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Balls in Play: MLB/Nike Pants Fiasco Hits Hilarious New Low

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The MLB/Nike uniform fiasco reached a new low yesterday as a photo of Giants infielder Casey Schmitt began circulating, giving new meaning to the term “balls in play.”

According to this post (which erroneously attributes the uni imbroglio to Fanatics instead of Nike), the photo was taken by beat writer Alex Pavlovic, who posted it to his Instagram story. Pavlovic meant to highlight Schmitt’s mustache, but people quickly noticed, uh, something else. Pavlovic deleted the post, but by then the toothpaste was out of the tube.

Naturally, someone quickly turned the viral moment into a T-shirt:

In a less prurient but no less hilarious development from yesterday, the Guardians tweeted this photo:

I mean, come on!

The transparent pants may explain why the Padres wore the old pants (you can tell from the belt loops) for yesterday’s spring training opener:

Screen shot by Tom Tell.

The Dodgers wore a mix — some players had the new pants and some wore the old. But their pants were grey, so the transparency issue presumably wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

Players’ union president Tony Clark (whose playing career included a uni-notable chapter) has been making the rounds at various teams’ spring training camps and says the pants are a “universal concern” among the players, so it seems likely that this issue will be addressed before Opening Day.

(My thanks to Camryn Brown for the T-shirt link.)



Pants Aren't the Only Problem

In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, I’m keeping a running tally of jerseys whose chest lettering looks worse in the new template. Check it out here.



ITEM! 25th-Anniversary Coasters Now Available

The Uni Watch 25th-anniversary logo is now available on a very limited supply of coasters. They look really great!

I’m selling these in sets of three for $10, plus $1 shipping in the USA or $2 shipping outside the USA. One set per person. To order, send me the appropriate amount via Venmo (use @Paul-Lukas-2 as the payee), Zelle (, or PayPal ( If you want to use Apple Pay or a paper check, get in touch and I’ll give you the info you need.

The anniversary logo is also available as an embroidered patch, and also on T-shirts, hoodies, pint glasses, and stickers.

Speaking of T-shirts and such, most of our Teespring merchandise (including almost all of the Naming Wrongs tees) will go out of print at the end of this month, so get ’em while you can. Full details here.



Mascot Watch

Uni Watch boy mascot Waffles has gotten into the habit of perching on the barber chair with his front paws on the armrest. Pretty fucking adorable. (And yes, I need to wash my windows.)



Can of the Day

Have I mentioned lately how much I love block-shadowing? Also love the seemingly random Saturn icon.

Comments (63)

    Maybe the transparent pants were the plan all along – there is clearly yet another swoosh visible on Barlow. (I assume that’s Barlow).

    Who at that company thought it looked good to break the script names on front just so randomly? It looks horrible, like a cheap imitation you buy on Wish.

    RE: The old style pants.

    There was an article in the Athletic yesterday that some teams are wearing old stock due to supply issues. The Reds being one of the teams mentioned.

    Regarding the Cleveland picture, are their jersey’s just tailored different or do they have different sleeve cuffs?

    It looks like he’s wearing the old Replica jersey (Not the current “limited” jersey) that they sold to fans. There’s no side ventilation panels and the NOB looks heat pressed.

    After years of causing a downward spiral in uniforms Nike is finally being called to task.
    Paul you were quoted in this yahoo article today, which also had a misleading headline calling out Fanatics instead of Nike, but the story itself sets the record straight on who is at fault via your reporting.

    “MLB’s Fanatics-produced pants blasted by players, union chief: ‘The pants are see-through'”

    Maybe this is Nike’s plan.
    Bad jerseys… big outcry
    Really bad pants…. Massive outcry
    ***Nike fixes pants***
    People are like “Nike sorted out the bad problems”, outcry dies down & we are left with a Nike PR win but still the bad jerseys…

    Fixing a big mistake like this isn’t exactly a PR win. Nike was already unfavourable in the eyes of the public (at least in the baseball community), and I doubt people will get over this quickly.

    This is akin to John Stewart leaving the Daily Show just as Trump was announcing his run for office.

    I increasingly don’t mind, and am even coming around to slightly approving of, the Fanatics/Nike confusion in the mainstream and social media spaces. Each company is acting as a monopoly, one in sales and one in manufacturing. Each firm is engaging in exactly the types of bad-for-customers practices that monopolists who don’t face sales competition always engage in. So blaming the wrong monopolist for the particular instance of bad behavior by a monopolist exploiting its monopoly doesn’t really bother me. Nike’s monopolistic shoddiness is bad for its proximate customer, the teams and players, not necessarily for Fanatics’s retail customers of merchandise. But it’s still a monopoly doing monopoly crap, and the fundamental problem isn’t that Nike didn’t sufficiently exercise prudent quality control, the fundamental problem is that Nike is a monopolist doing monopoly crap. The solution here isn’t that Nike gets better at its job, the solution is that teams should have alternative manufacturers so that if one manufacturer tries to fob off objectively crappy pants, a team can call one of the competitors and order a few dozen dozen new pants to be ready by opening day and wear, for example, Rawlings or Wilson pants instead of crappy Nike pants. That used to be how MLB managed its uniform supply, and if that were still the case, Nike would never have unleashed these crappy pants onto the market. (I know the actual market players are different now than in the Rawlings/Wilson competition era; I use those firms’ names as a callback to when this particular market was defined by capitalist competition, not central-planning monopoly.) So for me the fundamental truth at play is that we’re looking at a monopoly, and monopoly is bad, not that we’re looking at one business in a free market producing a quirkily flawed product. In that light, getting the name of the particular monopolist engaging in the particular act of monopoly crap isn’t much of an error. Fanatics instead of Nike? Not strictly accurate, but also not wrong, in that Fanatics is also a monopoly and that’s bad too!

