Best and worst baseball uniforms by the numbers
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Last week, ESPN’s Jim Caple came out with a ranking of the best and worst uniforms in baseball and came under fire for putting the San Diego Padres last because of their military uniform. However, he also had a few missteps ranking the classic Washington Nationals in the bottom five, while putting the horrendous Miami Marlins in the top 10. He also alleged that his rankings were purely based on each team’s home uniform alone, but proceeded to include a critique of each team based on their alternate uniforms.
This got me thinking: What team has the best total uniform repertoire in the major leagues? So, I came up with a ranking system basing each uniform a team has designated for the year 2012 (excluding the one-time throwbacks or holiday uniforms).
The point system works like this:
-13 – great uniform
-12 – good uniform
-01 – above average
-10 – breaks even/good parts and bad parts
0-1 – below average
1-2 – ugly uniform
1-3 – eyesore
I then calculated the total score and divided the earned points by the possible amount of points to determine a “greatness percentage.” This way, a team like the Rockies with five possible uniform combinations would be judged on the same basis as a team like the Yankees that only has two uniform options. Basically, what I am looking for in a uniform is an original home uniform with a road uniform that is either a mirror image of the home, or a sharp uniform that plainly says the city name. Alternates should also be as similar. Hats come into play, as well. Any ties really came down to my own biased judgment, but overall, this was an effort to ensure that no matter what day it is, no matter where a team is playing, the best aesthetic product was on the field.
30. Cleveland Indians: 6% uniform greatness
Home 0; Road -1; Alt Home 1; Alt Blue 1; Classic 0
Right from the start: This is not because the Indians logo could be considered racist. All that aside, these are unoriginal, over-caricaturized or otherwise boring uniforms. The Indians have four different uniform combinations: a home uniform with a script “Indians,” a road uniform with a block-letter “Cleveland” that is an attempt at a throwback, an actual throwback that acts as an alternate uniform, and their usual blue alternate, which is worn both home and away. Make up your mind, Cleveland. I would suggest going back to the drawing board altogether. The throwbacks are too bland and the home version looks mismatched with blue socks. The more modern uniforms are trying a little too hard to be clever with an “I” in the shape of a headdress feather and have too many colors. Cleveland has the opportunity to be creative with what they have and maybe return to a red uniform while still having a classy uniform, but instead they go with dark blue. The MLB has seen enough of that.
29. Tampa Rays: 6% uniform greatness
Home 1; Road 1; Alt Blue 0; Alt Light -2; Classic 1
The Rays uniforms are pedestrian and lazy. They have a good idea moving from the green to a more ocean-centric blue, but the home and away uniforms are safe and indistinct with a bland “TB” logo on the hats. The dark blue alternate is understandable, but the blue numbers on blue shirts doesn’t work. They need to better employ the light blue outline. As for the light blue uniforms, they are too bright for a team that plays in what essentially looks like a parking garage. Give them a classic point for the stripped socks.
28. San Diego Padres: 13% uniform greatness
Home 0; Road 0; Alt Army 0; Alt Blue 1; Classic 1
Poor Padres. They have never had a good-looking uniform and it is not because they wear camouflage on Sundays (which is really so they can seem as absent on the field as they do in the standings), but because their uniforms are all incredibly boring. I actually like the evolution of the military uniforms they have been wearing, but if they would wear something as creative as that every day, they might come up with something praiseworthy.
27. Miami Marlins: 20% uniform greatness
Home 0; Road 1; Alt Orange 2; Alt Black 0; Classic 0
I don’t mind what the Marlins tried to do by incorporating the colors of a coastal Miami sunset into their uniforms, but with all the options they had to go from historically – even as a minor-league franchise – this uniform breaks-even in a classic rating. The lettering on the black, road and orange uniforms all use this sunset lettering throughout, but the black-heavy home uniform doesn’t. Furthermore, why doesn’t the home uniform say “Marlins” like the orange one does? A lot could have been done with this but wasn’t.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: 20% uniform greatness
Home 0; Road 2; Alt Red 0; Alt Black -1; Classic 2
Missed it by that much, Arizona. Good job moving away from the awful green and purple uniforms of the 1990s and early 2000s in favor of a red scheme – which matches with Arizona neighbors the Cardinals and Coyotes – but really? D’Backs? Every logo you have – the diamond-backed “A”; The snake “D”; The rattler-head “DB” – are all really clever and unique, and you couldn’t find a better way to incorporate them than as a sleeve logo and the breastplate of a really horrid black alternate? Give it one more try.
