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Nike? Fanatics? Nope, Turns Out It’s MLB’s Fault! (Maybe)

For nearly two weeks now, I’ve been telling people that the problems with the new MLB uniforms are Nike’s fault, not Fanatics’s fault. But according to ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst Eduardo Pérez, some of the biggest changes we’ve seen were actually done at Major League Baseball’s initiative (although Pérez seems more okay with them than most of us are).

Here’s the deal: Pérez was a guest on Friday’s episode of the Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney podcast. The talk eventually turned to the new uniforms (that segment begins at the 14:52 mark), and Pérez — without any prompting from Olney — brought up the issue of the MLB logo being lowered on the back of the jersey. Here’s what he said:

The MLB logo, the bat[ter]man, that’s usually up by the collar, that was brought down. And because it was brought down the names have been brought down, and because the names have been brought down, the brand also has been brought down, of the team. And that’s a decision that really wasn’t made by Nike or the players or the teams. It was made by Major League Baseball. And that’s the part that we have to understand. Look, you want to get that brand out there, you want to be able to showcase it, you want it a little bit bigger, these are the sacrifices that are having, that have to be made.

This is a very muddled quote that seems to raise more questions than it answers. For example:

  • Pérez notes that the player names were moved downward. But is he saying that’s why the NOB lettering had to be made smaller, because there’s less space for it? He seems to be implying that, but he doesn’t actually say it.
  • Pérez then says that “because the names have been brought down, the brand also has been brought down, of the team.” What does that even mean? There are no team logos or branding on the back of MLB jerseys. The only thing beneath the player names are the numbers. Did he mean to say “numbers” instead of “brand”? It’s a bizarre quote.
  • Pérez then wraps things up by saying, “Look, you want to get that brand out there, you want to be able to showcase it, you want it a little bit bigger, these are the sacrifices that are having, that have to be made.” Is he talking about the team’s brand or MLB’s brand? Is he implying that the MLB logo is not just lower but also bigger? When he talks about necessary “sacrifices,” is he referring to the smaller NOB lettering? (I was so perplexed by the line about making the brand bigger that I asked on Twitter if someone could compare the MLB logo sizes on old vs. new authentic jerseys. The answer: The logo has not gotten bigger.)

The one unambiguous thing about Pérez’s quote is that he says lowering the logo was MLB’s idea. But why would they do that? Just to “showcase” it, as Pérez suggests? This article speculates that they may have done it because some players’ long hair was obscuring the logo. But SB Nation writer Robert Behrens has an interesting counter-conjecture:

So what Behrens is saying there — and I think it sounds plausible — is that, yes, technically speaking, MLB had the logo moved down. But they only did that because of Nike’s narrower placket and collar. If they had left the logo in the same spot, the logo would have to be a bit smaller to fit into the smaller headspoon space, which MLB didn’t want to do. This would explain Pérez’s line about the “brand” being “a little bit bigger” — in other words, bigger than the reduced size that would have been necessary if they’d left it in the original spot.

Of course, this still wouldn’t explain the other ambiguities in Pérez’s quote. I really wish Olney had asked him to clarify things. I DM’d Pérez last night and asked him to explain his thoughts in greater detail; no response yet.

If Behrens is interpreting Pérez’s statement correctly, that would mean Nike and MLB are both at fault for the rear-jersey problems — Nike for creating a template that didn’t accommodate MLB’s longstanding logo patch, and MLB for ruining the back of the jersey just because they were unwilling to let their logo be a few millimeters smaller. Of course, that still wouldn’t still tell us why the collar/placket/headspoon were made narrower to begin with.

But we’re still still stuck in the realm of conjecture here, because — as I spelled out last week in my open letter to Nike — we’re largely operating in an information vacuum. And that’s because Nike and MLB have told us almost nothing about why these changes were made (aside from giving us vague statements about “improving performance”).

So I say to both Nike and MLB: Please tell us the full story behind these changes already, including who made which decisions, and why. Sheesh.

