MLB’s Top 10 Players’ Cleats and Why They’re Wearing Them
There’s a revolution going on in baseball, and reading this means you’re part of it. Like “Moneyball” for your feet, a performance-fueled uprise has made footwear better than ever, and the ballplayer is a major beneficiary. Up until recently, the non-contract guys (pretty much everyone) had two choices—flap-over Nikes that looked like the spikes Ty Cobb was skinnin’ shins with in 1905, or Mizunos that, well, looked like the Nikes.
No more. Running experts like New Balance are showing up on Nike’s property in all black (see Evan Longoria). The cash-cow that is Under Armour has not been bashful about innovation (see Bryce Harper and Cam Newton’s Spine Highlight). Adidas is looming. And naturally, with upstarts stealing hearts, Nike is not resting on their reputation. The cleat game has become a dogfight, and the proof is in the footing.
As Editor of WhatProsWear.com, a site for those who want to wear what the best athletes in the world are wearing, I see this innovation first-hand. Here we’ll take a look at my 10 best players, what they’re wearing, and why.
Pedroia wears an exclusive version of the NB 3000 with his very own player logo. Brighton-based (might as well be Boston) New Balance lifted much of the cleat’s technology from their well-established running line, so what you get is a comfortable, versatile and lightweight (12.5 oz) metal cleat. Pedroia’s 3000s also incorporate the biggest design trend in the MLB, MARPAT, or “digital camo” as its become known.
Pedroia epitomizes the win-at-all-costs “Gamer” that we all should aspire to be, but he still scores style points, and as you’ll see in the coming slides, even the business-like players have trashed the blandness of the old days in favor of flashy colors and bold design.
Adam Jones is MLB’s dress code Enemy #1, routinely getting his flamboyant choices, including Tiger print and irresponsible use of camo, banned by the league office. And for this reason, we can’t get enough.
The Swingman apparel line was inspired by Ken Griffey, Jr., and like Junior, the current Swingman roster has no shortage of swagger. Aside from Jones, players like Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, and Jason Heyward currently wear the Nike sub-brand. The Remix 2 and MVP are both descendants of cleats that Griffey scaled walls with, and they continue to fill up highlight reels to this day.
Like Pedroia, Triple Crown Winner and undisputed “Best Hitter on Earth” Miguel Cabrera has an exclusive contract with New Balance, who treats all their contract guys’ to a personal touch on the tongue (also see Zobrist, Hanley Ramirez, Johan Santana). What’s also notable is that Miggy has mixed in a 2000 at times, the MCS (plastic) version of this style. I asked around because I couldn’t figure out why a pro would go for “beer-leaguer” plastic cleats. As it turns out, some players feel that in a grueling 162-game season, the wear and tear on the joints with metal is greater than plastic, so some are opting to sacrifice grip in exchange for a more forgiving daily grind.
If I was your cleat doctor, and you played a regular amateur schedule, I’d still prescribe metal. Especially considering you probably don’t have a professional grounds crew in charge of keeping the field soft and consistent. The traction an MLB infielder sacrifices on that luxurious clay is probably negligible, whereas my high school field was like running on dusty cement. In those conditions, plastics are useless.
Despite the competition, Nike is, and will always be, one of the most innovative and popular brands in baseball. The Nike MVP Elite 3/4 is a top choice among the best players, and Robbie Cano’s classy black/white go great with pinstripes. As a Yankee its always better to keep it simple.
Andrew McCutchen x Nike Air Swingman MVP 2
In this week’s All Star game, when Cutch stole second base wearing these glowing PEs , he stole the show, too. The entire game was a runway event for brands to showcase their latest technologies—the flashier the better. For me, McCutchen’s Swingman MVP 2 won the pageant. The neck-snapping yellow leather with the blue ChromaFlair plate made me wish I played for Michigan. Nike hasn’t mentioned a release date on these, but lets hope we see them sooner than later (NIKEiD?).
My favorite UA style, the Natural II has had staying-power around the Bigs for its handsome looks and low profile. Phillips has always been a stylish player, and Under Armour goes to great lengths to keep it that way. At times, Phillips also wears the Spine Low, but the Natural IIs aren’t infused with UA’s keystone technology. Lets face it, though, the technology on these still looks pretty good.
For those times when he’s wearing clothes, Harvey customized himself a couple pairs of Gamers that Nike has graciously made re-available on NIKEiD.com. As far as Harvey’s go, you can customize to his specs (see here for those) or customize your own. There are 12 customizable options, which is a big reason you’ll see a lot of non-contract guys in the Bigs wearing these. With the Gamers, you don’t need a deal to get your own shoe.
Five out of the Eight 2013 CWS Teams x adidas adizero 5-Tool 2.5
Ok, so I bent the rules on this one, but there are probably some future superstars in that group, don’t you think?
From adidas.com: “The lightest mid-cut metal cleat on the diamond at just 10.6 oz., this special edition adizero 5-Tool 2.5 features adidas Spotlight technology, which utilizes reflective synthetic material to illuminate under direct light. When the lights get bright, stand out on the diamond.”
Basically, if you shined a light on these cleats, they’d shine back—an expansion of the term “light-footed.” Adidas grabbed some attention during the CWS where guys on both finalists, Mississippi State and UCLA, wore these.
Spine Tech from Under Armour, like New Balance’s cleat, is borrowed from their running shoes as a way to give a lightweight shoe the necessary structure to perform while being comfortable and agile. Bryce Harper has already shown his jailbreak style of play, and these cleats handle the rigors.
Bryce is also the first player we’ve ever known to wear a hybrid cleat, fitted with metals for the front foot and plastic cleats for the heel. This innovation softens the impact while running the bases without sacrificing too much explosiveness for the critical first step, both on the bases and in the outfield. Even at such a young age (20), Bryce is already baseball’s style icon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more of these hybrids popping up in coming seasons.
Speaking of phenoms, in 2012, Trout filled up the box score like no other rookie in the game’s history has. He can beat you with power, speed, or defense on any given night—baseball’s Swiss Army knife—so its fitting that Trout’s cleats are a custom fusion of Nike technology. Nike and Trout blended the MVP Pro, the Diamond Elite Fly (textured mesh), the Swingman MVP (heel), and a Huarache-style toe into one of the lightest (at less than 12 ounces) and most lethal cleats in the game today. They fit no one better than the cold-blooded Trout.