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Report: Royals Forced to Change NOB Lettering for ‘Consistency’

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Aloha! Paul here, checking in from Hawaii with an update on the biggest uni-related storyline of the young MLB season — the mystery surrounding the Royals’ NOB lettering.

As you may recall, the Royals used the old-style full-size lettering during spring training, which looked so much better than the smaller lettering that other teams adopted for the 2024 season:

In late February I broke the exclusive story that the team had specifically asked to maintain the full-size lettering (much like the Cardinals had asked to maintain their chain-stitched chest insignia). It seemed like an object lesson in the rewards of having a bit of gumption.

But when the regular season began on Thursday, people immediately noticed that KC’s full-size lettering had been replaced by the new smaller, standardized size:

I had told myself that I wasn’t going to do any Uni Watch work on this vacation, but I was so intrigued by this development that I contacted a Royals spokesman and asked what had happened. He declined to comment and referred all questions to Nike and MLB

Of course, MLB and Nike both long ago stopped talking to me, but Kansas City Star columnist Pete Grathoff was able to get an explanation, although it’s a highly unsatisfying one:

The Royals declined comment on why they had switched [to the smaller lettering], directing questions to Major League Baseball.

A league spokesman said the lettering on the Royals uniforms had been updated so there is consistency with other Major League Baseball teams.

Annoyingly, this explanation raises as many questions as it answers. For instance:

  • Although the explanation came from MLB, it’s not clear where the directive came from. In other words, did this sudden emphasis on “consistency” come from MLB or from Nike?
  • What is the specific benefit or advantage of “consistency” when it comes to NOB lettering size? What is gained, and what loss is avoided?
  • If it’s so important for all teams to have a consistent NOB lettering size, why did Nike and MLB initially grant the Royals’ request to maintain the full-size lettering? In other words, why did “consistency” suddenly become such a priority for the regular season when it wasn’t prioritized for spring training?
  • To what extent, if any, was this decision driven by merchandising issues?
  • What happened to the jerseys that the Royals wore in spring training? Were they relettered, or were they replaced by new jerseys? If the latter, then what will become of the spring jerseys? It seems like they could become interesting collectors’ items.

Any way you slice it, it’s yet another wrinkle in the seemingly endless fiasco of the 2024 MLB uniform rollout. What a shitshow.




Mascot Watch

The only bad thing about being on vacation is that I miss Uni Watch mascots Waffles and Biscuit so much! Fortunately, my neighbor Jason has been cat-sitting, and yesterday he sent me a bunch of photos, including this one. Awwwww, li’l cuties.




Can of the Day

I’m thinking I may have to start a new collection: products whose names include “Seal” and whose package designs include a seal.

Comments (69)

    Well, you already used the word “shitshow”, but I struggle to find another fitting word (though my insomnia may be a factor in limiting my creative thinking at the moment).

    Really, though, this has come down to nobody from MLB and Nike actually being an adult and taking responsibility for the clusterfuck that has been this uniform rollout. The silence is deafening.

    Someone at MLB or Nike saw the Royals jerseys and realized they couldn’t let it continue into the regular season because it REALLY made the other jersey lettering stand out as crap. This is on par with New Coke.

    Yes and the complaints from the other teams demanding exemptions as well must have been relentless.

    In this instance, it seems to me worse than New Coke. With the Royals, Nike/MLB seems to have discovered themselves in a position where one better product made the rest of their products look worse by comparison, so they took the one better product off the market. That’s the equivalent of Coke execs responding to the backlash against the inferior New Coke by reformulating Sprite to also taste sickly sweet and vaguely of Dr. Pepper, rather than just reintroducing the old-formula Coke.

    Why force every team into the smallest NOB that anyone could fathom? Could be as simple as it would use the least material, stitching, factory time and labor on every on field jersey and all the associated merch. That of course would result in lowest cost fathomable, thus highest profit. It backfires if merch sales tank as a result.

    If jersey sales don’t tank, then fans have no one to blame but themselves.

    Amen to this. The consumer can absolutely dictate the direction. I just hope enough people take notice to the minutiae that we Uni-Watchers do and take a stand.

