MLB, Union Reportedly Have Discussed Uniform Flexibility
MLB and the MLBPA "have been in negotiations" since Spring Training to "add flexibility in the areas of player equipment and uniforms," according to a source cited by Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY. But the union in a statement noted that while "no negotiations are currently occurring," it "remains open to dialog." The news of dialogue between the parties comes as players like Cubs 2B Ben Zobrist and Indians P Mike Clevinger are being warned about uniform violations because of their cleats, highlighting a "tension between MLB's franchises, its players and competing shoe companies, all of which want to connect with a younger demographic." Zobrist's violation "came one month after New Balance's rollout of the PF Flyers, tied to the 25th anniversary" of "The Sandlot." While MLB "might regard uniform violations as a slippery slope, its players believe that getting dinged for apparently reasonable flouting of the rules is untenable." Many MLBers "find it outrageous that they are being dinged by MLB's shoe police, drawing warnings and, on subsequent violations, fines if their footwear does not adhere to league-mandated specifications." Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier said, "It’s our players’ duty to stand up for what we believe in." In this case, what they "believe in is a simple mode of expression through an avenue that connects with the ever-coveted youth demographic: Footwear." Players "would like to believe there's a safe space between egregious fashion violations and pedantic enforcement -- and that space could emerge" (USA TODAY, 5/14).
REBEL WITH A CAUSE: In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes noted Clevinger, after being warned about his cleats, "came back with his Mother's Day special pair of spikes for Saturday's start against the Royals." Clevinger "received a letter from MLB on Friday warning him that the spikes he wore in his May 1 start against the Yankees were in violation of the dress code." It said that he "could be fined at a future date if he continued to violate the rules." Asked if he thought he would get fined, Clevinger said, "I have no idea. If they do, I'll find a good breast cancer awareness fund and donate it for Mother's Day. If they want to do that, I'll turn it into a positive" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/13). Clevinger added, "I'm still going to be me. I'm not going to change what I'm doing because someone's not getting their share of the cut, or whatever the case may be." Clevinger: "I just feel the more you give, the more they're going to take. Now it's the cleats. But then is it going to be tattoos next year? I have flower tattoos that are colorful, and I'm using my arms to throw. So is it going to be that pitchers who have tattoos either can't have tattoos or have to cover them up? Where does it go from here?" Clevinger also wore a "Jimi Hendrix-inspired custom pink pair of cleats for Mother's Day" that bore his mother's name (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/12).
CRACKING DOWN: In DC, Jeremy Gottlieb wrote MLB's "fun police are back on the scene." Zobrist posted on Instagram, "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." Gottlieb notes MLB is "contending that Zobrist is in violation of a rule requiring no less than 51 percent 'of the exterior of each player’s shoes be the club’s designated primary shoe color.'" Gottlieb: "This is ridiculous" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/13). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes MLB has "identified fun and self-expression as the enemy." The people running baseball "seem intent on picking a fight with the people who play the game," but it is a "fight MLB can't win." Morrissey: "The players are the game. The players are the product" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/14). Royals P Danny Duffy said, "They're just picking and choosing what they can control and what they can't. It's weird." He added, "If your personality gets out, it’s gonna be good for MLB and it’s also gonna be good for you. MLB needs to figure out a way to trust that we’re not gonna go have middle finger emojis on our cleats. We’re gonna be responsible enough to know the limit as opposed to just flat out fining people" (K.C. STAR, 5/12).