MLB will loosen restrictions on players wearing personalized footwear

Major League Baseball has decided that allowing a little more personality in the game isn’t such a bad idea after all.

The league, along with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), announced Thursday that a new mutual agreement is in place that will provide players “increased flexibility” with respect to the colors and design of their on-field footwear.

The decision comes after a somewhat contentious season on the footwear front. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported in June that the sides were in negotiations to loosen restrictions on shoes, while encouraging creative designs. Thursday’s announcement is the result of those negotiations.

Footwear battle

Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger and Chicago Cubs utilityman Ben Zobrist both called out the league for issuing warnings over their custom cleat choices during the season. Clevinger ended up being fined after making alterations that he felt fit the league’s policy.

Here are Clevinger’s original cleats and the cleats he was fined for.

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Zobrist says he’d been wearing the same cleats for two seasons before MLB sent the warning letter. The warnings, which came a couple weeks apart, appeared to be part of a league-wide crackdown. The league’s “fun police” act was not received well by the players or fans, which almost immediately set the ball rolling on changes to the policy.

(Ben Zobrist on Instagram)
(Ben Zobrist on Instagram)

Policy adjustments

Not surprisingly, the league didn’t give up a lot of ground on the matter. That it budged at all, though, is obviously newsworthy.

Here’s more from MLB-MLBPA joint press release:

“Among other things, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to eliminate the previous rule that the majority of a Player’s on-field footwear must be in his Club’s designated primary shoe color. Instead, Players may wear shoes displaying any of the following colors, in any proportion: (i) black, white, and gray; (ii) any colors displayed on the Player’s uniform (and certain variations thereof); and (iii) any additional colors designated by the Player’s Club.”

That would effectively remove Zobrist’s cleats from the warning list. Clevinger’s more personalized and stylized cleats may be judged on a case-by-case basis based on comments from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

“Major League Baseball and its Clubs recognize the desire of Players to have more flexibility in this area and are pleased to announce the loosening of regulations that will permit more personalized and stylized footwear. We believe that this agreement strikes the appropriate balance between the shared goal of permitting Players to express their individuality while maintaining reasonable restrictions on shoe colors and designs.”

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark added: “Players welcome the expanded opportunity to express themselves and engage with fans through innovative design. We look forward to seeing their creativity and individuality on the field in 2019.”

It’s definitely a step in the right direction if you’re looking for more personality in the game. It will be interesting to see if players push the limits a little more now that the boundaries have been expanded. Even more so, it will be interesting to see where MLB will draw the line in terms of which styles are approved.

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