HOUSTON — In the same news cycle in which Bob McNair got it, got it good, for saying that you can’t have the inmates running the prison in the NFL — bad choice of words, excellent insight into the man — a Cuban-born baseball player, Yuli Gurriel, made a racially insensitive gesture directed at the Japanese-born starting pitcher for the other team, Yu Darvish.
What Gurriel did was dumb, absolutely. He was asked about it after the game, because by then he had exploded social media at the same time McNair was still exploding it. He then apologized, tried to explain what he meant, suggesting that he was making a joke with his teammates about how little success he’s had against Japanese pitchers, and how perhaps Darvish — against whom he had homered, loudly, in the second inning — had pitched him as if he, Gurriel, were Japanese.
He gets a 5-game suspension from Commissioner Rob Manfred, to be served at the start of next season. It is a fair and just resolution, Manfred knowing that any attempt to suspend Gurriel from the World Series would have been appealed, and most likely not adjudicated until spring training.
“I just feel bad,” Gurriel said through an interpreter. “If anybody got offended over there, it was not my intention.”
Whether you are from this country or Cuba or Japan, an apology like that was as inevitable as the tide. Gurriel, a 33-year-old Cuban baseball player who has played professionally in Japan, offered the same basic theme as the 79-year-old white billionaire owner of the Houston Texans.
But what is really interesting about this, because this happened with Gurriel in Houston on the day when McNair’s comments about inmates and prisons went properly viral, it is that McNair will face no sanctions or reprimand from NFL commissioner for offending not just one player, but an awful lot of players on McNair’s team, and across the National Football League.
The difference here is that Manfred is the boss of Yuli Gurriel, and Yu Darvish, and everybody else who plays Major League Baseball for a living. McNair and his friends? They’re the boss of Goodell.
Was Gurriel, even though he said he was joking, revealing his true self? Maybe. It is far more likely that is exactly what McNair was doing, putting a foot in his mouth the way the president to whom he contributed a million dollars (one of seven owners to contribute to Donald Trump’s campaign) frequently does, whether McNair meant to reference inmates running the asylum or not. McNair talked about “inmates.” Trump called players kneeling for the anthem “SOBs.” Jump ball.
And maybe the worst part of this story is that on the day McNair said what he said not only was not called out as an idiot by any other owner, he clearly wasn’t the only idiot in the room.
Daniel Snyder, the owner of a consistently mediocre Washington team — what’s worse, incidentally, a racially insensitive gesture from a ballplayer are one of the most racially insensitive team nicknames on the planet? —offered this wisdom about anthems, and the always-enlightened Jerry Jones:
“See, Jones gets it — 96% of Americans are for guys standing.”
You wanted to ask Snyder — he always reminds you of an old Bill Parcells line, about people who don’t know whether a football is blown up or stuffed — what kind of scientific polling he has done across America to come up with that figure. Maybe he was just another rich guy using colorful hyperbole the way Bob McNair had. Maybe, as someone once wrote of Trump, we’re just not supposed to take any of these owners literally.
Gurriel had to apologize because he got caught on camera, making the dumb gesture he did. McNair had to apologize because he got caught, period, saying something as dumb as he did, and then learning that a lot of his players almost walked out of practice on Friday because of him. Now he says he wasn’t referring to players when he talked about inmates, but the league’s administration. Sure he was.
This all started because less than two weeks ago, Goodell convened representatives of the sport, including players and owners, in New York for meetings to discuss the anthem protests and the reasons behind him, and look for ways that owners and players could move forward in constructive ways that might actually involve constructive and meaningful change.
McNair was one of the owners at the original meetings. When all of the others convened the next day, he said what he said about inmates. Snyder said what he said about “96%” of Americans wanted football players to stand for the national anthem. To the end, these men don’t want to know what they don’t want to know about their players’ beliefs, intentions, social concerns. Or their humanity.
Should Yuli Gurriel have known better on Friday night? He should have known better. He was properly punished for what he did. Was he being racially insensitive? He was. But in the world of sports right now, and especially in another big sport – professional football — he has to get in line. And sadly it seems that the line doesn’t just keep getting longer. It continues to move.