25. Kansas City Royals: 33% uniform greatness
Home 2; Road 2; Alt Blue 2; Alt Blue -2; Classic 1
The Royals uniforms are safe yet historic, but with a blue and white spectrum there isn’t much more that can be done. The simple script home uniforms are sleek and classy, and the road employs a trend toward using the city name on travel uniforms. For alternates, the royal blue is obvious, but the light blue attempts to replicate the George Brett road blues and fails. Stick to one alternate.
24. Atlanta Braves: 33% uniform greatness
Home 3; Road 1; Alt Home 3; Alt Red 0; Alt Blue -3; Classic 2
The Braves are killing me. If it wasn’t for the awful new blue uniforms introduced in 2008, they would easily be the best uniforms in baseball. They also now use the same solid blue hat with the road uniform, tainting those, as well, by replacing the top-selling hat in baseball as of 2007. However, if you’re catching a game at Turner Field this year, you will be seeing a well-dressed team without question. Not only are the standard home uniforms one of the best of all time, but they have also introduced a crème-white alternate – sans tomahawk underline – on weekends that is rather sharp, and thus move the red alternates to Friday nights. Just avoid the blue road hats.
23. Houston Astros: 40% uniform greatness
Home -1; Road 1; Alt Red 3; Alt Home 2; Classic 1
If the Astros could get as much of the black color out of their uniforms as possible, their look would improve exponentially. They started to do so in 2011 by wearing their red alternate hats with the road uniform, which better matched the red script “Houston,” but they still wear black hats with black pinstripes on their default home uniforms which aren’t nearly as sharp as the alternative options they have.
22. Colorado Rockies: 44% uniform greatness
Home 1; Road 2; Alt Home 0; Alt Black 2; Alt Purple 1; Classic 2
The reason the Rockies employ so many alternates is because their home uniforms are just a bit too bland, but with so many alternates, the alternate home vest uniform is just overkill. Pick one. The road uniform is their best, and the alternate black vest and purple are both original and nicely reflect the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
21. Boston Red Sox: 47% uniform greatness
Home 3; Road -2; Alt Red 1; Alt Blue 2; Classic 3
Despite Boston’s home uniform being one of – if not the – best uniforms in baseball, they fall tremendously short with the new road uniforms they introduced in 2009 effectively replacing one of the sharpest road uniforms at the time. They are boring, repetitive and even worse: They reflect a uniform that was worn during the Bill Buckner game. The Red Sox have not won a playoff game since making the switch. Coincidence? The only redeeming quality is the dangling sox patch on the sleeve, but it only appears on that one uniform. The Friday blue road alternate is an obvious reflection of the typical road jersey, but the red is rather plain. It needs piping like the first red alternate which was introduced in 2003.
20. Detroit Tigers: 58% uniform greatness
Home 3; Road 2; Classic 3
Kudos to the Tigers for avoiding the obvious blue and white or blue and orange alternate uniform, but only one of their two uniforms is particularly sharp. The home uniform with a crisp blue piping and classic “D” insignia on the breast need not be reflected in the road uniform, but the blue “Detroit” script outline by both orange and white is too much. A solid orange outline would be nice and reflect the orange cap insignia used with the road uniforms.
19. Minnesota Twins: 60% uniform greatness
Home 1; Road 1; Alt Home 3; Alt Blue 3; Classic 1
When they moved into the new Target Field, the Twins reintroduced an off-white uniform and its road counterpart as their primary home uniform and default road uniform. The home is excellent in that it is both historic and compliments the sandstone color of Target Field, and, although the road is a nice inverse to this, it alters its archetype in that the lettering is blue, whereas the original was red. The biggest problem is that the Twins have yet to retire the white pinstriped home uniforms of Kirby Puckett’s era that worked well in the Metrodome, but not in outdoor Minneapolis.
18. Seattle Mariners: 67% uniform greatness
Home 3; Road 3; Alt Teal -1; Alt Blue 2; Classic 3
What is it with Seattle and bright, ugly uniforms? Probably the worst professional uniform in recent memory is the Seahawks’ lime-green uniforms against the Bears in 2009 and now the Mariners have followed suit with the resurgence of a teal home alternate. Personally, I like their blue alternate and would rather see that on a Friday night at Safeco Field before anything else, but their home and away uniforms draw no complaints and their logo is an adept blend of city and symbol, with the S surrounding a compass rose. I am also a sucker for a classic color scheme that replicates itself in multiple teams in a city.
17. Texas Rangers: 67% uniform greatness
Home 2; Road 2; Alt Red 1; Alt Blue 2; Classic 3
Rangers uniforms are a walking Texas flag, and why shouldn’t they be? However, they mix and match far too often. When worn with the white home uniforms the red hats clash with the blue lettering and it is not nearly as crisp as the red-on-red or the blue-on-blue. When worn at the appropriate times, the Rangers uniforms are pretty sharp, particularly with the alteration of Ranger-style font added to the nameplate and numbers.
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