MLB trading on holiday fashion has become absurd – Chicago Tribune
A trade? No, more like commerce. Or patriotism. Or someone’s idea of “fun.”
Whatever the reason, when the Cubs take on the Rays at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, Baez, Kris Bryant, newly named All-Star Wade Davis and the rest will wear the home version of the Independence Day get-ups they wore over the weekend in Cincinnati.
It’s the 10th different jersey the defending World Series champions have worn so far this season, which seems excessive, numbing and, even if well-intentioned, more than a little absurd.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Cubs have so far worn their regular gray road uniforms, their regular white pinstripe home uni and their regular blue alternate jersey, which pairs with the regular home and road pants.
Plenty, you think? Apparently not.
The Cubs also wore jerseys with gold numbers and letters for the games when they raised their World Series banner and National League pennant as well as when players received their rings. And you figure, well, while it’s a little gaudy, they’re not the first so why not?
But then there are the holiday uniforms MLB has grown way too fond of in recent years, taking what might have seemed a nice one-off nod to special occasions and turning them into multi-day sales pitches.
There’s the promise of proceeds will go to cancer charities and groups helping military veterans and their families if fans are moved to expand their wardrobe with purchases of new gear.
The problem is the season is three months old, there have been four of these holidays and, for two of the holidays, teams travel over the “special uniform” period. That means they model both home and away versions, as the Cubs, White Sox and 20 other clubs do over this four-day stretch.
So fans, who grew accustomed to cheering for their team’s colors as free-agency made it harder to grow too attached to individuals over time, now have found themselves confronted by pink-infused uniforms for Mother’s Day, hunter-green for Memorial Day and light blue-and-graphite costume for Father’s Day.
This time, from Saturday to Tuesday, it’s home and away uniforms featuring stars-and-stripes in numbers and lettering, with mismatched socks meant to evoke the idea of an American flag. Plus stars-and-stripes and an American flag on the right shoulder that presumably is the image one would see if a strong wind were blowing in a player’s face but at first glance looks backward.
Toronto was largely exempted from the MLB-wide Independence Day fashion statement, which is appropriate because Toronto is, you know, in Canada. July 1 up there is Canada Day, their own celebration, and the Blue Jays wore their regular red-and-white alternate home jerseys and maple-leaf hats at home on Saturday and Sunday, evoking the image of a Canadian flag. On the road at Yankee Stadium through Independence Day, the Jays will wear their regular blue (bleu?) alternate unis with patches for both U.S. and Canadian flags.
Being Independence Day and all, one pictures the confusion if the British had sported alternative uniforms. Imagine Paul Revere shouting, “The plaid coats are coming! The plaid coats are coming!”
Some fans may be moved to buy the merchandise, but it would sell – or not – on its own merits in any case. There are literally hundreds of designs to choose from, just accounting for caps alone. Need a neon purple Cubs hat? Black-on-black? One with Minnie Mouse on it? Not a problem.
The point is MLB and its teams can afford to make charity donations regardless. As for celebrating the holidays, crass commercialization may not send the message the sport thinks it does.
The next big thing coming up is Labor Day. Rather than take that on, MLB and its union have agreed to take the last weekend of August – the 25th through 27th – and give players a bit more say in what they wear.
For “Players Weekend,” they can put nicknames on the back of their jerseys, and restrictions will be loosened to allow brightly colored shoes, sleeves, batting gloves, wristbands and catcher masks. They also can wear patches acknowledging a person or organization that’s important to them becoming who they are.
Merchandise will be available for sale, too, but the show of personality represents a virtual declaration of independence from MLB’s rigid mandates. What’s more, it actually sounds fun.