Trevor Bauer says MLB threatened to eject him from game over 'Free Joe Kelly' cleats

Jack Baer
·4 min read

It didn’t take long for Cincinnati Red starter Trevor Bauer’s fashion statement to draw the ire of MLB, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The always outspoken pitcher revealed on Wednesday that he planned to wear a pair of custom cleats for his start against the Kansas City Royals in Game 2 of a doubleheader. It was the artwork on those cleats with which MLB had a problem, and the league’s reported intervention led to Bauer taking the mound in different footwear.

On one shoe were the words “Free Joe Kelly” in bold, red letters. On the other was an image of the now-infamous pouting face of the Los Angeles Dodgers reliever whose run-in with the Houston Astros triggered an eight-game suspension, later reduced to five games on appeal.

A follow-up tweet offered fans a chance to win the cleats if they bought a T-shirt celebrating Kelly, with all proceeds from the sales going to a charity of Kelly’s choice.

It’s not hard to imagine why MLB might have a problem with apparel that directly challenges its own discipline decision, which was criticized by many — including several players — as again favorable to the Astros.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer walks to the dugout in the fifth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Trevor Bauer disagrees with Joe Kelly's suspension. He's not alone among players. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Per ESPN, MLB called the Reds soon after he posted his video and told the team his cleats are against footwear regulations. A suggestion that Bauer indeed planned to wear them prompted a warning from the league that he could be removed from the game if umpires saw him wearing the shoes.

Bauer told ESPN he believes the cleats are within MLB regulations, which reportedly state that “MLB and the Player's Club will each have discretionary rights to deny any proposed design” and that “approval will not be unreasonably withheld.” However, those regulations also state that players are subject to discipline for wearing designs that are not submitted for approval with MLB, which seems to be exactly what’s happening here.

Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba later tweeted that MLB asserted the “Free Joe Kelly” language falls under the umbrella of “negative statements about particular entities or individuals,” which she took to mean that MLB felt the shoes were a “direct attack” on their suspension of Kelly.

Bauer throws one-hit shutout ... in different cleats

Legal or not, Bauer ended up starting against the Royals wearing a pair of black and red cleats rather than his planned statement.

He then went onto throw a one-hit shutout in the seven-inning game, with nine strikeouts and three walks. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only Reds headline out there.

The enemy of Trevor Bauer’s enemy is Joe Kelly

Absolutely none of this is surprising from Trevor Bauer, who is still getting what he wants via MLB’s chastising: Drawing more attention to Kelly’s suspension and the league’s treatment of the Astros.

Bauer has openly loathed the Astros for years (the feeling is mutual), even before their cheating during their 2017 championship season was revealed to the world. He has engaged in many an online battle with the Astros and their fans, and the team’s cheating scandal has only empowered his barbs.

So when a Dodgers reliever throws multiple fastballs at Astros players, helps trigger a bench clearing by yelling “Nice swing, b----” and calls the team a bunch of cheaters and snitches, he has an immediate ally in Bauer.

If you need any more evidence of that, here’s a postgame tweet from Bauer that tagged Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.

Correa was the batter Kelly taunted during the game on July 28.

At the present time, Kelly is on the IL with a shoulder issue. He will have to serve his suspension when activated.

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