Indians pitcher's colorful cleats have drawn the ire of MLB

Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger is known for bringing some personality to the field. The 27-year-old practically wears it on his sleeve, as his arm is filled with tattoos that have special meaning to him.

Clevinger’s eagerness to express himself isn’t a bad thing. Or at least it shouldn’t be. However, Major League Baseball’s uniform police seems to think he expressed himself too much during a recent start.

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On Friday, Clevinger shared a warning letter he received from the commissioner’s office on Twitter. The warning stemmed from a pair of cleats he wore while pitching against the Texas Rangers on May 1 of this season.

What did Mike Clevinger’s cleats look like?

The custom Under Armor cleats featured some illustrations drawn by artist Jonathan Hrusovsky. The artwork is described as Bohemian-inspired, with elephant and flower-petal designs included. You can check them out here.

The illustrations really are all about Clevinger expressing himself and allowing his personality to shine through. According to his teammates, that personality has earned him the nickname “Sunshine.”

How did Major League Baseball react?

With the following warning letter.

The letter reads.

Dear Mike:

This letter serves as an official warning that you violated Major League Baseball’s Uniform Regulations (Attachment 19 to the Basic Agreement). Specifically, you Violated Section A, which provides that, “[n]o alterations, writing or illustrations, other than as authorized herein, are to be made to any part of the uniform.” Various illustrations were visible on your shoes during your Club’s May 1, 2018 game.

Pursuant to Section O of the Uniform Regulations, you will be subject to further discipline, including assessment of a fine, if you continue to wear non-conforming shoes in violation of Section A.

We expect that you will rectify this violation immediately and appreciation your cooperation in this matter.

Does Mike Clevinger have a history of not conforming with league rules?

It wasn’t a major violation, but Clevinger was forced to change his glove during a game last season when the umpires determined gray-colored glove could be a distraction to hitters. Clevinger says he understood that ruling and had no problem making the switch. However, he’s less convinced the league should be worried about designs on cleats.

“There’s no hitter that makes it to the big leagues that a cleat is going to distract him,” Clevinger told the media Friday. “If the hitter’s looking at my cleat while I’m pitching, he’s not hitting.”

Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger sported some custom cleats that didn’t earn MLB’s approval. (Getty Images)Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger sported some custom cleats that didn’t earn MLB’s approval. (Getty Images)

Will the league ever allow players more freedom to express themselves?

That’s a question that’s sure to illicit many different responses.

The league did loosen up a bit last season by creating Players Weekend. For three days in August, players could put their nicknames on their uniforms and wear cleats like those worn by Clevinger. Of course, those nicknames and designs also had to get approval, but the weekend seemed to be a big hit with fans.

Ideally, the league would allow more of that in the future. It’s understandable that they’d want to see what’s going on the field before they approve it, but there seems to be a lot to gain by allowing players to express themselves and create their own buzz. That buzz couldn’t hurt baseball. In fact, it could help create the star powers it seemingly lacks.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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