Greason: MLB needs consistency in punishments
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Oct. 10, 2015.
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy flips a double-play ball to shortstop Ruben Tejada, whose toe reaches second base right as Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley begins his slide, even with the base, knocking Tejada off his feet, flipping him over and fracturing his fibula.
The uproar was immediate, with players and fans around the nation criticizing Utley for turning a slide into a “tackle,” with MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre calling the lateness of the slide “concerning.”
Torre then handed down a two-game suspension, calling the slide “illegal” — Utley was to miss Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS, in which the Mets and Dodgers were tied a game apiece at the time.
Utley immediately appealed the decision, meaning he would be allowed to play until the appeal process was over, and the suspension was eventually overturned, months later. However, the Dodgers pulled the second baseman from the lineup for the two games he was supposed to be suspended from and beefed up security around their hotel in New York, forcing him to serve some sort of unofficial sentence at a critical time in the postseason.
Oct. 27, 2017.
Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel makes a racially-charged gesture at Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish after hitting a home run off Darvish in the second inning of Game 3 of the World Series.
Gurriel made a “slanted eyes” gesture and used the word “chinito,” a derogatory Spanish term meaning “Chinese boy,” in reference to Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent.
Again, the uproar was immediate, as it should have been.
Once again, Major League Baseball swiftly handed down a punishment. Gurriel would be suspended for five games, without pay, at the start of the 2018 season and would have to undergo sensitivity training.
So, Gurriel offends people across the nation with his immaturity and will miss five games at the start of the season — the five games that essentially matter the least to the Astros’ playoff chances — as opposed to a suspension that went into effect immediately, despite the fact that it would take him out of the World Series.
Gurriel went on to hit a three-run homer in Game 5 of the World Series, a game for which he feasibly could have been suspended had that been the desire of Major League Baseball — as it had been for Utley. Game 5 went to extra innings, and the Astros won, 13-12. Every run counted. Gurriel’s presence on the roster mattered.
One could argue that it would be wrong to suspend Gurriel for the World Series — but look at the precedent that has been set. Utley was suspended for the NLDS, and although that suspension was not upheld, Utley did not play for those two games. The Dodgers went on to lose in five, ending their season.
I’m not saying I have the answers. I’m not saying I should be the MLB commissioner. I think a five-game suspension is reasonable. But I also think it probably should have been effective immediately. However, I didn’t speak with Gurriel or Darvish. I didn’t get to hear Gurriel’s remorse or Darvish’s desire to have the matter over with. What I can say with confidence, however, is that the MLB needs to come up with some semblance of consistency when handing down punishments.
Utley and Gurriel both received suspensions in the postseason. Utley’s was supposed to be effective immediately. Gurriel’s was not. Utley was allowed to appeal his. Gurriel is not. Whatever the MLB chooses, the punishments need to be on the same level.
It’s impossible to make the punishment fit the crime. This isn’t an eye-for-eye situation. But I think we can all agree that plays that result in broken bones and racism are bad for baseball, and therefore deserve consequences that reflect that. Sitting out games in the postseason might hurt a team more and create more grave consequences. However, it would also force players to reflect on their actions.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.