    I wonder why someone finally decided now this was suddenly something that had to be changed? Nike has been the supplier for years. They never cared about “consistency” before. But now they suddenly do?

    I don’t even mind the smaller font — Baltimore has always used one around that size (maybe 1/4″ bigger?), and the Cardinals did until around 1989; it makes the number more prominent, which is good. I just hate the terrible positioning and how the MLB logo is more intrusive than ever.

    Plenty of minor league jerseys have had a league logo in this lower position, but because they mostly only have numbers on the backs, it doesn’t look as bad. It looks like the Yankees’ NNOB road jerseys have the number in its normal spot. Maybe we’ll see more teams go back to NNOB as fans start noticing how bad the NOB jerseys look.

    Respectfully, I’d have to disagree that the numbers’ relative prominence is even a good thing. In fact, if it weren’t for the poor resulting aesthetic, it’d make sense to get rid of uniform numbers altogether and make the NOB the only identifying feature on the uniform. Unless you’re an obsessive superfan, odds are you aren’t familiar with most of the uni numbers of even your lifelong team. The NOB is the only thing I’m looking for when I see a player take the field; his number is, at best, an interesting bit of unnecessary trivia.

    No, no, you have it all wrong. The smaller letters make the jerseys more breathable and easier for the players to stretch! The perforated numbers and napkin like material make them 120% faster! At this rate, in 2028 when they tweak the uniforms even more, we’re going to have to ask the players to stop going full speed during plays because we won’t be able to watch them when they are another 200% faster with our bare eyes.

    I have to believe the change was made due to retailing issues. I doubt Fanatics was going to manufacture only the Royals in a different NOB size.

    Assuming the plan was for the uniforms in the Royals shop to match the new style/template/chassis, they couldn’t let the on-field product be different.

    I’d be surprised if this was not the reason. It’s all about the retail $$$.

    Hadn’t thought of this angle (and the logic is definitely sound) my thought was that perhaps other teams began asking for exemptions and Nike or MLB decided to nip it in the bud by declaring “consistency” to be of the utmost importance.

    I’m beginning to this *this* is exactly why the Royals NOBs are now smaller — Nike/Fanatics have already created a boatload of fan jerseys with the smaller NOBs, and rather than pull them back to change the size, they’ve forced the team to wear the “standard” NOB so the retail slop will mirror “what the players wear.”

    It’s gotta be the retail tail wagging the onfield dog here.

    Pulling out an old Scrubs quote: I’m gagging and vomiting at the same time… I’m… gavomiting!

    As I watch the early Rockies season already spiraling out of control, it occurs to me that I don’t know half the names on this young roster. And I sure can’t figure them out by reading the NOB fine print. As they say, “Programs! Get’cher programs! Can’t tell the players without a program!”

    This is clearly designed to boost program sales. Big Program dictated this move.

    Do teams even produce programs anymore I haven’t noticed them at Nats Park in years. If they have them, they’re not promoting them very well.

    Next year there will just be a giant swoosh across every player’s back, and a wee tiny name on the upper right breast.

    Will the next step be that all teams must use the same number font for consistency?

    Waiting for someone to make this argument. So they are defining “consistency” as “size of jersey letters”. But many teams still use bespoke fonts (Phillies, Padres, Giants, Brewers, Twins, to name 5), and 2 teams don’t wear any NOB at home (Red Sox) or ever (Yankees).
    This is another nonsense argument and they expect most people to buy it.
    The only possible good outcome is if the lettering shrinks to the point of disappearing, and every team goes no NOB.

    Fixed it for you –
    “…which looked so much better than the smaller lettering that other teams had shoved down their throats for the 2024 season”

    So will the Yankees be forced to put tiny names on their backs? You know, for consistency?

    The TV manufacturers made this happen so they can sell more of their 100+” TV’s to us who can’t read the small lettering.

    They restrict the size of lettering yet there are teams (Yankees, Red Sox) with no nameplates. I guess the backlash against this restriction is simple. Teams need to decide to go no name on back.

