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MLB wants to fine Ben Zobrist for wearing black cleats

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Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist received a formal warning from Major League Baseball after wearing all-black cleats during the club’s day games at Wrigley Field. According to Section G(1) of the league’s Uniform Regulations, at least 51 percent of a player’s exterior shoe color must adhere to the team’s designated shoe color. It’s a silly rule, and one that has been used to police several players over the last few years, most recently Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger.

On Saturday, Zobrist took to Instagram to document the shoes and voice his frustration with the decision:

Dear @mlb, I still like you but this is rediculous [sic]. For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them. When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps. […] I am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond. I have heard nothing but compliments from fans that enjoy the “old school” look. Maybe there is some kid out there that will be inspired to look more into the history of the game by the “flexibility” that I prefer in the color of my shoes.

Unfortunately, Zobrist’s point — that he chose the color and design of the spikes based on historical significance (unlike, say, the “bohemian elephant” vibe of Clevinger’s kicks) — likely won’t make a difference in this case.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.