Major League Baseball has recently begun a crackdown on players wearing various colored cleats, arm sleeves, etc., in essence, anything that gives the player a little individuality. Letters were sent to players — yes, actual physical snail-mail letters:
Dear @mlb, I still like you but this is rediculous. For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them. When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps. @newbalancebaseball made a kid’s dream come true by making some all black spikes with the special tongue as well as the “Benny the Jet” @pf_flyers cleats. I am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond. I have heard nothing but compliments from fans that enjoy the “old school” look. Maybe there is some kid out there that will be inspired to look more into the history of the game by the “flexibility” that I prefer in the color of my shoes. Sincerely, Ben Zobrist
Seriously, MLB. Beyond the heavy hand you took in doing this in the first place, are you stuck in 1980? There are faster ways of communicating these days.
Anyway, all this and more on the topic was detailed in an article here by Sara Sanchez on Wednesday.
Ben Zobrist, whose Instagram post about the black cleats he sometimes wears is above, told reporters before Wednesday’s Cubs game in Atlanta that he is “optimistic” players and management will reach an agreement that will permit some individual expression among players on their uniforms:
“It sounds like they all want us to be free to wear whatever we’d like to wear,” Zobrist said Wednesday after separate discussions with Players Association officials and MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre. “Obviously there needs to be some structure because you can’t just say ‘Go ahead, wear whatever whenever.’ We still have to protect certain things from happening.”
That sounds great. The letters (another was sent to Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger) appear to be an overzealous way of enforcing an agreement made by players and management that, among other things, requires players to have shoes that are at least “51 percent” the team’s primary color.
Zobrist said the MLBPA and MLB will work toward amending the rules and “in the meantime, we won’t have a lot of other stuff going in regards to warnings and fines.”
Zobrist said his sense is a decision could be finalized in the next month, adding MLB would like a resolution soon.
Zobrist said the 51 percent minimum was instituted to allow some freedom, “but not total freedom” because some teams wanted a more uniformed approach.
“My understanding is MLB doesn’t want to make this a ‘Let’s talk about every accessory on your body,’” Zobrist said. “They don’t want to make that important. But eventually they’ll have to have that discussion.”
“Every accessory on your body” likely includes things like the Venezuela flag sleeve that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has been wearing since last season.
Zobrist is correct, there has to be some uniformity surrounding what players wear. It is a “uniform,” and that word itself can be defined as “identical or consistent, as from example to example, place to place, or moment to moment.” Nevertheless, one of the things that can really help baseball have its stars be identifiable is to allow a little creativity in what they wear, and not only at times when it makes MLB some money (“Little League Weekend,” for example).
MLB could take a lesson from the NBA; in allowing players some individuality, commissioner Adam Silver gets it right:
In this league we recognize that the players are the stars, and we treat them as our partners.
Listen to your fellow Commissioner, Rob Manfred. He could teach you a thing or two about how to treat players and fans.