    Exactly this. The great silver lining for me would be if more teams decided to go NNOB. “But how will we tell who the players are without tiny names on their backs?” Two ways: They wear giant unique numbers on their backs; and the players are actual human beings with, you know, faces.

    There was a time, not all that long ago, when I’d see a random complaint about NOB. My *go-to* reply would always be, “If only there were some other way of identifying the player…” or words to that effect.

    In this climate of mandatory consistency I would think the Yankees and Red Sox would go NOB before another team went nameless.

    I actually prefer the smaller lettering, apparently the only one who does, but would really prefer NNOB league wide

    I would really dislike no names on the back. I want to be able to identify players.

    More power to you if you know every player’s number off the top of your head. But I don’t. And neither does the majority of other viewers.

    “ I’m thinking I may have to start a new collection: products whose names include “Seal” and whose package designs include a seal.”

    This could’ve gone in an entirely different direction. So glad you chose the “Seal”, and not the “Whiz.”

    “Consistency” between what they are wearing on-field and what the league/Nike/Fanatics will be selling to the fan. At least with respect to the Elite model.

    MLB is concerned about “consistency”?????
    OK, then, can we get players all wearing the same colored shoes, belts, socks, and sleeves for “consistency?”

    I’d be willing to bet this was a financial decision, made by the Royals. My guess is the MLB spokesperson was trying to hide the truth without lying.

    I’m guessing this is another Fanatics thing. Fanatics probably told the Royals they’ll have to pay for the extra manufacturing hassle of having one team with different sized NOB lettering.

    There are definitely things to not like about the new template (the material for me, is the most problematic) but the smaller names thing I do not get the anger over.

    Full disclosure, I wish there were no names on any baseball uniforms. Everyone should look like a Spring Training non-roster invitee, but for all season. The team I support, the Red Sox, of course doesn’t have names on it’s home uniforms and I love that. The only thing I admire about the Yankees is that they are completely name-free.

    That said, a lot of teams do have names, I get that, but frankly had no one mentioned that the name plates were smaller this season I would not have even noticed. So I really don’t think they look bad smaller.

    It makes the players harder to identify on the field and on TV. And looks terrible. I would be unhappy if my team stopped having names on the back.

    Respectively, you could probably count on one finger the percentile of fans to whom a uni number imparts any information whatsoever. As I posted elsewhere on this article, it would be a better idea to do away with uni numbers and use only NOBs–they’re the only way most people can identify a player anyway.

    That’s fine if I’m in the minority. I enjoy watching old games of my team. Especially World Series games. And when there’s a cluster of players of the field after the game, I like being able to easily identify who the players are. As well in the team photos.

    I used to collect cards of game used jersey cards. And those that still collect would not be pleased with fewer materials on the jerseys. I get that Nike or all the non collectors won’t care. But many will. And just from a fashion standpoint, uniforms with a name and number always look better to me.

    Sickened and saddened lately as the look of so many pro sports leagues declines…stopped watching NASCAR Cup because of the numbers – now I won’t watch MLB because of the letters. Luckily, radio is still available!

    This is the second “I’m not watching baseball anymore because of the uniforms,” post I’ve seen this week and I just can not fathom no longer watching a sport, or in any way changing my behavior towards it, because of the uniforms. I understand not buying merchandise anymore, that’s certainly a rational response. But to no what anymore…because of the uniforms!?!? Did you ever really actually like baseball and NASCAR to begin with? I think you need to ask yourself that.

    Yeah, I’m guessing those who say this might just be engaging in a bit of hyperbole, but I’ll tell you what’s starting to turn me off to baseball and football: putting games on streaming services. It’s not so bad for baseball, if I have to occasionally miss a Friday night game on Amazon or whatever, but the NFL now has a minimum of one game a week on streaming (TNF) and now some playoff games are on Peacock (and I’m sure others will follow). I think the Brazil game is only on streaming as well.

