CHICAGO – Major League Baseball has warned Ben Zobrist of the Cubs against wearing black cleats.
Zobrist posted a letter from the league office on Instagram saying the cleats he wore May 2 against Colorado violated the collective bargaining agreement. MLB says they must be at least 51 percent blue – the Cubs' color – and warned he could be fined and disciplined if he doesn't comply.
Zobrist wrote he has worn black cleats for day games at Wrigley Field the past two years to honor the game's past. He said he was inspired by watching highlights of greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s and 1960s.
He had little to say about the warning after the Cubs beat the crosstown White Sox on Saturday, other than he plans to talk to the league and union about it. He came in to play left field as part of a double switch. And yes, he had on black cleats.
Zobrist plans to wear pink for Mother's Day on Sunday. But beyond that, it's not clear how the cleat conundrum will play out.
Manager Joe Maddon backed Zobrist and recalled his own hoodie hoopla when he was managing Tampa Bay. MLB ruled that Maddon and other managers and coaches could only wear approved jerseys or outerwear. A few days later, baseball reversed the ruling.
Maddon then got a Patriots hoodie with "J.M." on the front in the mail from none other than Bill Belichick. As for Zobrist's cleats?
"I love the shoes that he's wearing, and the reason that he gave is outstanding," Maddon said. "You know him. If that's coming out of his mouth, it's legit. He was doing that to bring back the history of the game. Hopefully, kids are watching. Those are the kind of things your kids are looking for, and I'm right on board with it – absolutely."
Zobrist wrote in his post that feedback from fans has been positive. He questioned why the league is enforcing the rule now.
Cleveland pitcher Mike Clevinger recently got a letter from MLB warning him against further wearing of his tie-dye cleats.