You Feel Me? Top MLB Execs Want To See More Emotion On The Field
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred believes it is "really important for our players to demonstrate emotion on the field." Appearing on ESPN's "PTI," Manfred said, "In today's entertainment environment, we have to be competitive. And our fans have been pretty clear that they like our players showing more emotion” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/17). MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark agreed that the "emotion that has been starched out of the game for myriad reasons ... needs to be restored." He said, "You see a player flip a bat today and suddenly, it's headlines." He added, "Being able to celebrate with what you're wearing, what you're doing -- yeah, it's gotta be there moving forward. We can't lose that." While Clark "realizes self-policing will still occur -- a brushback pitch here, staredowns or harsh words there, an occasional hard slide -- he also says players are 'itching' to express themselves -- be it with colorful footwear or an occasional pimp job after solidly squaring up a baseball" (USATODAY.com, 7/17). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, “There’s sort of a culture clash going on in the sport right now between those who believe in the traditional way of baseball, where everything is sort of kept very calm and no showing up of the opponent, and others who would like to add flare” ("Get Up!," ESPN, 7/18).
SENSIBLE SHOES: Several players, including the Indians' Mike Clevinger and the Cubs' Ben Zobrist earlier this year were outspoken about wearing non-conforming cleats, and Manfred said that Deputy Commissioner of Baseball Administration & Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem had "given the union 'a proposed agreement that would substantially alter the rules respecting cleat colors and what could be on cleats.'" However, MLB "does want to maintain some sort of dress rules." Manfred: "What you don't want to do is get into a situation where the field becomes a billboard for any and all political messages" (AP, 7/17). Angels CF Mike Trout said, "Fans want to see a personality. You should be able to wear what you want and represent what you want. If you want to wear bright, green cleats, flash a little bit. Be yourself” ("MLB on Fox Pregame," Fox, 7/17).
WAVING THE FLAG: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold notes Nationals RF Bryce Harper during Monday's Home Run Derby wore a bandanna featuring the design of the DC city flag, as well as U.S. flag “detailing on the bat he used to win the derby and a U.S. flag design on the compression sleeve he wore on his arm.” However, some players have been “scolded for such fashion” this season. Cubs C Willson Contreras, and Cardinals 1B Jose Martinez and 2B Kolten Wong are among those who have wanted to display their home country's or state's flags, though MLB has advised them to “not wear their emotions, literally, on their sleeves.” Manfred said, “We are all in favor of allowing within the rules of the basic agreement that were collectively bargained (with) MLBPA allowing players flexibility within regards to what they wear on the field. ... Politicization of sport can be a very problematic thing." Goold notes finding a “neutral ground between patriotism and politics is the trick” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/18).