Cubs’ Ben Zobrist back in black — cleats, that is — in defiance of MLB rule
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They are foot soldiers in a war against Major League Baseball. On second thought, that’s probably a tad too dramatic.
Let’s just say Ben Zobrist and at least some of his Cubs teammates aren’t going to give up on wearing black baseball shoes without a fight.
The exterior of a Cubs player’s cleats must be at least 51 percent blue, according to MLB. Does a detail so small really matter? Is the rule “ridiculous,” as Zobrist charged in a weekend post on his Instagram?
Either way, Zobrist — even after receiving a letter of warning from the league threatening “further discipline, including assessment of a fine” — was back in black Monday in a 6-5 loss to the Braves, and he wasn’t the only one. Teammates Kyle Schwarber and Steve Cishek also donned all-black spikes.
“That was a Jackie Robinson Day thing,” Schwarber said.
It’s true, the Cubs and Braves all wore No. 42 at Wrigley Field for a makeup of an April 15 game between the teams that was rained out. About four weeks later, their celebration of Robinson’s day included some old-school-looking shoes.
There might’ve been a bit of a message to the league’s head honchos in there, too.
“I’m sure the boys may have gotten together and talked about it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m anticipating some adjustments to the rule at some point. Whenever the guys hang together, I’m always behind them.”
Before the game, Schwarber was asked for his thoughts on a big leaguer — specifically, a 37-year-old, highly respected one such as Zobrist — being told what he can and can’t wear on his feet.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I see all the points of our players who are frustrated, because no one’s been making a big deal out of it until now. I don’t see the point there of why you would try to make a big deal of a jersey or a pair of shoes.”
What Schwarber didn’t divulge was that he had a pair of black Nikes in his locker ready to go. Zobrist and Cishek wore black P.F. Flyers.
Zobrist wears black cleats during day games at home to “pay homage to the history of our great game,” he explained on his Instagram. He planned to call Joe Torre, the league’s chief baseball officer, Monday evening with a simple question in mind: Why?
“We’ll see what kind of answer I get,” he said. “But why now? I think all players are kind of wondering that. Hopefully, I can get an answer and we can move forward.”
An offseason that seemed to mark a turn in the relationship between players and management could be seeping into this issue.
“Now, all of the sudden, just out of nowhere they’re dropping warnings and fines on people,” Cishek said. “It’s just been interesting. If they want us to work together with them in a lot of situations, and then they crunch down on something as small as this, it’s just really confusing. Like, I don’t know where they’re trying to build trust.”
P.F. Flyers tweeted a photo over the weekend of Zobrist standing at the plate on a public diamond, wearing black cleats and rolled-up jeans. The image instantly called to mind the character Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez of “The Sandlot” fame.
“Proud to have someone with as much love for the history and spirit of the game as @benzobrist18 rep the [shoes],” the tweet said.
Zobrist replied: “I knew you’d understand.”
But will MLB?