With one swing of the bat, rounding the bases, a hand gesture, and one spoken word, Astros’ infielder Yuli Gurriel became one of the most hated players in baseball.
We all remember that moment of the 2017 World Series where one mistake distracted fans from one of the best series in the history. We are not here to defend Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Instead, we are looking at what was going through Gurriel’s mind at the time.
On Twitter, people were calling him a racist. In Los Angeles, every time Gurriel was at bat in Game 6 and 7, he encountered a walk-up song of booing and yelling from a sea of blue and white Dodger fans. Props to Yu Darvish on his classy response.
Despite damaging his reputation, Gurriel appears to be a genuine fellow. I happened to meet him twice last year and saw nothing resembling what people have called him. He has shown affection towards fans and players. Gurriel has always shown respect towards the game, and the men and woman associated with it.
Following the incident in Game 3 of the World Series, Gurriel found out about the fire that hit him because of his actions. He later apologized. Gurriel also shared his personal experience with the different cultures in Japan and Cuba.
After the game, Gurriel said he made the gesture as he had not had much success against Darvish in the past.
"Gurriel said through a translator, “I did not mean it to be offensive at any point.” He added that is is ” Quite the opposite, I have always had a lot of respect for Japanese people. For me (Darvish) is one of the best pitchers. I have never had any luck against him. If I offended him, I apologize. It was not my intention.”"
There is an obvious difference between the culture in Japan and Cuba. This includes the application of words and the meaning, intended or not, behind them. Not all words possess the same universal meaning. The term that Gurriel called Darvish doesn’t appear to be a controversial one in Cuba. But in today’s global landscape on the World Series stage, it was quite controversial. It’s obviously a derogatory term towards many in the Asian community.
On face value, Gurriel’s plea of innocence in his apology statement appeared to be sincere. He did not try to run away from his actions. And he will serve the five-game suspension once he is activated from the DL in mid-April. This type of thing won’t just go away, though. I am sure he will get questions from this incident for a long time.