(My thanks to Phil for making me aware of Pérez’s appearance on Olney’s podcast.)

Comments (34)

    I’m genuinely baffled at the idea of MLB needing to “get their brand out there” when referring to their logo on the jerseys. If I’m watching baseball, I know that I’m watching the MLB, and that has nothing to do with the logo on the jerseys. I’m sure it’s the same for 99.99999% of other viewers.

    This seems to be a trend that I find baffling as well. It’s incredible the number times I stream a TV show, and the actual content is preceded by an advertisement for the exact thing that I’m trying to watch. Maybe someone in advertising can explain this, but I don’t understand the constant need to sell me on something I’ve already been sold on!

    It was the same during thursday night NFL games. Amazon was showing commercials for amazon prime! LIke, if you are watching the game, you already have prime. Duh.

    I don’t think that is always true – I swear I remember an Eagles TNF game available on a channel other than Amazon Prime. But we have Prime so I may be wrong.

    I could be totally wrong, but I think they create those short ads just as filler, hoping to replace them with advertisements from other companies.

    Yeah, my understanding is that that’s unsold inventory. For a non-sports show, you only have ~44 minutes of content per hour, and if you only sell 13 minutes of ads, you need something to do with the other three minutes.

    (For sports, of course, you could just go back to the game, but then people might get used to shorter commercial breaks, and we can’t have that.)

    I could be wrong, but they’re almost certainly referring to MLB branding on retail jerseys, right? They need to make sure the MLB logo isn’t any smaller on stuff people buy and are wearing on the street, not the in-game jerseys. This is likely a tail-wagging-the-dog situation.

    I don’t like it, but you’re probably right.

    I’m not any less baffled though. If someone sees an MLB jersey out in the wild and they don’t know what it is, I don’t see how the batterman logo on the back is going to help.

    IDK man, I’ve been a Red Sox fan my whole life and I’m just now learning that they play in Major League Baseball. This whole time I thought I was watching the KBO League.

    Thanks, MLB. Thought I was watching WNBA basketball until I say that batterman logo.
    Jeez, what pro league suffers from more self-inflicted wounds?

    It’s a miracle the league survived for over 100 years before the logo was put on the back. They ran such a risk of people not knowing what league they were watching…

    Teams could also just remove the names on the backs of the jerseys like the Yankees & Red Sox do. True fans will know what players wear what numbers. Has anyone ever questioned a fan wearing a Yankees 99 jersey of who’s jersey it is? And if so, well then you’re just not a real fan.

    I guess I’m not a real fan. Between the Pirates being out of market for me, and a dumpster fire I only watch a few games a year and don’t know the numbers of most of the team, furthermore I don’t know the numbers of most of the opposing teams either.

    I mean no offense to any Uni-Watchers who are in marketing, but those Pérez quotes really just strengthen my conviction that like 80% of marketing is just throwing stuff at a wall, seeing what sticks, and then thinking up buzzwords afterwards to explain it.

    If it is really the case that Nike’s template was incompatible with the MLB logo as positioned it is so fitting. Nike has essentially altered the standard of NFL uniforms such that the sleeve has to accommodate (and often times by design highlight) their maker’s mark. NFL tv numbers are disappearing simply because they need that real estate to make sure the swoosh doesn’t get lost in the clutter.
    Meanwhile in baseball they make their logo intrusive on the chest, and actively design a template that cannot fit the logo of the league they are working for.
    “The swoosh must be seen, your brand, eh, we wont accommodate it in our new template, it is going to have to move.”

    To be fair, in the NFL, Nike just took the same spot that the Reebok logo was in. It was the players themselves who asked for tighter jerseys with smaller sleeves. Nike doesn’t even provide teams with jerseys that have the sleeves cut off, the in-house equipment team does all of those alterations.

    For MLB, Under Armor negotiated the front-of-chest placement for the maker’s mark. .In a business sense, it would be idiotic of Nike to ASK for it to be moved somewhere else.