    Yes, I’m old, but I’m not subscribing to a bunch of streaming services. I already pay over $300/month for cable (and I’m even starting to rethink that, although a good chunk of that is for Internet) — but I’m not going to start adding different streaming services at another $5-10 per month each. If the leagues’ goal is to capture younger fans, I get that. But there’s a limit. I can still enjoy baseball even with ads on sleeves, but I’m not going to start forking over even more money just for the privilege of watching games.

    If ANYTHING gets me to stop watching baseball and football, it’s this nickel and diming me, not ads. Ads sully the uniforms and are horrible, but at least I can still see the games if I want…but I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to pay for anything more than ESPN and Red Zone.

    I don’t enjoy watching games as much anymore. Partly because of all the additional annoying ads introduced over the past few years. And partly because the game has changed so much. And not for the better.

    I’ve been going more old school the past year or so. Listen to more games on radio than watch on TV. Nats radio team is better than MASN broadcast. Also have the audio through which is around $15 year. Can listen to either teams’ local broadcast. No blackouts with audio either.

    “Did you ever really actually like baseball and NASCAR to begin with?”
    Yes – and heck yes!
    The 2 alterations I mention are to me (YMMV) last straws in haybales of horrible developments/‘innovations’ in both sports. I stuck with their products through the death of day games, splitters and Cars Of Tomorrow, pandering caps and tops, gimmick race venues and city connect, the expansion of the DH and playoffs/Chase, sleeve ads and ‘sponsored’ stage breaks + the white flag lap. All these things plus the latest changes in lettering and numbering have made these events near-impossible to enjoy watching on TV and in person. My Love for baseball isn’t tied to MLB anymore , as my passion for stock car racing isn’t linked to Cup – and radio is often a better option than the tube these days.

    Yes Nascar fan here too, don’t forget single file restarts back in the day ugh …
    To you and Phil, there’s a sponsor of this website that is a great alternative to cable service…I’ve been using it for 6 months has full online DVR, I record my races and watch them later it works well as long as I don’t get the ending spoiled by a news feed, service is fantastic…

    This comes closer to making sense if you read “consistency” as referring to a consistency between on-field and retail jerseys, with the on-field jersey being an advertisement for the retail product.

    It’s comedic how absolutely committed they are to this manifestly bad design. The team to modify it so you can actually read the letters, and [apparently nike or mlb] said “no.”

    Next they’ll be requesting that the players stop hitting baseballs and running around so much, because it really distracts attention away from the advertisements.

    I’m sure it all adds up to someone…

    Shrink the player names, the team names (or change the team names to something inoffensive like Guardians), and then you have room for more and larger ads. Just like soccer jerseys everywhere.

    Question when Steve Cohn helped his press conference the other day, he was Was wearing a warm-up jacket, but in the style and color of the 1911 Black uniform Style uniform

    Think the NOB issue may be superseded by all the flop sweat coming through on the road grays.

    Sincere question: has there _ever_ in the history of uniform design/suppliers been a designer more consistent than Nike in its unerring ability to make the worst possible choice _every single time_?

    Easy answer. Because it’s cheaper for Nike/Fanatics. There’s absolutely no reason for templated jerseys, fonts, etc., other than it’s cheaper to make. Manfred has managed to allow the biggest mistake in contracting; allowing the contracted bidder to become the boss. Nike now tells MLB what they’re getting instead of MLB telling the bidder what you have to provide in exchange for being awarded this contract.

    I’m surprised the Yankees were able to strong arm Nike not mandating a new City jersey when everyone but one other team has them.

    Not to go all “slippery slope,” but if “consistency” is why MLB needs to insist the Royals NOBs, what’s the next step? Removing front numbers? Forcing the Yankees and Red Sox to wear NOBs?

    Nike has been ruining baseball uniforms from the moment they took over. They made the Tigers switch the Old English D on their jerseys (which had been in place basically since the 1930s) to match their caps in order to have “brand synergy.” And then all these dreadful “City Connect” uniforms that I have yet to see a single kid wear. Thank God for the Yankees who not only don’t have City Connect uniforms, but doubled down and actually made their road uniforms MORE minimalist and reverted back to what they wore from 1931 until 1972.

    Most dislike the Yankees new uniforms with no white outline. And sleeve stripes changed.

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