Cubs catcher Willson Contreras began wearing a Venezuelan-flag sleeve to honor his home country last summer, and it has become an essential component of his uniform. But as part of MLB’s recent efforts to crack down on uniform regulations, Contreras has been told by the league that he can no longer wear the sleeve, NBC Chicago reports.
This follows a recent streak of the commissioner’s office strictly enforcing uniform violations, including Ben Zobrist’s all-black cleat homage, Mike Clevinger’s psychedelic cleat designs, and Jakob Junis’s slight departure from the required color ratio. Players are given little choice but to oblige; the league has sent letters threatening that they’ll “be subject to further discipline, including assessment of a fine” if they violate the collectively bargained uniform standards.
Contreras’s sleeve is obviously more rooted in personal heritage than patterned cleats are, yet he too is now subject to the whiplash of being suddenly punished for personalized details that had previously gone unchecked by the league. The Cubs plan to challenge the league on their sudden about-face, with Zobrist suggesting he’ll call MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre for some answers. Cubs manager Joe Maddon told NBC Chicago he expects to see the rule relaxed:
“Listen, you know how I am about individuality,” Maddon said. “I’m sure the boys may have gotten together and talked about it. I’m anticipating some adjustments to the rule at some point. Whenever the guys hang together, I’m always behind them.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred is hungry to make baseball more appealing t0 young fans—or any casual fans, but telling players they can’t wear cool shit on the field doesn’t seem particularly helpful to that cause.