On Friday, Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger received a letter from MLB’s offical office of No Fun Or Personality, also known as the commissioner’s office. He’d been wearing fun, personalized cleats on the field, and they didn’t conform to the color scheme rules that had been decided in the previous collective bargaining agreement. At least 51% of the shoe needs to be in the team’s primary color.
But Clevinger wasn’t the only one to get a letter. Ben Zobrist got a letter about the black cleats he’d been wearing at Cubs home games for two years. Jakob Junis, who wears cleats that he thought conformed to this arbitrary color scheme rule, was also sent a letter. So were many other players across the country. Their personalized and sometimes personally meaningful cleats have to go because not enough of their team’s main color is showing.
Of all the things ballplayers wear, their cleats are what we see the least. Half the time they’re buried in grass or dirt, and unless a player tweets a close-up picture, fans aren’t going to know or care at all about them. So why does MLB and Rob Manfred care so much about forcing players to conform to arbitrary cleat color rules, especially when they didn’t seem to care mere weeks before?
There’s a hint in the statement that MLB released in response to Zobrist’s impassioned Instagram post: “We have shoe regulations that were negotiated with the union in the last round of bargaining. If players have complaints about the regulations, they should contact their union which negotiated them. We have informed the union that we are prepared to negotiate rules providing players with more flexibility, and that issue is currently being discussed as part of a larger discussion about apparel and equipment.”
Well okay then! From that statement, it looks like the commissioner’s office is doing this just because it can. It’s almost like they remembered these rules existed and decided to enforce them just to go “neener neener, your stupid union negotiated these rules, how do you like them now!?” That statement couldn’t sound more petty or ridiculous.
The whole thing is mind boggling. Rob Manfred is obsessed with trying to grow the game, but seemingly only through minute, relatively meaningless changes that don’t substantively improve pace of play. He’s ignoring something that could actually seriously make the game more attractive to younger fans: personality. But hey, Rob Manfred, a stuffy middle aged lawyer, obviously knows what kids today want, right? And since he spent years working as a lawyer in MLB’s collective bargaining arm, actively trying to wear down the player’s union and get the best possible deal for MLB owners, I’m sure this shoe thing has nothing to do with the larger, unstated mission of making players angry at each other and at the player’s union, which would continue to weaken it. Rob Manfred just really, really cares about sho color. He cares about it so much.
- Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and mother-identifying people out there! Mike Clevinger has a set of really amazing Mother’s Day cleats he’s wearing on Sunday, and this time they’ve been approved by MLB.
- Yasiel Puig’s mother loves elephants, and he might buy her a real one someday. But for now, all she wants is for her son to hit a home run on Día de las madres.
- The Dodgers lost to the last place Reds on Saturday, and the team, as well as Dave Roberts, is struggling.
- The top of the Cardinals order hasn’t been doing a lot of hitting, but the bottom of the order has picked up the slack and is delivering when it counts.
- Remember a few years ago when Chase Headley was the hottest thing since sliced bread? Those days are gone, as the Padres designated Headley and his $13 million salary for assignment.
- The Mets could have signed Neil Walker in the offseason, but now he’s hitting walk-off singles for the Yankees instead.
- Sometimes, replay review can be hilarious.
- Shaq and Judge Judy had a grand old time at the Marlins game last night, and it was just the best.