A Brief Guide to the Weird and Mysterious MLB Uniform Guidelines

Major League Baseball’s recent flurry of warnings about uniform violations — to Mike Clevinger and Ben Zobrist about their cleats, and to Willson Contreras about his custom sleeve — doesn’t sound like they’re are intended to protect specific policies; rather, one gets the impression that they are intended to protect an idea. This idea is one of what belongs in baseball and what doesn’t, and where individual personalities and concepts of fun might fit into it, and it’s all very old; it’s the kind of thing that feels so fundamental that it’s built into the very structure of the game.

But, of course, there is are specific policies behind these violations, and rather than being natural parts of baseball’s foundation, they are carefully crafted over years of negotiation, as the MLBPA recently reminded everyone. “The footwear rule in our CBA was initiated by the League office,” the MLBPA said. declaration of this week reads. “Repeatedly, players have requested changes to make them more flexible… But our previous proposals have either been rejected or met with unbalanced demands for concessions.”

Every individual word in these settlements is deliberately debated and chosen, with lawyers heavily involved on both sides to produce the outcome. Which is completely normal here, but still a little funny when you realize that the aforementioned footwear regulations must include such basic provisions as “avoid excessive laces”. So, in light of all of this, take a look at some of the more creative rules filed under the CBA’s Uniform Guidelines:

“Players will not be permitted to change shoes while running bases during a Major League game.”

Perfectly reasonable! There are a number of valid reasons for prohibiting shoe changes on base paths, perhaps none better than the fact that it could slow down the process enormously, and it just makes sense to ensure that none player can only try to gain outside advantage here by improving his cleats. And yet… what would the forbidden situation look like here? The player who pulls spare shoes out of his pocket as he rounds first? Signal a trainer from the base to bring him some crampons? Wave to cover for someone to throw a pair? Either way, the ABC makes sure we won’t find out.

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“Every effort will be made to replace, in a timely manner, any pants torn during the match.”

It’s all collectively bargained, yes, but the bulk of these Uniform Rules read like the league proposing standards for players. You have to wear this; you can’t wear that. But this one is different, the only one that seems designed as an open housing for players. If you rip your pants, they will try to get you a new one. No guarantees, of course. But they will do their best.

“At least 51% of the exterior of each player’s boots must be the main color designated by the club and the part of the main color designated by the club must be evenly distributed on the outside of each shoe.”

There is not too much precision in these regulations. The uniforms aren’t supposed to feature “distracting” shoe flaps or “baggy” pants, but there isn’t much clarification of what that means. For this one, though, precision is everything. Not less than 51% of the primary color, and evenly distributed. It doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of thing that can be accurately assessed from afar by the league office, but, hey, a rule is a rule.

“A player will not be permitted to change his shirt number even if such a request is approved by his club unless the request has been received by the commissioner’s office no later than 31 July of the year preceding the league season in which the shirt number changes would take effect Notwithstanding the above, the Commissioner’s Office will not deny a request to change a player’s shirt number even if the required notice has not been been provided if…the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases existing finished inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number which is held by the then-current authorized apparel licensee(s) . »

There have only been a handful of Uniform Regulatory changes over the past decade, and this is one of them. First included in the 2011 edition of the ABC, this establishes that even if a player misses the in-season window to drop off a new jersey number, they can still make the switch, as long as they buy all existing clothes that are available with his old number. Which, as the Cincinnati Reds’ Scooter Gennett found out firsthand when he tried to move on from No. 4 last season, can mean a lot: “They make so many jerseys in the team store…I I just don’t have the money to be able to do it.

Neal T. Doss