10 Ways the New Labor Deal Will Affect MLB Uniforms

As I’m sure you know by now, the MLB lockout is over. Teams are now free to sign free agents, players will be at their respective spring training camps by Sunday, and the start of the regular season will end up being delayed by only a week.

But what does it all mean for athletics aesthetics? I thought about that during my daily bike ride yesterday (the news of the labor agreement came down just as I was getting ready to bundle up and get my bike) and came up with 10 ways that the new collective bargaining agreement could affect MLB unis. Some of them are definite, others are possible but not certain. One at a time:

1. This has been a v-e-r-y slow offseason for MLB uniform unveilings and announcements. It’s not clear to me if the lockout has had anything to do with that, but it’s possible that we’ll now see a spike in MLB uniform releases over the next few weeks. (If so, maybe that will include the start of this year’s City Connect program, or maybe it won’t. Last year, the CC program didn’t launch until about a week after the regular season had already started. In any case, we already have strong reason to believe that two of the teams will be the Rockies and Padres.)

2. Spring training games are set to begin on March 17, which presumably means they could break out the green gear for Grapefruit and Cactus League openers on St. Paddy’s Day.

3. Opening Day, which had previously been pushed back to April 14, has now been reeled back in to April 7, which means the annual Jackie Day 42-fest will take place as scheduled on April 15. It’s a big one this year — the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s first big league game, and 25th anniversary of when No. 42 was retired on an MLB-wide basis — so it’s good that it didn’t get scuttled.

4. The early-April opener also means that the Red Sox will be able to play their traditional 11am game on Patriots’ Day and wear their “Boston Strong” uniforms.

5. The Braves — the defending World Series champs — were originally slated to open the season with a six-game road trip. Instead, they’ll open at home (which is really how it should always be for the defending champs, no?), against the Reds. Now that that’s settled, I expect we’ll be hearing about their gold-trimmed championship uniforms shortly.

6. Since the first week of the schedule was scratched by the lockout, those games will have to be made up with doubleheaders — and that’s in addition to all the doubleheaders that will end up taking place due to rainouts and possible Covid-related issues. With the increased number of twinbills and decreased schedule flexibility due to season-long interleague play, it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up seeing some doubleheaders in which the visiting team is actually the designated home team for one of the games, which could lead to some odd uniform situations.

This happened at least once in 2020, when the Yankees played a doubleheader in Philly but were the home team for one of the games. (They wore their road uni for that game, even though they batted second.) I’m willing to bet that we’ll see that happening at least once this year.

7. Speaking of all those doubleheaders: They’ll feature full nine-inning games, not the seven-inning games we saw during the past two years. No ghost runner on second to start the 10th inning this year, either, so extra-inning games will probably go a bit longer. All of that is going to put a strain on pitching staffs and benches. Toss in a shortened spring training that will likely lead to an increase in injuries and I suspect we’re going to see a lot of roster churn this year. That could lead to some interesting uni-numerical situations. For example, if there’s a player who’s shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the bigs, I think that player will be more likely than usual to end up with different uni numbers during his separate stints with the big league club (instead of always getting the same number).

8. The new agreement calls for the DH being adopted by the National League, which means we have probably seen the last of pitchers wearing dugout jackets while running the bases.

9. Under the new 12-team playoff format, there will still be Wild Card teams, but there will no longer be any true Wild Card games (i.e., the two Wild Card teams in each league will no longer face each other in an elimination game for the right to advance to the next round). This probably means we’ve seen the end of Wild Card game logos. Or maybe not — maybe the round featuring each league’s three Wild Card teams and the division winner with the worst record will still be called the Wild Card round, even though one team playing in that round will be a division winner (that’s how the NFL does it, after all). In any case, I’m sure they’ll find a way to come up with new rubrics for jersey and cap patches for all the playoff rounds.

10. I saved the worst for last: As expected, the new labor deal includes a provision for ads on jerseys and batting helmets (or as the union is calling it, “Enhanced revenue streams through sponsorship agreements”). We knew this was probably coming, and I won’t dwell on all the reasons why I’m opposed to it because you already know, but it’s still really depressing. I’ve listed it as the latest update on my running tally of Rob Manfred’s uni-related sins.

