Ben Zobrist Officially Warned by MLB About His Cleats … But It's Probably About More Than That

Social Navigation


Ben Zobrist Officially Warned by MLB About His Cleats … But It’s Probably About More Than That

Chicago Cubs News, MLB News and Rumors

Playing favorites is not a good thing and allowing veterans to get away with more than rookies isn’t exactly fair … but, for the most part, Major League Baseball does just that, at least from time to time (example: the way Yadier Molina can talk to umpires).

Which is why I was particularly surprised when I saw Ben Zobrist’s latest Instagram post. In it, Zobrist shares a picture of his old-school, all-black cleats – ones he wears only at Wrigley Field during day games, as an homage to another era – and a letter from Major League Baseball warning him that he’s breaking the dress code for wearing them. He’ll be subject to a fine if he does it again:

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

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Here’s what the letter says:

Dear Ben:

This letter serves as an ofical warning that you have violated Major League Baseball’s Uniform Regulations (Attachment 19 to the Basic Agreement). Specifically, you violated Section G(1), which requires that at least 51% of the exterior of each player’s shoes be the Club’s designated primary shoe color. During your Club’s May 2, 2018 game, you were observed wearing shoes that were not at least 51% blue, the color designated by your Club for use with your uniforms.

We understand that some players prefer more flexibility in the colors of their shoes, but the current rules were collectively bargained with the Players Association and we must enforce the rules as written in fairness to all players and Clubs in the same manner the Players Association enforces rules that limit Club conduct. However, the Commissioner’s Office remains willing to negotiate with the Players Association on revisions to the footwear provision of the Basic Agreement to provide more flexibility to players. You can contact the Players Association for information regarding the status of those discussions.

In the absence of an agreement with the Players Association, pursuant to Section O of the Uniform Regulations, you will be subject to further discipline, including assessment of a fine, if you continue to wear shoes that do not comply with the Uniform Regulations. If you have any questions, please contact the Players Association.

I don’t think I’m reading too much into it to say that is … loaded with subtext.

If you’re unaware, the league and the Players Association have gone through some significant disagreements since the last CBA was put into place, so much so that potential labor stoppages have been teased as recently as this past Spring Training, and an impending labor battle seems somewhat inevitable.

So when I see statements that say things like, Hey, we (MLB) totally don’t mind if you wear your shoes like that, but it’s *your* association that made the rules. So blame them! We’re willing to talk about it!” I see it as overtly contentious.

And that they’re going after a 36-year-old, 13-year MLB veteran as well-respected and well-liked as Ben Zobrist for shoes he wears sometimes is really something.

In response, Ben Zobrist wrote the following under his instagram post:

Dear @MLB, I still like you but this is rediculous [sic]. 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.

If you can tell, Zobrist seems to point out something similar: Why are you getting on me about this now, when I’ve been doing it for over a year?

The answer, as I implied, seems to revolve around sewing discord in the union, gaining leverage from the instability, urging players back to the table to negotiate, etc. (Zobrist, presumably, is not the only player who would want some uniform flexibility). You can assume that MLB would ask for something in exchange for a shoe-policy change (a policy that doesn’t need to exist in the first place if you want to let the players show a LITTLE individuality out there).

And, yes, I’ve considered that I may be assigning more nefariousness into the league’s actions than appropriate. But given Zobrist’s own comments, the background realities, and the fact that the league has actually been loosening these sort of restrictions lately (remember player’s weekend last year?), it seems intentional. Zobrist may not have been the only player to get a letter this week.

And from a more basic perspective … does anybody care about the color of a player’s cleats? I honestly didn’t even know such a rule existed, because I’ve never once paid attention. Whatever.

Let Zobrist wear his all-black cleats. At best, it’s really cool and could, as he points out, inspire some new interest in the history of baseball. At worst, literally no one will notice, because they’re just shoes and this is baseball.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

HEAD DOWN TO THE COMMENTS OR SHARE THIS SWELL POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.