Players' Weekend is supposed to be a time for MLB's finest to express themselves with clever nicknames, designer cleats and other sanctioned "look at me" attire. But the self-expression in 2019 is camouflaged in a hideous monochrome sea of fabric.
We got our first look at the uniforms in action on Friday afternoon with the Nationals and Cubs, and, oh boy, there's a lot to discuss. I'll get to that in a minute.
"Inspired by players’ style choices when they are away from the field, the fashionable monochromatic uniforms allow for each custom accessory design to stand out more than ever before," MLB announced in its news release Aug. 6.
OK, sounds reasonable enough. I admit that I didn't have an opinion at the time of the announcement. Perhaps that's because everything focused on the jerseys — either all black or all white — which are unremarkable, but harmless. But the jerseys aren't the problem. It's the execution where MLB failed — because the jerseys are overshadowed by the pants and helmets, which combine to create a jarring, abysmal total package for each team.
We'll start with the black ones.
A dark monochrome top is fine on its own, but paired with same-color dark pants and a dark hat/helmet? It's just bad. Really, really bad. Even the belt is black, eliminating the possibility of even a brief reprieve from the ugly sameness and making for a continuous ocean of darkness from head to (almost) toe. Not to mention that the black pants look more like skinny jeans, or maybe church pants. It's all just an odd sight.
The white unis have issues too. The jerseys are fine and the pants are fine, as the combo looks much more like a traditional baseball uniform. But the helmets wreck the whole thing.
These all-white noggin covers look like old, leftover rec-league relics from the '80s. Because they're so different than what we normally see, a viewer's attention is likely to go right to the head. Look at that giant white head! (Interestingly, the Cubs didn't wear their "official" white Players' Weekend hats on the field Friday, opting for their normal one instead).
In both cases, the designer cleats, socks or fancy batting gloves do stand out — but not in a good way. The contrast only draws more attention to the greater failure. And I'm guessing fans will spend more time this weekend talking about how they don't like the uniforms than noticing the individual expression they're supposed to facilitate.
Players' Weekend is a great idea. It's a nice change of pace, and baseball needs more allowances of self-expression. But MLB whiffed this year. Considering other seasons' uniforms offered a much more pleasing aesthetic, it might be good to be less binary in the 2020 approach.
It's definitely a small thing to complain about, but it's also ironic that MLB chose to celebrate self-expression with uniforms that are, well, uniform in the worst way.