Commentary

There are great unis … and awful unis

Originally Published: February 29, 2012
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

The Miami Marlins made waves over the winter when they revealed their new uniforms, which, depending on your viewpoint, either are baseball's best fashion statement since stirrup socks or the worst since rainbow jerseys.

Before I get to the Marlins verdict in my major league uniform rankings, we need to settle on what makes a good uniform. I mean, other than it being worn by Derek Jeter. For the answer, I went to the expert, Paul Lukas, who writes the spectacularly comprehensive Uni Watch column and website.

"Aside from the obvious stuff -- nice color scheme, decent logo, etc. -- the uni should fit the city," Lukas says. "What's right for Chicago isn't necessarily right for Seattle or Arizona. Also, the basic structure of a baseball uniform is still pretty quaint -- the jerseys have buttons, the pants have pockets -- so a snarling logo character with a furrowed brow and gritted teeth isn't going to work. Save that for football. Baseball logos -- whether on the cap or the jersey -- should be a mix of the three Cs: cute, classy and clever."

Well put. The only thing I would add is that a great uniform should also make even Bartolo Colon look good. Now on to the rankings, but first, a couple of important disclaimers:

1. The rankings are based primarily on the standard home uniform -- jersey, caps, pants and socks (not that you can see the socks anymore) -- but there are so many alternate jerseys it is sometimes hard to tell which is which. So alternate jerseys have some effect on the rankings.

2. Thankfully, the 1970s and '80s are over, so there are no truly awful uniforms anymore. Mostly what we have are the great and classic followed by an almost interchangeable array of fine but bland. The best unis are definitely the best, but the difference between say, No. 27 and No. 12 is a lot less distinguishable than say, the Maddux brothers were.

OK, away we go …

[+] EnlargeBud Black
Jake Roth/US PresswireThe Padres' camouflage jerseys are downright ugly.

30. Padres: Say this for the Padres -- they're dependable. You can pick almost any time in their history and their uniform would be among the game's ugliest. Their current uniforms aren't bad at all except, of course, for the camouflage alternate tops. Are the Padres honoring the military or playing paintball? I'm sorry, but I don't think it makes me a member of the Taliban to point out you can salute our servicemen without wearing an ugly jersey.

29. Cleveland: Amazingly, this is 2012 yet Cleveland still insists on putting Chief Wahoo on its cap. The only way this cap could be more insulting is if Corbin Bernsen was wearing it.

28. Rays: These uniforms are both bland and a little too slick. The Rays should just wear the team-building themes of manager Joe Maddon, who regularly has his players wear city-appropriate apparel for their flights (grunge for Seattle, Beach Boys for Anaheim, etc.). Or perhaps, given Tampa Bay's payroll, the Rays should wear whatever is available at Goodwill that day, then go whomp the snot out of their rich opponents. I would love to see the Rays win the AL East while wearing old T-shirts, torn jeans and giveaway caps with the logo of a local credit union.

27. Nationals: I like the pretzel W but otherwise these are rather routine uniforms. Forget about solid-color alternate jerseys -- the Nats should wear Uncle Sam costumes, complete with striped pants and the big star-spangled hat.

26. Rockies: I'm not a big fan of their rather dull design but I am a big fan of the color purple, mostly because it's also the color of the University of Washington, my alma mater. I just wish my alma mater would actually wear the color once in a while.

25. Diamondbacks: I don't like that they use "D-Backs" instead of "Diamondbacks" on the jersey. I also think it would be cool if their alternate uniforms included snakeskin boots.

24. Astros: At least they aren't rainbow jerseys.

23. Mariners: There is nothing wrong with Seattle's standard home uniform. The problem is that the Mariners wear the alternate "Northwest Green" jersey way too much. One, this shade of green never actually appears in nature in the Pacific Northwest, and two, it's a painful reminder for fans that 17 long, frustrating years have passed since the magical 1995 season. (By the way: You know your club is struggling when Jay Buhner hasn't played in 10 years, but still does more commercial endorsements than the current team combined.)

22. Brewers: There's one good thing about Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee: At least we'll never see him in one of those awful gold alternate jerseys again. If the Brewers really want to stand out with an alternate top, they should wear leather Fonzie jackets.

Ted Kluszewski
Topps Baseball Cards Ted Kluszewski wore his sleeveless uniform well.

21. Reds: To move up significantly, what the Reds need to do is bring back their sleeveless uniform AND make the players wear them without any under-sleeves, like Big Klu did.

20. Athletics: I really like the green caps but otherwise, these are pretty dull. They need to get more yellow in there, like in the old days. Or perhaps they could liven things up by honoring their former batboy by wearing alternate Hammer pants.

19. Atlanta: I like the new alternate throwback jerseys, which are replicas of those worn during the team's first years in Atlanta. Little-known fact: Rather than using uncomfortable flannel, the new material is terry cloth to better absorb tears after the team's annual collapse.

18. Rangers: By my count, the Rangers will wear eight different home uniforms this season and none of them are particularly exciting. What the Rangers need are stinkin' badges pinned to the chest.

17. Orioles: The good news is that the cartoon bird logo is back on the caps. The bad news is it will often be attached to a white-paneled abomination taken from either the late 1970s or a John Deere catalogue.

16. Red Sox: Their otherwise good, simple and traditional design is hurt by the alternate tops, as well as by the fried chicken stains on the pants.

15. Phillies: This is a generally good look, especially the off-white home alternate uniforms. At least I think that's an intentional off-white design. It could be just that the clubhouse guys accidentally ran everyone's unis through the same washload as an old pair of Lenny Dykstra's tobacco-stained pants.