    I like the idea of multiple suppliers like the old days. Designs would also not be dictated by a single template. MLB must take blame as well, because they allowed this to be a monopoly by accepting $1 Billion over 10 years from Nike and apparently did not oversee them enough. That works out to about $3 Million a year per team. That is what they sold the aesthetics out for.

    One billion for 30 teams for 10 years is $33 million per team annually. That doesn’t make it right. But these guys would sell their own mothers for a quick buck on the open market. They make all decisions by considering one single variable: cash. A pitiful bunch of humans.

    It is $1 Billion for the 10 years, not each year. So $100 Million per year divided by 30 teams is $3.3 Million per team per year. Forbes wrote about it as well.


    Exactly…”Template” is the major issue here. Teams should be able to go to their uniform manufacturer and say, “This is what we want” and have it done. As it works now, it’s “This is what we have, make it fit your template”. I applaud the Green Bay Packers every year they refuse to change THEIR design and look to fit a Nike template.

    It is actually much less than that because some other company (Adidas, Rawlings, Wilson, Mizuno, etc) would have paid something to get that contract. If Nike outbid the next highest offer by $100 million, that is only $333,333 per team per year.

    Nike makes sure their precious swoosh is front and center on all these uniforms. But now that it’s a complete train wreck, somehow it’s all dumped on Fanatics? F—- Nike.

    Hahaha, yes, the fans really care that they are repping Nike, not their teams, so better make sure that Nike graphic is the highest quality item on the piece of merch.

    Maybe that isn’t Saturn, but something orbiting Earth…”Touring the circle ” so to speak.

    How can this mess be solved before opening day? I think they must call in other companies to help them out. Nobody wants to play semi-naked in front of a full stadium when the regular season starts. This pants episode will not be forgotten. As for the shoddy jerseys, we will have to live with that until 2030.

    You probably have to live with some form of Nike pants until 2030 as well, unless they change the contract. At least most if not all players will have a cup on during games I hope!

    Psst… your balls are showing… bumbawayachuna!

    At first I didn’t think I would hate the smaller, seemingly tighter sleeves, but now that I see them on the field. Yep, I hate ’em. Ugh.

    This is the new school of crisis management. Just don’t say anything and hope the controversy burns itself out.

    Nike will consider this to be a crisis as soon as it’s costing them money. Until then, they will consider it to be a non-issue.

    As a Giants fan, I certainly couldn’t have predicted this exact scenario to kick off the season, but I can say that my response to this news was “that seems about right”.

    As for the rest of the uniforms, what problem did Nike solve with the narrower placket that was more of an issue than the problem they created (awful new word breaks for many teams)?

    We’re missing the real point here. Just think how much faster the players will be in the lighter, see-through pants.

    agreed, as someone who reads daily i’ve been really disappointed unfortuantely. not just in all the “ball humor” but the seemingly unnecessary repetitiveness of it all

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on what constitutes “necessary,” Jem. From my perspective, these are each distinct phases of a developing story.

    If you feel otherwise, that’s fine. But I’ll still report the news the way that makes sense to me.

    Meanwhile, there are sooooo many other posts I’ve done this week that have had nothing to do with the see-thru pants, so I trust you’ve been able to read those instead.

    Majority has been about this or adjacent the last few days and yes agree to disagree which isfine. spose it’s my personal preference about not really liking the ball humor and consistently seeing pictures zoomed in like that of peoples groins. still appreciate your work overall

    i was talking about the last few days, so feel free to demonstrate based on # of posts or word count related to pants/balls/nike/adjacent. i don’t think it’s demonstrably false. i also think the balls picture on this post is false *doctored*, i could be wrong, but so could you, and i don’t think that’s up to your usual standards based on what i’ve read over the years. anyway all’s good – i just learned this week that i should make sure to go to the site first before my daughter who i’ve been trying to get into unis & design

    Defector ran a piece on the new pants but then used a mix of old and new pants photos to illustrate the issue, which to me illustrates the issue with the media not fully understanding the topic (they also put all the blame on Fanatics in the story.)

    A lot of this reminds me of how Reebok destroyed the look of many NHL teams with their cookie cutter templates a while back. Eventually teams found their looks again. Hopefully MLB does the same but quicker (and hopefully Fanatics doesn’t re-destroy the NHL in the coming seasons).

    Incredible timing of all of this controversy. In Paul’s final few months writing about uniforms we have arguably the biggest uniform news story in years that isn’t just the typical new uniform reveal. Getting mainstream news coverage and is not going away any time soon. Is this Paul’s “The Last Dance”?

    No one has mentioned the poor Giants player whose personal effects are now the focus of the baseball world -plus internet jokes untold.
    He’s a victim of viral and has no control of it.
    Sad for him.
    Hopefully he can laugh it off…

    I do feel bad for him, but…

    If you’re wearing a baseball uniform you should be wearing a cup. Even for a photo shoot.

    If you don’t wear one during a game, you’re…well…nuts.

    “(which erroneously attributes the uni imbroglio to Fanatics instead of Nike)”

    I know I wrote a long comment on this yesterday so I won’t belabor it too much today, but it fascinates me how much of the ire is being pitched towards Fanatics (who I have no warm feelings for) and not Nike. I really believe it is a consequence of the tail wagging the dog as far as merch in the Uni world goes. Because Fanatics are selling the jerseys to fans and because people can’t stand the way Fanatics does business and don’t like their merchandise (very valid points, and timely considering the massive mess they’ve created with WrestleMania this week, but that’s another discussion) so they are reveling in ripping them over this, when as Paul (and other journalists) have pointed out, the issues with the on-field uniforms are Nike issues.

Comments are closed.