Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

“Best fans” deserve better than new uniform changes

Complaining about the Cardinals’ 2013 uniform surely changes qualifies for a big old #firstworldproblems hash tag. But this being a baseball town, the national and world news being depressingly forlorn and that, in the week before Thanksgiving, a uniform announcement is the biggest headline in the Cardinals’ news cycle, a post regarding the team’s haberdashery is perhaps justified.

It is at least for this fan, who has an interest in the responsible stewardship of the team’s tradition and brand. Let’s start with a handful of things that we can commend about the team’s announcement regarding the new, yellowed alternate home jersey and the reversion of the team’s road cap to red:

  • They could have done much worse with the color. As follower wheeler compton noted on Twitter, At least the Cardinals “went with tradition unlike the Red Sox or Braves or any other team with a ‘solid’ colored 3rd jersey.”
  • Richer detail in the embroidery sounds great. (Then again, who could be against that?)
  • We’re not opposed to the Musial-era piping, per se.
  • We’re also not opposed to the use of the city name on the jersey, per se.
  • We support the “commercial” component to releasing new uniforms. Providing a good or service that someone values is actually a helpful thing and is the basis for improved standard of living for both the buyer and seller (aka wealth). More specifically, merchandise sales are a voluntary purchase for fans, and every dollar that the team gains defrays costs that would otherwise be passed on in fans’ (relatively) “non-discretionary” purchases, like game tickets.

On the other hand, the uniform changes have far too many negatives for us to be excited about them:

  • “St. Louis” on the home jersey: Displaying the city name on the home jersey breaks convention most embarrassingly. Why? Because people in your own stadium likely know where you’re from. When the Cardinals last used their city name, back in 1932, it was on both home and road shirts, so it wasn’t a problem. But prior to that, in 1930, they used both nickname and city — but of course they were on the home and road jerseys, respectively. No team that we know of has a history of city name on the home shirt and nickname on the road, but this is a rather dubious distinction for the 2013 Cardinals.
  • Retro is unoriginal now: Like their stadium, which was retro long after the return to retro, the Cardinals are so late to the game with the creme color (they’re the fourth team to do it, and in our opinion the third too many) that the followerism is a bit pathetic and certainly not original. Leave the cream jerseys to the Giants and do something else.
  • Aesthetics: Aesthe-what? We acknowledge that the concept is about as outmoded as sanitary socks, but hear us out. The new jersey looks just dandy in a vacuum. But thrown into the rotation with the classic clean look of the other two uniforms, the retro one clashes. By calling this much attention to itself, it’ll be like the Cardinals are having a turn-back-the-clock game every Saturday.
  • Uniform proliferation: We don’t mind the switch back to red road caps, as the team clearly has a history with them and the navy one has only been revived for about 20 years (starting in the 1992 season). But they messed up this decision by keeping the navy around as a road alternate. Part of elegance is simplicity; the proliferation of options may not be on par with college football unis, but as far as baseball goes — and the Cardinals in particular — it’s bad.

So what would we have done? If it’s a new jersey you want, simply introduce the city name on the existing road jersey — simple, straightforward, no additional jerseys, honors history, observes aesthetics, makes logical sense. If you must have piping, do it for both home and away.

Otherwise, our preference would be to expand on something that has already become a recent uniform tradition, that being the so-called “high-sock Sunday” socks. Rather than introducing a fairly gratuitously commercial (again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se) change to the jersey selection, why not formalize what has already started as an organic team and fan favorite and make the socks a distinctive component of the uniform? Uniform, of course, meaning “one form or shape,” which means everybody does it. Preferably with stirrups. And if they’re really feeling rakish, they could use the candy-cane style of the 1923 home uniform. No, the shops aren’t likely to sell many authentic socks (then again, we’ve seen some fetching civilian examples of the fashion). But the team evidently already has t-shirts promoting the trend, so it’s just a short hop from Daniel Desclaso’s vendor to the official team store. Not to mention plenty of third-party offshoots. Joe Sports Fan, call your office.


One Response to ““Best fans” deserve better than new uniform changes”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I am a fortunate sports fan in that my two rooting interests are the Cardinals and the Oklahoma Sooners. Both sport classic uniforms that are the essence of their respective sports. The interlocking STL, the birds on the bat, and “Sooners” across the front of the jersey need no explanations. They also need no updates. Let Oregon, Maryland, and the Marlins experiment: those with grand traditions need not indulge. Of course, even Nebraska is diddling around with this stuff now. What a world.

    The Cards’ uniforms represent the perfect blend of modernization and classicism. They have been gradually updated and are the finest uniform in the sport, with only the Yankees and Dodgers as serious rivals (appropriate, given the proud history of those franchises). There is just no need for change, and I seriously doubt that they’ll sell that many more “St. Louis” jerseys. It’s not like this is some capital offense, but it’s another step down a road we don’t need. Throwbacks are fine once every five years, but they’re no longer a nod to tradition: they’ve become their own gaudy spectacle, divorced from the reason they’re classic in the first place.

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