    Your anger seems to be mis-placed

    No doubt the maker’s mark on NFL jerseys has been in essentially the same location for over 30 years, the difference is it was once fit into the open spaces available along the sleeves, now Nike specifically designs new uniforms to be sure to feature their mark, be it the presence, or lack thereof, of other elements near their mark, or the highly contrasting color of their mark to stand out as compared to other design elements on the jersey. See Bengals, Rams, Chargers, Seahawks, Titans, Patriots, etc.
    Regarding the MLB situation, it is just the fact that Nike has their logo front and center (regardless if UA initially reserved that spot or not), meanwhile the new template they designed cannot accommodate the league logo. If the MLB wants their logo there, why design a template that doesn’t allow for it? It just speaks to their design priorities seemingly centered around making sure you know you are looking at a Nike product, as compared to making a product that matches the design standards of their customers (NFL tv numbers, MLB logo placement, etc).

    Why can’t they just put the MLB logo on the back of the jersey over the seam? Seems like a lot of repositioning of a long-standing logo location for not a lot of benefit.

    What is a sign of a poorly run situation?
    You ask a simple question.
    You get five different possibilities.
    Isn’t that what’s going on here?

    I remember when there was no MLB logo on jerseys, pants or cap. Baseball was such a colossal failure when I was growing up.

    There was also when the NBA logo didn’t appear on the jersey pants, it stared to appear in the 86-87′ season, same with NFL logo which started to appear in 91′.

    The idea that MLB needs to “get their brand out there” makes me want to never watch another MLB game again. Echoing the comment at the top of this thread, if I’m watching or attending a baseball game, I know it’s MLB (unless it’s MiLB, but whatever).

    I’m genuinely curious what reaction the league expects out of making the logo more visible. Assuming most of this positioning is about selling tickets or merch, it seems the important driving factors are the either the team’s name on the front or the player’s name on the back. I know of nobody who goes out and buys an MLB jersey. They buy a Cubs jersey, or an Ohtani jersey. The batterman logo is cool, in the world of logos and such, but I don’t think anybody would stop buying Dodgers tickets if the MLB “brand” wasn’t “out there.”

    “I know of nobody who goes out and buys an MLB jersey.”
    This made me imagine Rob Lowe in the stands wearing a hat with the MLB logo as opposed to a team logo, like when he was at the Superbowl with a generic NFL shield hat on.

    Yes! That’s what this whole thing made me think of. Until we get more information, my guess is that Perez was either speculating on the reasons for the changes or misunderstood something that someone else said.

    I can’t be moved to think the shrinking trim isn’t a profit driven motive by nike, along with all of the other narratives about performance enhancements. It’s just inches, but those inches add up, especially when they’re not following their usual business model of producing overseas.

    I feel like “when in doubt, just assume it’s Manfred’s fault” is not an unsafe assumption in these dark times

    Making sure the MLB logo is visible on an MLB baseball teams jersey to increase brand recognition is such a small-minded line of thought. Especially if it caused the cascading effect to the rest of the back of the jersey. And with the worse looking, lower quality name, number, and logos, everyone will for sure be able to associate the MLB brand with low quality cheap looking shirts. Great!

    If they are so concerned about the “brand awareness” of MLB and the visibility of the logo – perhaps they should consider moving the MLB logo to the sleeve where the ad logo is. They could even make the MLB logo bigger, like many of the awful ads. I know, ad revenue…which apparently will need to offset the diminished jersey sales numbers this season.

    The only thing that makes senNike’s creative design decision to narrow the collar/placket/headspoon necessitated a relocation of the MLB logo.

    At the end of the day it is all about cutting production costs, maximizing profit, selling it as a performance imporovement endordes by the players and counting on most fans being gullible enough to buy it (literally). I think these new uniforms are a downgrade in every sense but at the end only a few (like us) will still care about it.

    Perhaps this makes sense. These new jerseys look so incredibly bush league that MLB feels it is important that you know these are actually major league jerseys.

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