I’ve spilled a lot of internet ink explaining my position and understanding of the beef between Major League Baseball and Ben Zobrist’s shoes, so I won’t do that again today. If you’re interested in seeing what I think is going on behind the scenes (this isn’t just about shoe color), check out this post here and this one here.
In terms of the actual problem at hand: For the past year or so, Ben Zobrist has worn all black, retro/throw-back cleats on day games at Wrigley Field as a sort of homage to a different era. Despite allowing the cleats last season and through the beginning of this year, MLB suddenly decided to reprimand Zobrist with a letter, informing him that he would be fined and/or disciplined if he didn’t stop wearing them – apparently, players’ cleats need to be 51% the primary color of the team (which is blue, in the Cubs case).
Zobrist shared that letter on social media, publicly voicing his displeasure in the caption, and the Players Association issued a response citing unreasonable requests from the league in exchange for more individual uniform options.
After all of that, Zobrist (and some of his teammates) just kept on wearing their all black cleats … which brings us to today (and some potentially good news).
Ben Zobrist recently had a conversation with MLB executive Joe Torre and a players’ union official, and, together, it sounds like they may have inched close to a solution. “I’m optimistic that the conversation’s going to be had very quickly, and we’ll have probably a better solution for everybody soon,” Zobrist told the Sun-Times.
The Cubs veteran continued, “So it sounds like everybody’s on the same page in regard to wanting this to happen,” he said. “But I think obviously there’s red tape and there’s structure that we have to write into place to make it possible.”
ESPN has more of the details and comments from Zobrist, as he explains that some teams and individuals preferred a more uniform approach to shoes, but not all players agree with that. He also voiced some pleasantries over how quickly and openly the league reached out to come to an agreement. Frankly, it helps that this is coming from a veteran as well-respected and well-liked as Ben Zobrist. That probably shouldn’t matter, but you know it does.
And ultimately, I’m not surprised the league is giving in (or, at least appears to be coming down on whatever their original negotiations were asking for in exchange for … shoe color). I’m not sure anyone on the fan side was really looking for less individuality on something this trivial, so the league would be wise to take heed and move on to more important things.
Until this gets resolved, though, I wonder what Zobrist will do. My guess is he keeps wearing the black cleats for day games at Wrigley Field while the discussions are proceeding in good faith. Either way, I suspect it’ll be a non-issue a month from now.