’t try to offend nobody," Gurriel said in Spanish through a translator. "I was commenting to my family that I didn't have any luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States."

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Darvish, 31, was born in Japan and played for the country's national team from 2005 to 2011 before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012.

In a post-game interview, Darvish said through a translator: "Acting like that, you just disrespect all the people around the world."

Gurriel told reporters that he wanted to speak to Darvish and apologize.

Yu Darvish of the Dodgers throws a pitch during the first inning against the Astros in game three of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 27, 2017 in Houston.Jamie Squire / Getty Images

"Yes, of course. I want to talk to him because I have nothing against him," he said. "I think he's one of the best pitchers in Japan, and I never had success against him. ... If he felt offended, I want to apologize to him."

Darvish later tweeted a call for his fans to "stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger."

"No one is perfect. That includes both you and I," Darvish wrote. "What he had done today isn't right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him."

Fans praised the pitcher' response, but many were unimpressed with Gurriel's apology.

Actor Daniel Dae Kim sarcastically mocked Gurriel insisting that he didn't mean to offend anyone.

"Yes, because we all know that doing this to an Asian is a universal sign of respect," Kim tweeted.

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Manfred, the MLB commissioner, told reporters Saturday that part of the reason Gurriel was suspended during the regular season and not during the World Series was because Darvish said he wants to move forward and that Manfred "felt it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros' roster."

"I wanted the burden of this decision to fall primarily on the wrongdoer," Manfred said. Gurriel will also be required to undergo sensitivity training.

"There is no question that it is a difficult decision as to when the appropriate timing was. Obviously, World Series games are different than regular season games, and I used my best judgment as to where the appropriate disciplinary level fell," Manfred said.

The MLB has recently suspended players caught using slurs. Toronto's Kevin Pillar and Oakland's Matt Joyce were each banned for two games this season after making anti-gay comments.

Manfred said that when he was considering the timing of the discipline he thought delaying it would allow Gurriel to exercise his rights under the grievance process and "it now appears, and I have every expectation that he will not be exercising those rights."

Gurriel's home run on Friday kicked off a four-run burst in the second inning that sent Darvish to the shortest start of his career. Saturday night, the Dodgers beat the Astros 6-2 in Game 4 to tie the Series 2-2.

CORRECTION (Oct. 28, 1:45 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the middle name of an actor. His name is Daniel Dae Kim, not Daniel Day Kim.