Cubs' Ben Zobrist fires back at MLB over warning for all-black cleats

It would appear Major League Baseball is sending out its fair share of warning letters for uniform violations these days.

The “fun police,” as annoyed fans have dubbed them, most notably took Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger to task over some colorful cleats he sported during a game on May 1. Clevinger posted the warning letter he received from the commissioner’s office on Twitter on Friday.

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On Saturday, Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs shared a similar letter he received warning him to stop wearing all black cleats that he says have been part of his uniform for two years.

Zobrist’s Instagram post features a shot of the letter, the cleats in question, and a fiery response to the league’s sudden interest in cracking down on cleats they’ve seemingly had no issue with in the past.

Like Clevinger’s Bohemian-inspired cleats that included elephant and flower-petal designs, Zobrist’s cleats seem pretty harmless. In fact, when Zobrist explains the meaning they have to him, it seems difficult to justify the league dictating a change.

The league is doing so anyway.

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, MLB claims Zobrist violated the rule which requires at least 51 percent “of the exterior of each player’s shoes to match the club’s designated primary shoe color.”

The league also released the following statement to ESPN in response to Zobrist’s complaint.

“We have shoe regulations that were negotiated with the union in the last round of bargaining. If players have complaints about the regulations, they should contact their union which negotiated them. We have informed the union that we are prepared to negotiate rules providing players with more flexibility, and that issue is currently being discussed as part of a larger discussion about apparel and equipment.”

Worth noting, the letter specifically claims Zobrist broke the rule on May 2 against the Rockies. Zobrist still insists he’s been wearing them during home games for two years.

The timing of all this is quite interesting. There’s obviously been a call from somewhere to take a closer look at what the players are wearing. One would assume that order is coming directly from commissioner Rob Manfred himself. But why now?

Apparently the players didn’t get much warning ahead of time that a crackdown was coming. Clevinger and Zobrist seemed to be both taken aback and annoyed by the warning letters they received. We’re guessing they’re not alone, so it will be interesting to see if other players decide to speak out and whether it becomes a union issue.

Ben Zobrist has been wearing these custom cleats at home games for two years. Now MLB says they have to go. (AP)
Ben Zobrist has been wearing these custom cleats at home games for two years. Now MLB says they have to go. (AP)

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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