What the Hardaway? Flacco hit & endless searches…
– It’s early in the season, for sure, but already you find yourself asking this existential question about Tim Hardaway Jr.:
Why exactly is he here?
Here’s another basketball question:
Is it possible that the Clips might be a better team without Chris Paul than they were with him?
What, I can’t ask?
I find myself rooting more and more for Lonzo Ball, not just because he has to deal with a father who so often is the head float in the clown parade, but because of this:
The kid, for now, does something almost incomprehensible in the current culture of sports.
He just keeps his head down, and shuts up, and plays.
Well, you clearly can’t stop the Boston College football team these days – 121 points in their last three games against Louisville, a 5-1 (at the time) Virginia team and Florida State – you can only hope to contain them.
The Lupica boys are right:
Bring on Bama.
– I love the idea, from the Jets offensive coordinator, that Josh McCown didn’t see that defensive back sitting out there in the flat last Sunday.
He didn’t see him?
The guy did everything to announce his presence except hire a skywriter.
Kiko Alonso should have been tossed from Thurday night’s game for that hit on Joe Flacco after Flacco had gone into his slide, unless you think Flacco’s helmet knocked itself off.
It was a headhunting hit in a head-injury league and until the refs start tossing guys like Alonso for hits like that, they are only going to continue.
– As Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, who at one point in this World Series used 17 pitchers in 20 innings, went through eight relief pitchers in Game 2, I kept hearing the voice of my Hall of Fame friend Bill Madden inside my head.
Mr. Madden, from the first time I sat down next to him in a press box, has always talked about “the endless search for the guy who doesn’t have it.”
That’s what we saw in Game 2, exactly.
– If Bob McNair’s guy, the president, can fire James Comey, what makes anybody think he won’t fire Robert Mueller?
Salman Rushdie’s guest shot on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was only one of the funniest ever.
Somebody explain to me what the Jets accomplish this season if McCown goes 7-9 and they don’t know anything more about Hackenberg and Petty than they did in August.
Now it’s all on Cashman
What Brian Cashman really does by not extending the contract of Joe Girardi is place a very big bet on himself.
Whatever caused Cashman to arrive at this decision, with the approval of Hal Steinbrenner, the 2017 Yankees have already set a very high bar for the ’18 Yankees.
Because the ’17 Yankees were a win away from the World Series, even if the Astros outscored them, 11-1, when the American League Championship Series returned to Houston, and effectively threw them down a flight of stairs.
I honestly believe that in coming to this decision, Cashman didn’t just look at one season – this one – with Girardi, he looked at the whole body of work. Which is where it gets complicated.
Because this was the closest the Yankees have come to the World Series since ’09, the one season in which they won it all with Girardi as their manager.
They lost the ALCS in six games to the Rangers in 2010, but if you remember that one, you know that it was a six-game series that felt like a sweep. The Yankees fell behind three games to one, CC saved them in Game 5, they went to Arlington and lost Game 6 to the immortal Colby Lewis.
Another time they got swept in the ALCS by the Tigers. The rest of it was first-round losses, a wild card loss to the Astros, or not making the playoffs. It is a successful, complicated resume, further complicated by the fact that the Yankees, until this season, were burdened by Back-End All-Stars, the team so often burdened by past-their-prime players who didn’t sign themselves to bad contracts (hey there, Jacoby Ellsbury!).
In the end, Cashman had a right to do what he did. And so the makeover that began with all those deals at the trade deadline of 2016 is complete now, with so many young players on the field and more in the chute and the manager who managed here for 10 years on his way out the door.
The general manager, about to sign a new deal of his own, is now as powerful as any Yankee general manager has ever been. The next manager will be even more of an extension of Cashman than Girardi was, before the two of them drifted the way they obviously did.
I’ve said this all along:
Cashman clearly never bought into the notion that his team overachieved in the playoffs, not after bringing in all those reinforcements at the end of July. He thought he had enough to go all the way to the World Series. Yankees didn’t. The manager goes.
General manager had a right to do what he did.
Now he better be right.