The MLB’s New Soft Spot for Political Correctness

First baseman Yuli Gurriel of the Astros is latest athlete to be subjected to the league's crackdown on players' personal behavior

by Tom Joyce | Updated 30 Oct 2017 at 8:21 AM

Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, announced on Saturday that Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel will be suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season without pay. He’ll also be required to take a race sensitivity course during the offseason.

Why? The punishment is in response to an offensive gesture Gurriel made in Game 3 of the World Series. Gurriel pulled at his eyes in a slanting motion in the dugout after hitting a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent. Gurriel also used the word “chinito,” (“Chinese boy”), in reference to Darvish.

Manfred explained the suspension should not impact the World Series because it would not be fair to the rest of the team. He wanted Gurriel’s actions to impact him and him only.

The series is now at 3-2, Houston; the Astros edged out the Dodgers in Houston in a thrilling Game 5 on Sunday night after 10 innings. The series now moves to Los Angeles.

The suspension of Gurriel appears to come in response to harsh media criticism and from social justice warriors who complained on the internet. Gurriel apologized for his actions immediately after the game, saying he "deeply" regretted them, and Darvish took to Twitter to accept the apology for the "joke" the Astros first baseman made. Darvish also posted a note on social media, saying he hoped the incident could serve as a learning experience.

"What he [did] isn't right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him," Darvish wrote about Gurriel.

Still, all of this was not satisfactory for the league.

Gurriel's suspension is not the first instance of the MLB's development of political correctness. Just last season, then-Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Cleavenger was essentially kicked out of the league for criticizing the violence within the Black Lives Matter movement. In late September, he tweeted, "BLM is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!" In response, he was suspended without pay by the Mariners for the final 10 games of the regular season. He became a free agent following the season — and no MLB team signed him.

In a similar vein, Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar received a two-game suspension for calling an umpire a "f***" back in May. The typical punishment for swearing at an umpire is ejection from a game, not a suspension.

It is not just the players the league wants to hold to this new standard. After an unverified claim by Baltimore Orioles center fielder about a racial slur and about peanuts being thrown at Adam Jones at Fenway Park in April, the Boston Red Sox became the first team to implement a lifetime ban for fans who are accused of being racist at the ballpark. The team's primary owner, John Henry, also owns The Boston Globe — a publication Mondo Times ranks as the 15th most liberal in the country.

Related: ESPN Facing Sexual Harassment Allegations and Other Controversies

The league's stance on political correctness is new. In June 2012, Kansas City Royals backup catcher Humberto Quintero stood behind pitcher Bruce Chen during an in-game TV interview and slanted his eyes. Under commissioner Bud Selig, however, an apology from Quintero was enough and he was not disciplined by the league.

Meanwhile, the league does not seem to care if people on the Left alienate some fans and hurt its brand. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy has been a polarizing liberal figure online — yet he's not received any sort of discipline. In addition to his negativity in tweets about President Donald Trump, he makes fun of and tries to start conflicts with FOX News contributors Tomi Lahren and Britt McHenry.

This could be viewed as damaging to MLB's relationship with Fox, which broadcasts many MLB games per season, including the World Series.

Since Rob Manfred became the league's commissioner in 2015, there's been a push toward political correctness. In the next few years, one has to wonder how much further this regime will go on this mission. On Saturday, Manfred also said he is considering ridding the Cleveland Indians of its Chief Wahoo logo, something many social justice warriors consider offensive to Native Americans.

The infractions by people such as Gurriel obviously deserve punishment, but is the league going too far in its reactions? While the Left may cheer the idea of players' being punished and blackballed for minor offenses and lapses in judgment, these moves cost the athletes tens of thousands of dollars — and can negatively impact their careers in big ways.

The MLB's recent push for political correctness seems to be causing it to enact punishments on players that do more harm than good — and outweigh the original transgressions.

(photo credit, homepage image: Yuli Gurriel, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Keith Allison; photo credit, article image: MLB All Star Home Run Derby 2013, CC BY 2.0, by Gabriel Argudo Jr)

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