We all know the story by now, Ben Zobrist has been wearing black spikes during day games at Wrigley field as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Zobrist has been doing this for years to pay tribute to Cubs of the past and a field which didn’t host it’s first night game until the final year of Ronald Regan’s presidency (1988).
Baseball is desperately trying to compete with the NBA for the hearts of millennials and generation Z, while still hanging on to their storied past and tradition which dates back to the Civil War.
A move like this seems to split the difference by establishing player individuality and honoring the game’s past.
The league office didn’t think so and on May 13 warned Zobrist that he needs to change his shoes or be prepared for fines.
Essentially, the league is a professor yelling at a student for eating an energy bar and sipping on some water during at 7:30 a.m. class because the student’s (Zobrist’s) actions are distracting the rest of the class.
By sending this letter, the league has managed to piss off a veteran player who has been in the league for 13 years and isolate fans who want to see players express personality.
The NBA league office would never be stupid enough to try and kill the individuality of each player on an issue as insignificant as shoes, in fact, the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrated their star center Karl Anthony-Towns’ shoes in a series of twitter posts at the end of their season.
We have seen the NBA grow tremendously over the past few years due to their stars growing in influence.
So instead of trying to replicate their success to stay at number two behind the NFL, major league baseball decided to take a play of the NHL’s playbook and work to make their players as insignificant as possible.
Most normal organizations would do their best to back track after seeing something so small (such as uniform code) have such a negative impact.
But the MLB is not a normal organization. You are talking about the last of the four major sports leagues in the United States to integrate replay.
In case you forgot, biggest argument against replay was ‘integrity of the game’.
So baseball doubled down on their efforts to forbid any player from paying tribute to anything other than the team they happened to be playing for by sending Zobrist’s teammate, catcher Wilson Contratres, a letter about his arm sleeve.
The sleeve has the Venezuelan flag, the country which Contrares is from, on it as the catcher paid tribute to his upbringing.
The irony of this is that in less than two months, players across the league will be dawning the stars and stripes as part of the league’s celebration for the fourth of July.
Oh, and don’t forget about what the Blue Jays sport every so often.
That is an awful lot of red for a team with Blue in their name.
This is not to say the MLB should not enforce any uniform codes, if Bryce Harper decides that he is not going to wear a single piece of Nationals gear and still play a game by all means he should be fined.
However there is a line between blatant disregard for the rules and adding a bit of flavor to the game. If the MLB can’t figure out the difference they soon won’t have to worry about catching the NFL as America’s favorite sport.
They’ll be more worried about regaining their number two ranking from the NBA.