MLB

State of Baseball: 50 Shades of Bland

Mike El-Far | August 1st, 2019

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Major League Baseball has been under the microscope over the last decade for a multitude of factors. The pace of play (or lack thereof), lacking attendance numbers in certain markets, and the lack of marketability of its star players are just some of the issues that Rob Manfred has to contend with going forward. Realistically, there is one quick fix that can easily get new viewers watching America’s pastime.

The current rule of thumb for uniforms is the road team wears gray, while the home team wears white. All teams besides the New York Yankees have at least one alternate jersey that they wear on special occasions, and most have an alternate for both road and home games. Even with those alternates, that leaves 90% of road games for all teams to wear gray.

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Of the five major professional sports in America, only MLB utilizes the color gray for primary jerseys. If that seems odd, it should. The rationale behind wearing gray goes all the way back to when baseball started, and it is a lot simpler than one might think. As you have seen by watching, playing baseball results in your jersey getting dirty. Grass stains are one thing, but sliding in the dirt can be a real pain to get out. Can you guess the color that is the easiest to get stains out of? Yes, it is gray.

It makes perfect sense that teams would use gray jerseys in order to keep costs down while the league was taking off. But, a crazy thing happened around the 1950s. There was a boom in the innovation of methods for cleaning clothes, and thus cutting laundry costs immensely. That did not stop the “rich tradition” of gray jerseys in MLB though. What it did was to usher in a new wave of alternate jerseys, which all featured bright colors.

Now, certain gray jerseys do have a place in the game due to their traditional looks. The Yankees and Red Sox are two teams that come to mind that do look good in their gray. The only problem is that the gray is the least visually appealing jersey each organization has. Boston has great road (blue) and home (red) alternates that pop with color and the Yankees home pinstripe jerseys are the most iconic in all of North America.

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Speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees, both teams played a two-game series in London in an effort to grow the game and showcase Major League Baseball to a global audience. Boston was the home team for both games. Besides the fact that the game was played in a soccer stadium, there was one notable difference to the viewers. The traditional gray jerseys that would be worn by the road team (New York) were omitted for their home pinstripes. As for the Red Sox, they wore their home whites on Saturday and their home alternate red jerseys on Sunday.

While MLB is viewed by the public as a sport that is stuck in its ways, people view the NBA as the most innovative sport in the current landscape. Just three years ago, Adam Silver shook the landscape of viewing their product and turned it on its head. Silver announced that there would be no more traditional “home” and “away” jerseys, but each team would have four different jerseys and would be free to choose a specific jersey for each game. This has been great for the sport and has made high-profile games (Christmas Day, NBA Finals) that much more intriguing due to such a simple and easy alteration.

Clearly, MLB sees that there is a lack of visual appeal with gray jerseys, or those would have been showcased in front of all of Europe. With 19 of the 30 franchises settling into their current cities since 1950, there needs to be something done to stimulate viewership and get people engaged in what they are watching. The Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves are two of the best teams in baseball, and very well could meet in the World Series. How great would it be to see the bright blue road jerseys of the Braves in Minute Maid Park, and those sun-kissed orange Astros jerseys shining bright at SunTrust Park. For now it is only a pipe dream, but hopefully, there will a day where baseball’s jerseys will be as vibrant and colorful as all 30 of the cities that have a franchise.

Check out our other State of Baseball articles: Free Agency | Trade Deadline

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