That said, there are lots of questions about the new uni ad program. Will the jersey patches be on the sleeve or the chest? (I’m assuming the sleeve, since that’s how they’ve always handled it for non-USA/Canada games.) What will the maximum patch/decal size be? I’m trying to get answers to those types of questions, but most people close to the negotiations, both in the media and in the industry, are understandly (a) busy analyzing the more “important” aspects of the labor deal and/or (b) making travel plans for spring training, and/or (c) getting some much-needed rest after the marathon bargaining sessions, so I haven’t been able to get solid info from any of my usual sources. Stay tuned.

That said, however, my Bulletin column last week provided lots of good background on how this will probably shake out. It looks at the 16 non-USA/Canada MLB games that have previously featured uni ads (those games are likely the visual blueprint for what will happen going forward) and also has an FAQ section about the new 2022 program. It’s available here (subscription required).

Oh, and one other uni-related result of the new labor agreement: With the season starting on April 7, the 24th annual Uni Watch MLB Season Preview will appear on or about April 5. Book it!

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“Ask Me Anything” reminder: In case you missed it on Thursday, my Bulletin this week is the latest installment of “Ask Me Anything,” where readers send me questions and I do my best to answer them.

My premium subscribers can read the article here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do that here (you’ll need a Facebook account in order to pay). If you want more info on what you’ll get for your money, you can find that here. And if the Facebook requirement is a dealbreaker, email me and I’ll keep you in the loop about developments regarding non-Facebook payment options and possible workarounds. Thanks!

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Click to enlarge

He likes what he sees: Who’s that admiring himself in the mirror in 1933? None other than future Hall of Famer Al Simmons, who was checking out his new White Sox uni for the first time after playing the first eight years of his career with the A’s. According to the wire caption, this shot was taken in his Milwaukee home in early January, well before spring training. Did they really send uniforms to players’ houses back then? Crazy!

Simmons also appears to have been wearing metal spikes on his rug. Crazier!

(My thanks to Twitter-er @Spesh98 for this one.)

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The Ticker
By Paul, pinch-hitting today for Anthony Emerson

Indigenous Appropriation News: Six hundred U.S. place names that include the word “squaw” are being changed.
 

Ukraine News: After Premier League soccer team Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned yesterday by the British government for ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the team’s shirt advertiser has asked to be removed from the team’s shirts immediately. Stories about the team dispatching a staffer to buy plain blue shirts off the rack for yesterday’s match against Norwich City turned out to be untrue — the team wore its regular shirts, complete with the ad — but they’ll presumably have new ad-free shirts going forward. Meanwhile, the team’s training kit advertiser has no plans to pull their ad. … The designer of Russia’s military uniforms has been dropped from Paris Fashion Week (from Kary Klismet).

Baseball News: The Guardians haven’t yet officially unveiled their uniforms, but the designs are showing up in video game stills (from @duckisgod). … From Chris Weber: “I was going through some of my junk from college and came across this little gem that I put together for a satire class in 1991. I guess I should make one updated for the owners for 2022, too, right? I used whiteout for the player silhouette, and I think I got an A on it.” … Remember my recent posts about MLB managers and coaches with front pants pockets? Chris Hickey found a 1979 video clip where you can very briefly see Padres coach Doug Rader using his pocket! Chris has also found pics of Jimmy Wilson (Cubs), Joey Amalfitano (Padres), Eddie Kasko (Red Sox), Ralph Houk (Tigers), Roger Craig (Padres), Chuck Tanner (Braves), and Del Baker (Tigers — with a flap!) wearing the pocket. And in a major development, he’s also found a late-1940s shot of Braves skipper Billy Southworth wearing a pocket as part of his satin pants! Great work, Chris.

NFL News: Following up on a Ticker item from yesterday, here’s another NFL team that had a left-facing helmet as a midfield logo: the Cardinals in 1984 (good find by Johnny Garfield).
 

Hockey News: The Wild will wear pregame jerseys with their original number font for Mikko Koivu’s number retirement on Sunday (from @FittedFlannels). … Fans are being encouraged to vote for the name of a new junior team in Idaho Falls (from R. Scott Rogers). … Pregame Pride jerseys last night for the Sabres (from Wade Heidt). … Also from Wade: The OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs will wear retro jerseys on March 18. … The WHL’s Portland Winterhawks will debut a new “Deep Freeze” alternate uni tomorrow (thanks, Jerry).

