Ray Ratto

In the case of Yuli Gurriel, how much does a slur actually weigh?


In the case of Yuli Gurriel, how much does a slur actually weigh?

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.

Don't be surprised if 2018 breaks record for total batters hit by pitch


Don't be surprised if 2018 breaks record for total batters hit by pitch

If you want to have some lucrative fun this summer, see if you can find a casino that takes this prop bet: Total batters hit by pitch, one season.

And the reason? The new mound visit limitations, at least in part, and at least if Houston pitcher Lance McCullers has anything to say about it.

McCullers was trapped watching a televised analysis of the new quarter-measures set out jointly between labor and management to speed up play, at least incrementally, and did what all the cool kids do – he reacted on Twitter.

“Everyone wants to blame pace of play on mound visits or time in between pitches...” he typed after the talking heads referenced Game 7 of the World Series, which saw a parade of catcher visits to combat an apparent epidemic of sign-stealing. “Well MAYBE address the real issue at hand instead of trying to cover it up and (forcibly) insert rules that may affect the integrity of the game and alter the fairness of the game.

“You think I want to break rhythm and tempo during a game to talk about signs behind my glove? No, It’s a necessary reaction to an issue we, as pitchers and catchers, are facing. I guess enforcing the integrity by hitting batters is better than an extra 4 minutes to discuss signs.”

For “integrity,” autocorrect to “sign-stealing,” including the electronic methods, which apparently is now the scourge of the sport rather than a time-honored method of skullduggery. And the time-honored method for combatting that has been a fastball in the thigh . . . or ribs . . . or wherever the ball happens to go.

We make no claims re: the morality of this – only that it has always been used as the deterrent to brigandry of the strategic kind, and that it is likely to be the response of pitchers in the face of this new impingement on their right of between-pitches privacy.

And McCullers is not exactly alone, let alone radical, in his thinking. Never mind that the rule won’t be uniformly enforced (they never are), let alone that they will combat the problem the rule was installed to address. Pitchers and catchers and managers will work around the rules to achieve their own desired result, and if that includes one in on the wrists from time to time, then it will include one in on the wrists from time to time . . .

. . . with the predictable reaction of the hitters, which will actually lengthen game times and make the entire rule an absurdity with bruises and mound-chargings.

Baseball has never been played at a slower pace (average time 3:08, and all teams averaging at least three hours for the first time ever), and more batters have been hit than ever, though much of that is accountable to the latest expansion in 1998 and the increase in games. Still, the average of 0.38 per game was the sixth highest since 1900, and when you add the decrease in control, the increase in velocity and now the reaction to sign-stealers, I think with any real application you could see the first 2,000-HBP season, with an increase in man-games lost to injury and money spent on inactive players.

Then you’ll find out just how quickly the powers that be return to the drawing board to shorten game times more sensibly and comprehensively. Probably within 3:08, I’d wager.

For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters


For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters

The National Basketball Association got only one real lift from All-Star Weekend, and that is that LeBron James got to summarily dismiss Laura Ingraham.
Other than that, the big announcement after a largely uninspiring weekend was that Commissioner Adam Silver is going to televise more of the only thing the All-Star Game is actually good for – the assembling of the teams.
I suppose that isn’t exactly the bounce the league was hoping for from its first experiment in a format the National Hockey League abandoned as dated and the National Football League couldn’t make people care about their Pro Bowl, but the league’s bounce is the league’s problem.
So are the introductions, which one supposes will be sped up next year in Charlotte so as not to allow folks to remember why the game was in Charlotte two years after it was supposed to be in Charlotte.
But the only real production values the league ought to care about are the identities of the players on the two teams, if only because of our obsession with what we erroneously call “snubs.” If the idea is to see players irked by not being named, or elated by being named, then that is where the league’s focus ought to be.
That point was made fairly clear when Chris Haynes of ESPN was given the identities of the last two players drafted on this year’s teams – Boston’s Al Horford and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge. That was supposed to be a closely guarded secret apparently at the behest of Stephen Curry (who had a tough weekend himself), and yet it tumbled out like so many others – because it was one of the few curiosities about this event.
So if the idea is that the selection of the teams is the only real value other than the weekend price-gouging, then Silver’s job is to finish the job that begins by televising the draft – specifically, to televise the selections of the backups from which the draft emanates.
I mean, why do the players have to show their work while the coaches do not? Why is secrecy allowed for the suits but not for the sweats? What sort of anti-egalitarian message is being sent here? Fight the power! Rage against the machine!
And then when that’s done, the league should cozy up to Las Vegas again to undo some of the damage caused by its ridiculous “integrity fee” fiasco. After all, one of the undertold stories of the weekend was the way the betting line for the total plummeted once the smart guys figured out the two teams would not try to break 200, and everyone loves a betting coup. Thus, keeping up to date on betting trends, one of Silver’s ongoing initiatives, would seem to be an imperative in the years to come.
Well, that, and coaxing some fringe political yammerhead to insult one of the players for no decipherable reason. That one never fails to stick the landing.