Why 'tinfoil hats' fit some Cincinnati Reds better than new pants in MLB jersey controversy

GOODYEAR, Arizona — For anybody who might be living under a rock or too preoccupied with dealing with the snow to have heard about it, apparently the biggest story in sports this side of Taylor Swift is about all the ire and outrage over the uniforms delivered to major-league clubhouses this spring for use this season.

“Not good,” Reds pitcher Nick Martinez said of his take on the new unis — which have been ripped by players from Florida to Arizona this spring for everything from the ill fit of non-tailored pants to the lightweight, “cheap” feel of the jersey fabric to the smaller lettering of names on the backs and even the colors.

Players with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in particular have remarked about the slightly different hues of team colors, and Martinez said even the Reds’ home white is a different shade than before.

Wait, what?

“You can tell,” he said, explaining that the texture of the change in material makes even the white appear a tone off of the previous look.

“This is, what — tinfoil hat, right — a little conspiracy theory,” Martinez said. “But maybe they altered the color a little bit so you wouldn’t wear last year’s pants or last year’s jerseys. So if you wore last year’s jerseys or pants you could tell, and then Nike wouldn’t like it.”

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) imitates throwing to second during catching drills during spring training workouts, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) imitates throwing to second during catching drills during spring training workouts, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

Yes, “tinfoil hat” is the correct term here.

Mostly, this is much ado about something that’s not nothing to elite, professional athletes — especially the ones required to wear these uniforms for games played almost every day for more than seven months of the year, counting spring training and potential playoffs.

But it’s also nothing new. Every so many years, the uniforms change because of the league’s vendor — though MLB has taken the new and alternative looks to stupid levels in recent years trying to capitalize on merchandise sales.

The difference this time around is that the Majestic Athletic brand unis that preceded this Nike-designed, Fanatics-manufactured version seemed to be universally loved.

And also this: Before this change, players got used to ultra-customized fits of both jerseys and, more importantly, the pants.

Players have been told that by the end of spring training, they’ll be measured for the customized fit they’re used to.

That’s one reason why at least two people believe the Great Uniform Scandal of 2024 will die down soon.

“In baseball, any new initiative, there’s going to be some negative feedback,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said during a media event Thursday. “First and most important, these are Nike jerseys. … Everything they’ve done for us so far has been absolutely, 100 percent successful across the board.”

He said the new uniforms have a “performance wear” design “tested more extensively than any jersey in the sport.”

That’s probably why they’re more lightweight in appearance and feel.

“When something changes, even if it’s awesome, people are going to be resistant to it because they’re not used to it,” Reds reliever Emilio Pagán said. “I think you give it till the end of spring and this isn’t going to be a story anymore.”

And this is a guy who actually had to switch pants size after getting his uniform the first day because his “right size” didn’t fit.

Some other Reds had issues with the pants, too. Some, such as Spencer Steer, isn’t a fan of the size or new font of the lettering on the back.

And some, such as catcher Luke Maile, have “no problem with it whatsoever.”

Presumptive Opening Day starter Hunter Greene even gave a quick laugh at the mere mention of the uni controversy.

“I know it’s been getting a lot of flack in the media,” he said, adding he doesn’t have strong feelings on it. “The pants are a little funky, but the jerseys are cool. And we’ll be able to make our adjustments. … But I know each guy’s different. When you look good, feel good, you play good — all of that stuff.”

But as Pagán said: “It’s a big league uniform. I’ve got a number. I’ll take it.”

Martinez said even some of his stronger feelings should be taken in the context of adjusting to something new.

"It's just change," Pagán said. "Change is never easy.”

Just ask some of the old timers who had to give up their beloved flannels all those years ago.

And don’t get some of us started about our beautiful, old, trusty flip phones.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: How Cincinnati Reds feeling pinch of MLB's new 2024 uniform design