Basketball News: Here’s a good eight-minute video report on how the 76ers’ 1996 black uniform was developed (from Tom O’Grady). … Following up on an item from yesterday’s Ticker, here’s visual documentation of Nevada men’s F Tré Coleman wearing Nos. 14, 45, and 51 in the same game Wednesday night. “He got blood on his 14 jersey, and then his bandage came off and he got blood on the 45, necessitating the switch to 51,” says Frank Mercogliano. “He hit one free throw in each jersey which is really kind of funny.” … When the Auburn (Neb.) High School boys’ team uses its final timeout, coach Jim Weeks dons a red University of Nebraska “N” cap, with the “N” letting his players know that they have no timeouts remaining. And here you thought it stood for “Nowledge” (thanks to all who shared).

Soccer News: Another new kit for New Mexico United of the USL Championship (from Ty Ortega and Matthew Reichbach). … Nashville SC’s new stadium — set to open in May as the largest soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and Canada — now has an advertised name. … The rest of these are from Kary Klismet: Good story, with plenty of images, about Italian side Fiorentina’s planned renovations of its historic stadium. … New third kits for Boca Juniors of Argentina’s Primera División. … Spanish side Real Betis will wear environmentally sustainable kits this Sunday. … New home uniforms for Penang FC of the Malaysia Super League. … Due to a claimed kit clash, Brazilian side Santos FC switched uniforms at halftime of their Copa do Brasil match against Fluminense-PI . … New kits for Colombian side Independiente Medellín. … New third kits for Nova Venécia of Brazil’s Série D.

Grab Bag: Antarctica isn’t a country, but did you know it has its own flag? It’s true! (From @blaboz.) … The label design for a new craft beer release features a basketball referee wearing a very Uni Watch-esque jersey (from Matt Powers). … Here’s a really good photo gallery of shots from the 2022 Paralympics. … New 100th-anniversary logo for lifestyle brand Fortunoff (from John Cerone). … Virginia men’s lacrosse wore orange alternates last night. “They haven’t been updated like their other two jerseys, which means these jerseys have a different font than every other UVa uniform,” says proud UVa alum Jamie Rathjen. Also, as you can see in that linked photo, this game was color vs. color.

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And that’s a wrap for this week. Stay safe, enjoy Phil’s weekend content, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. Peace. — Paul

44 comments to 10 Ways the New Labor Deal Will Affect MLB Uniforms

  • DonS | March 11, 2022 at 8:16 am |

    Regarding your comment on roster churn this year, there is a max number of five that a player can be optioned this year.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 8:23 am |

      Yes, I know. Five is still a lot. But since there’s a limit, that may lead to even *more* churn, because they’ll run out of options with a given player and will instead have to bring up a different player.

  • Neeko | March 11, 2022 at 8:40 am |

    Re: Doubleheaders
    – They are adding a few games at the end of the regular season, the rest will be made up as doubleheaders

    • Nick | March 11, 2022 at 9:01 am |

      Guessing some teams might get screwed out of home games. Brewers for example had their home series with Arizona & SF canceled. One can be made up at end of year but neither team comes back to Milwaukee again this year so might have to make those up in SF or Arizona.

  • Greg | March 11, 2022 at 8:45 am |

    Another sad day in the uniform world.
    Well, at least we still have the Packers, Bears, Raiders, Chiefs, 49ers, Steelers, Browns, and Colts maintaining ad-free good looking uniforms.

    Also pretty disgusted about the universal DH.

    • scott | March 11, 2022 at 12:38 pm |

      The DH should have been abolished, not expanded. Aesthetically baseball was getting to a good place when all the plastic fields began disappearing, but now those are coming back, too. All very discouraging.

  • Neeko | March 11, 2022 at 8:57 am |

    It will in fact be called the Wild Card round.

  • Mike | March 11, 2022 at 8:59 am |

    I wonder how they will handle jerseys that have patches on both sleeves. Will one of the patches be replaced by an ad? I wonder if part of the all star game patches will contain the advertiser, and or playoff patches will contain ads as well.

    • Greg | March 11, 2022 at 9:28 am |

      Not saying I like the idea of ads at all, but to your point, I guess this might be one way to force Anaheim to get rid of their unnecessary cap logo on their right sleeve.

  • Jake | March 11, 2022 at 9:05 am |

    I’m really interested to see which teams elect to be the first take the ad plunge. I’m also interested to see if there is pressure from other owners to the teams that don’t want to participate.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 9:10 am |

      There’s been no evidence of owners applying ad-related pressure to other owners in the NBA or NHL.

