First, this is not a get-off-my-lawn moment. I’m not Goose Gossage, bless his cranky heart.
The subject matter is the black and white Players’ Weekend uniforms all 30 major league teams are wearing this weekend.
Not so much the black ones. They’re unremarkable and OK.
It’s the white ones. The ones the Mets are wearing in their Citi Field series against the Braves.
White logos, letters and numbers on a white background.
You can’t see the team logo. You can’t see the players’ numbers. And, for those of us who love irony, you can’t see the Players’ Weekend nicknames on the back of the jerseys.
Yes, the nicknames. The very reason Players’ Weekend exists. So players can show their individuality by putting “Flying Squirrel (Jeff McNeil) or “Polar Bear” (Pete Alonso) or “deGrom” (Jacob deGrom) or whatever they choose on the back of their uniforms.
As Cubs manager Joe Maddon put it: “I’d just like to know who said this was a good idea.”
As Indians manager Terry Francona put it: “What’s the slogan: Let the kids play, let the grown-ups look like idiots?”
Or, as McNeil put it on Saturday on his return from the injured list upon seeing his uniform: “It’s really white.”
Now, if you dislike the idea of alternate uniforms or silly nicknames, it doesn’t matter what MLB and the Players Association dreamt up in this joint effort. If you want nothing except crisp whites for the home team and road greys for the visitors, this weekend isn’t for you.
Myself, I like a good alternate uniform. I love when the Astros or Padres wear their colorful throwbacks. I miss the garish Marlins’ teal ensemble. I wasn’t offended when the Chicago White Sox wore shorts in 1976. And I was a big fan of the Mercury Mets “Turn Ahead the Clock” monstrosities from 1999 (Google it, kids).
But this weekend can’t be what MLB had in mind. Half of the sport’s players look ridiculous. The uniforms are drawing attention for being poorly executed, not for being hip and fun and showing off how cool baseball can be to a new generation of fans or whatever the point is supposed to be.
Even Fox News’ web site took a moment off from the troubles of the world to run a story about the uniforms, calling them “a swing and a miss.” (Get it?)
One wrinkle that caused some consternation was the decision by MLB to make pitchers on the white-uniformed teams wear the black caps. The reasoning was that white hats could cause trouble for the batters as a background for the white baseball coming at them at 90-plus miles per hour.
So deGrom and the seven other Mets pitchers who took the mound in Friday’s 2-1, 14-inning loss to Atlanta wore white uniforms and black caps.
Earlier in the day, Cubs players decided not to wear the white caps or the black caps at all for their game against the Nationals, instead going with the team’s regular blue caps with the white uniforms. Maddon said it was a sign of solidarity because the players didn’t want their pitchers to be wearing a different color on their noggins than the position players.
But resistance turned out to be futile. MLB ordered the Cubs to go with the mandated color scheme on Saturday and the players complied.
The Dodgers, who are hosting the Yankees in a possible World Series preview this weekend, asked MLB to allow the teams to wear their regular uniforms for one of the games. According to Yahoo Sports, the league said no.
Why is the league being so strict? A cynic would say it’s because this weekend isn’t really about showing off the players’ personalities, but is about marketing. About selling stuff.
Considering that, I took a stroll into the Mets’ team store at Citi Field before Saturday night’s game. And there they were: a rack of white Players’ Weekend jerseys and accompanying Players’ Weekend t-shirts.
The jerseys went for $149.99. The T-shirts were $39.99.
The prices on the team web site were even more, um, interesting. Jerseys were selling for up to $219.99. McNeil’s, for example, would set you back that much and, according to Mets.com on Saturday night, were “Almost Gone!”
Game-worn jerseys and helmets will be auctioned off after the weekend, according to MLB.com, with all proceeds donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation.
This is the third year of Players’ Weekend. The nicknames are fun, and the world isn’t going to crumble because the white uniforms didn’t work out.
Hopefully, MLB and the union will see that. Seeing things is kind of important.
Oh, and that 14-inning game on Friday night? It was well-played and full of tense moments and one great performance (deGrom struck out eight batters in a row and hit a home run). The Mets had numerous chances to win in extra innings and came up short. Even though it took more than 4½ hours and the home team lost, those in the crowd of more than 31,000 saw a terrific baseball game.
That — not silly nicknames and alternate jerseys — is what’s always been cool about baseball.
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