MLB acknowledges in-game uniform check timed poorly
The Terry Francona "fashion police" flare-up was a case of good intentions gone awry because of errant judgment on the part of a security agent, a top Major League Baseball official said Friday.
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Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said a resident security agent was simply doing his job in checking Francona's uniform during Wednesday's game at Yankee Stadium. But the official made a mistake by approaching the Red Sox manager during the course of the action.
Francona became upset when he was summoned up the dugout tunnel and asked to show compliance with baseball's dress code during a Bobby Abreu at-bat in the second inning of Boston's 4-3 loss to New York on Wednesday, with Derek Jeter on second base. He has since referred to the controversy as "shirtgate."
"Terry got upset, and he was within his rights to be upset," Solomon told ESPN.com. "He's in the middle of a game and he has a lot of things on his mind, and the agent should have shown a little better judgment by waiting until there was no action. The timing was unfortunate. And it will not happen again."
The New York Post reported that Eddie Maldonado, a New York police lieutenant approved by MLB, was the agent who checked Francona. Although Solomon declined to confirm the agent by name, he said, "Everybody involved has been spoken to."
Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement has rules in place to govern uniform compliance by players. Whether it's Carlos Guillen's untucked pockets in Detroit or Manny Ramirez's baggy pants in Boston, baseball is always on the lookout for players who try to stretch the boundaries of what the commissioner's office deems appropriate.
MLB applies the same rules to managers and coaches even though they're not covered by the labor contract. It was the desire to maintain what Solomon called "some semblance of control" over the dress code that led to the Francona controversy.
For years, managers and coaches wore pullovers to stay warm in inclement weather. But several managers -- including Francona, the Yankees' Joe Torre, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, the Giants' Bruce Bochy and the Indians' Eric Wedge -- have been known to wear the outer tops during games regardless of the weather. Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson is also routinely seen in a pullover.
"A lot of managers and coaches lately have decided they like the look," Solomon said. "You see one guy doing it, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Everybody starts following it."
Francona attracted the attention of the commissioner's office because he sometimes refrained from wearing his regulation uniform jersey beneath his pullover. Francona said the commissioner's office contacted him in Cleveland earlier this month to remind him to comply with the dress code.
Francona also spoke with MLB vice president Bob Watson before Wednesday's game, and showed Watson his uniform top beneath his jacket.
Francona told MLB.com that he always wears the pullover due to circulation issues stemming from past health problems.
"I don't want to get into sob stories, but all the stuff I wear underneath, I feel cooped up," Francona told MLB.com. "I have two pair of tights. I get a little claustrophobic. [Watson is] aware of that. He's actually pretty cool about it. I just didn't appreciate the timing."
Francona admitted to blowing off some steam at the security agent who came to check on him Wednesday.
"I didn't ask to appeal. I think the cursing I did to the guy going up the tunnel was probably appeal enough," Francona said.
MLB reserves the right to fine repeat dress code offenders, and Torre said he's received a letter of warning from the commissioner's office.
"You'd think there'd be more important things to do this time of year than do Mickey Mouse stuff like that," Torre said. "It's a farce, I think."
Francona shot down a New York Post report that Watson entered the Boston dugout during the game and that the Boston manager snapped at him in anger.
"For somebody to say that I yelled at Bob Watson, somebody owes Bob an apology and probably me," Francona said, "because that's bad. That's not being professional."
Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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