      • David | March 11, 2022 at 12:39 pm |

        I believe you’re right about no real evidence, but I felt that the the Jazz president very politely and carefully hinted that he’d gotten some pushback initially to the charity message they went with for a first ad patch. He ascribed it to the “the league” and quickly mentioned that they came around but I figured it was other owners not wanting to be made to look bad while fans were just getting warmed up to jersey denigration.

        • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 12:50 pm |

          Let’s not try to mind-read or promote conspiracy theories without any supporting evidence. There’s already enough of that in the world. Thanks.

        • David | March 11, 2022 at 2:22 pm |

          Meant to type “desecration” there, and sorry for the speculation. Love the site!

  • Wade Heidt | March 11, 2022 at 9:20 am |

    Happy baseball is back but disappointed in some decisions. Obviously uni ads. Not a fan of universal DH. Thought the current playoff system was good as it made it important to win your division.

    In an ideal world, I would have negotiated banning of pyjama pants, except on game days when the ridiculous City Connect socks are worn :).

    • JD | March 11, 2022 at 10:31 am |

      baseball, a game of strategy that required all 9 players to be involved in both offense and defense has just been dumbed down to softball with no strategy.

      • Special K | March 11, 2022 at 10:51 am |

        The American League (half of Major League Baseball) has had the DH for 49 years, so I wouldn’t say that baseball has “just” been dumbed down. Also, the ONLY aspect of baseball that involves strategy deals with pitchers hitting? Now there is NO strategy? It is one position out of nine that no longer needs to hit. If the only redeeming quality of the sport can be completely undone by allowing 1/9 of the players to be involved in only offense or defense, then that doesn’t say much for the rest of the sport.

        • Tom | March 11, 2022 at 11:52 am |

          Which American League team has been your team all these years?

  • Dave | March 11, 2022 at 9:45 am |

    Not happy about the uniform sponsorships. But with the giant Nike, New Era, Stance, and shoe/wristband/armor/batting glove/helmet maker’s marks that are in effect ads, I think we’re already down this road a ways. It’s a shame.

  • Graham | March 11, 2022 at 9:51 am |

    Paul,

    Might have missed this along the way, but when I’m on the Uni Watch homepage the number within the magnifying glass is a 7. When I click on an article, the number is 15. Has it always been like that or is this something new?

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 9:53 am |

      It was originally 7. Changed it to 15 for Uni Watch’s 15th anniversary in 2014. Since then I’ve just let it randomly rotate.

  • Greg Lamm | March 11, 2022 at 10:36 am |

    I just read your most recent Bulletin article so here goes:

    I never wore anything but pullover jerseys when I played so that style would get my vote. It never made any sense to me why baseball continues to wear button shirts and belted pants.

    I would be in favor of hand-drawn uni design contests, of course.

    As for the end of the baseball lockout, I have no problem with the universal DH. It made no sense to have different rules in each league for 50 years. What are we really losing? Does anyone like watching pitchers hit, especially in exhibitions like the all-star game? Is anyone going to miss seeing a manager execute a double-switch?

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 10:38 am |

      Yes, I will miss the double-switch.

      Overall, though, what really bothers me about the DH is not the loss of pitchers hitting but the validation of the idea that you can be a baseball player without playing the field. If you want to eliminate pitchers hitting, I can live with that — just go with an eight-player batting order. But don’t let anyone hit without playing the field.

      • Tom | March 11, 2022 at 12:03 pm |

        Exactly correct, Paul. I won’t miss the actual double-switch. I’ll miss the NEED to make the double switch and the ramifications of the switch that is made. I’ll miss the need for a manager to decide if his pitcher, who is pitching well, needs to be removed to capitalize on the base runners when his turn at bat comes up, and the ramifications for both teams of that decision. I’ll miss the value of having multiple decent hitters on the bench because ALL of them may be needed in a game. Ill even miss the plus a team gets from having a decent hitting pitcher and the added flexibility that gives a team. But all of that is just me being a guy who has actually enjoyed baseball and it’s nuances, I guess.

    • RobYaz | March 11, 2022 at 12:06 pm |

      Absolutely! I always loved seeing a pitcher hit a rare home run or otherwise contribute to the offense. It was a noteworthy event. It bugged me that pitchers didn’t practice their hitting more regularly. I would bet that a lot of those guys were good hitters in high school, college. It never made sense to me that they would not put effort into hitting once they made the pro’s.

