MLB suspended Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly after a game in which he allegedly targeted members of the Houston Astros. Following the announcement of the suspension, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer showed support for his peer and unveiled custom "Free Joe Kelly" cleats. Although he could not wear them for a game against the Kansas City Royals.
Bauer showed off the cleats on social media, which prominently featured the aforementioned text over one Nike swoosh. The other cleat featured Kelly's infamous mocking face. Bauer also created custom "Free Joe Kelly" shirts that called the Dodgers' pitcher "the GOAT." He also clarified that proceeds from the tee would go to a charity of Kelly's choice. The Reds' pitcher made it very clear that he strongly dislikes the Astros due to the cheating scandal in 2017 and 2018 and that he supports Kelly.
And the moment you've all been waiting for.....here's a look at my cleats for tonight's start. FREE JOE KELLY! If you want to be eligible for a chance to win these, see next tweet for details. pic.twitter.com/WR0LrNpgCC— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) August 19, 2020
Bauer did not ultimately wear the Kelly cleats during the clash with the Royals. He instead took the mound during the victory while wearing generic black shoes. He later explained what happened with a series of messages on Twitter. He also took aim at MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
"For everyone wondering why I didn't wear the cleats tonight, @MLB threatened to eject me and suspend me and levy unprecedented fines against me if I did," Bauer tweeted. "I couldn't put my teammates at risk like that. Earlier this year, MLB said players could put whatever they wanted on their cleats, so long as it wasn't political or offensive.
"Apparently, Rob is not a fan of players following his rules, as 'Free Joe Kelly' is not political and is very clearly said in jest. Just leaves me over here wondering how following the rules = ejection/suspension/fine and cheating your way to a World Series = no ejection/suspension/fine...y’all really know how to pick your battles... [rolling eyes emoji] learned my lesson though. Fun is bad, cheating is good. Won't make the same mistake twice, can promise you that [fist emoji]."
Kelly originally faced an eight-game suspension after throwing a pitch in the area of batter Alex Bregman's head and then later taunting Carlos Correa with the mocking face. When MLB levied the suspension, the league cited a "history of targeted throws." Kelly appealed his suspension, which ultimately became only five games.
This is not the first time that Bauer has mocked the Astros. He also previously unveiled a custom shirt that referred to the organization as "trash." Bauer also mentioned the "high tech stuff" going on at the team facility and said "anything to help us win is in, right?!"