Rob Manfred was damned if he didn’t suspend Houston’s Yuli Gurriel for his racist references toward Los Angeles pitcher Yu Darvish, and damned if he did.
But even if damnation, he chose what most commissioners choose – to find the ground that he (or she) thinks will offend the fewest people. And that isn’t always the same as justice.
In deciding to let Gurriel continue to play in the World Series and hold over a harsher than usual suspension until the five least significant games of the 2018 season, Manfred decided that slurs carry different weight depending on timing, and it is not a surprise that both the Dodgers and Astros agreed. After all, both teams know that they can never know when one of their own will decide to take us back to the 1940s.
And therein lies the slippery slope part of our discussion. Do different slurs to different groups carry different weight? Should the timing of the slur really carry that much weight? Should the acquiescence of the slurred matter when punishment is administered? Are five regular season games really worth as much as one World Series game?
In short, how much does a slur actually weigh?
Gurriel didn’t cost either team or the industry any money, as former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling did when his decades of racism were finally exposed on tape in 2014. Nor did the Dodgers threaten to boycott Game 4, as the Clippers and Warriors did in the Sterling incident. Plus, Gurriel hadn’t offended in a similar fashion before this, as Draymond Green had when he was suspended for accumulated physical irritations during the 2015 NBA Finals.
And finally, nobody within the industry registered a complaint, and ultimately Manfred chose the path of least resistance in the time-honored, “If nobody complains, there is no complaint.”
Ultimately, Manfred either smoothed the ground before reaching his decision or all the characters involved (the principals, the Dodgers, the Astros, the players union, et. al.) smoothed it for him ahead of time. And he works for the industry and the industrialists who own the teams, so he was preternaturally bent toward finding the half-solution that irked the fewest people.
Is that justice? Not really. The lesson “We don’t tolerate slurs but we operate on a sliding scale” isn’t really not tolerating slurs. But it was the best way to make the story die – at least until every moment Gurriel is on the field at Dodger Stadium in this series.
In other words, it was just enough. Which, ultimately, is what Manfred was after all along.