    • Chris Weber | March 11, 2022 at 1:25 pm |

      Greg,
      Yes, I will miss it. So will two guys named Zach and Madison, who actually took pride in doing it.
      -C.

  • Steve D | March 11, 2022 at 10:38 am |

    It seems that teams in bigger markets will be able to get more money for ad patches, thus throwing off competitive balance. Has any league decided to pool the revenue for ad patches?

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 10:45 am |

      There’s nothing new about this. Teams in bigger markets also get more money for their regional sports TV deals, charge more for their tickets, and so on.

  • Kek | March 11, 2022 at 10:43 am |

    I’ve kind of been “over” MLB for a while now. Honestly, uni ads and universal DH, while not my favorite things, are not even the big reasons. The game flat out sucks. Analytics has ruined it. Games are boring. Not a fan of HR or strikeout. Plus, being a fan of a team with awful ownership (I question they even want to be competitive), well, let’s just say college baseball and softball are now my go to for stick and ball games (along with following cricket from afar).

    • Tim | March 11, 2022 at 10:53 am |

      I’ve not watched an NBA game in years, for much the same reason. The game sux.

      • Greg | March 11, 2022 at 12:16 pm |

        Ditto to both comments. I guess I’ll have to start watching college baseball more now. Similarly as a lifelong NFL over college guy I have become more of a college football guy now.
        It is odd that the highest levels with the best talent simply are not as enjoyable now. Not sure how to best articulate it, but something about rule changes the promote more “exciting” play (passing game for instance in football) combined with the best of the best on the field, just seems to change the nature of the game, for the worse. Seems to be the case with the feast/famine nature in MLB now, and what I would consider a more highlight friendly style of play in the NBA.
        Almost as if they are being modified for mass consumption of the sport rather than people who just generally like the sport.

        • Chris Weber | March 11, 2022 at 2:36 pm |

          I get where you’re coming from, Greg. -C.

  • Bob A | March 11, 2022 at 11:56 am |

    Minor correction for the Baseball section of the ticker…it’s Eddie Kasko, not Kasco.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2022 at 11:57 am |

      Fixed!

    • ChrisH | March 11, 2022 at 12:50 pm |

      Mea culpa…I submitted that with the misspelling.

  • Matty J | March 11, 2022 at 12:32 pm |

    “Enhanced revenue streams through sponsorship agreements?”

    Euphemism at its very worst. George Carlin would NOT approve!

  • ChrisH | March 11, 2022 at 12:55 pm |

    Fiorentina’s planned stadium renovations:

    What was done to Soldier Field was terrible…this is just as bad, if not worse. Just level the old place.

  • Blaise L | March 11, 2022 at 12:59 pm |

    Very disappointed about the uni ads and somehow I feel like the batting helmet ads will be even worse, i.e. bigger and more prominent. That said, my one hope is that my Yankees see the ads as anti-traditional, not “on-brand” and opt out.

  • mike 2 | March 11, 2022 at 1:25 pm |

    one change in the new CBA I don’t like – no more one-game playoffs to settle a tie. No more game 163.

    I hate tiebreakers. I get why they exist in the NFL but in baseball the possibility of a win-or-go-home on Monday was always so exciting and now its over.

  • SRP91 | March 11, 2022 at 3:34 pm |

    The Blue Jays were the “home team” in a double header in Anaheim in 2021, because their “home game” in Dunedin was rained out. It was game 1 of a double dip on August 10th. It appears Toronto wore their powder blue uniforms in the first game when they batted second and then their navy jersey with grey pants for game 2. Anaheim wore their red jersey as visitors in game 1, and then white in game 2, both with white pants.

  • Michael | March 11, 2022 at 4:08 pm |

    There’s one scenario where a pitcher batting (and running the bases with a jacket) is still relatively possible — when Ohtani pitches, he frequently still takes his ABs and the Angels give up the DH spot. Especially with the ghost runner eliminated, it’s not hard to imagine a long extra inning game where the Angels need a reliever to take some hacks.

  • Marc | March 11, 2022 at 9:34 pm |

    I knew Antarctica had a flag.

  • Rusty Shackleford | March 12, 2022 at 1:53 am |

    As the only MLB never to qualify for the World Series, I’m looking forward to the Mariners sporting Honey Bucket patches…

    • Rusty Shackleford | March 12, 2022 at 1:54 am |

      *MLB team*

      I’m having a Bill Dauterive moment.