14. Royals: I'm not a big fan of alternate jerseys -- whoops, should I have put a spoiler alert there? -- but the Royals' powder blue style works now that it's no longer paired with those silly powder blue caps. The next major cap improvement would be finally adding a World Series patch to them.

13. Mets: This season's updated model should make Mr. Met look almost dignified.

12. Blue Jays: Let's go, Blue Jays! After years of floundering, Toronto is returning this season to the ornithologically correct Blue Jay -- which looks positively dashing on the lower chest -- plus the split lettering and numbering. The Jays haven't looked this good since Joe Carter was rounding third.

11. Angels: I like this look, especially the halo around the "A" in "Angels" that mimics the Big A. But to really reflect the franchise, they should have "Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim California (United States of America)" stitched all the way around the jersey. Although, they probably would need Mo Vaughn to come out of retirement because there's no way they could fit that many letters around Jered Weaver's jersey.

10. Cubs: They're good and, much like the team, they look even better after a half-dozen Old Styles.

9. White Sox: True, they don't wear white socks, or at least not visible white socks. But I really like the distinctive black SOX logo. Not even Adam Dunn looks that bad striking out in this uniform.

8. Marlins: You know what? I hate the new fast-food chain logo, but I dig the uniforms. They're distinctive, and the font used for "Marlins" makes me think of Miami and the Keys and the Caribbean rather than cheap, greedy ownership.

7. Giants: Black and orange is a great combination, except when I was in Little League. Our manager announced we would wear black and orange uniforms and I thought, "Great, just like my Giants." But because this was back in the 1970s, it turned out the uniforms were a solid orange (almost red) with black and orange vertically striped stirrups. Yes, vertical stripes! We looked like jack-o'-lanterns. The Giants, however, get the color scheme right, especially with the cream home unis.

6. Pirates: I love that the three Pittsburgh teams all wear black and gold, especially when those colors look as brilliant as they do on the Pirates uniform. No Pirates have looked better than this since Roberto Clemente or Johnny Depp.

5. Twins: The Twins' off-white throwback uniforms were just supposed to be an alternate Saturday uniform but after Harmon Killebrew passed, the players continued wearing them as a tribute. They should keep doing so, partly as a tribute to one of the nicest men in baseball history, but mostly because they just look so damn good. I also think the Twins should honor another Minnesota legend after victories by tossing their TC caps in the air, a la Mary Tyler Moore.

4. Tigers: Ahh, the Old English D, as simple and classic a design as a 1966 Mustang. The beauty of these perennials is that if the Tigers need to save money to pay Prince Fielder's contract, they could just give him his old man's uniform and nobody would be the wiser. In fact, nobody would know the difference if Prince's son, Archduke Fielder, eventually wears them, too.

[+] EnlargeThe New Yorker
The New YorkerThe pinstripes continue to exude class.

3. Yankees: The Tiffany "NY" design is as familiar an American brand as the golden arches and just about as prevalent worldwide (is there any country that provides refuge from Yankees fans?). The pinstripes are classy as well, though as artist Mark Ulrickson imagined for this New Yorker cover, the Yankees should also wear them with dark ties and business shirts.

2. Cardinals: If I were a St. Louis fan, I wouldn't worry too much about losing Albert Pujols. No matter who replaces him in the years to come, they're all going to look great in this classic uniform.

1. Dodgers: Giving the Dodgers the top ranking really pains me because I grew up a Giants fan. But I'm sorry, their home jerseys are as dazzlingly gorgeous as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's children will be, and probably worth $200 million of the club's eventual purchase price. And they've been that way since Jackie Robinson's days.

Which reminds me. Funny, isn't it, how the most successful franchises over the generations generally have also stuck with the same uniform?

CSI: Box Score

You know the drill. Each week I provide a fragment from an old box score and challenge you to determine what game it is from and why it's significant. I give this one a difficulty rating of 8. Answer below.

Kurt Snibbe/ESPN.comKurt Snibbe/ESPN.com

Baseball Card of the Week

Could there have been any sight in baseball worse than the Astros rainbow jerseys? Yes, the sight of an Astros rainbow jersey worn by 6-foot-8 J.R. Richard (1979 Topps, No. 590) while you stand at the plate and as he is about to deliver a fastball to you.

Yeah, Well, That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man

Alberto Contador Should Have Said His Sample Was Lost In The Mail, Too: I don't understand why people say the Ryan Braun case is proof the system works. I'm sorry, when a PED case comes down to what time Federal Express closes on a weekend, what we have is proof that the system must be improved. And as my friend Sarge asked, what did the sample collector put down for "Value/Replacement Cost" on the FedEx shipping slip? Look, I like Braun. I'm all for following procedure and insuring a proper chain of custody. But the question Braun left unanswered in his news conference is just how that elevated level of testosterone got into his test sample. (BTW: Did Rob Manfred grab his "vehemently disagree" line from Demi Moore's "strenuously object" line in "A Few Good Men"?

.406 Is A Great Number. 4.06.9 Is Not: Even with the steroid era that stained some of baseball's magic numbers, there still are two figures every American knows by heart: What Ted Williams batted in 1941 and the price of gas at the nearest station. And when the latter approaches the former, Americans get very testy. Fortunately, there is a solution. Drive fuel-efficient cars, not SUVS. Drive less. Bike and walk more. Not everyone can bike or walk to work, but we can all walk or bike for short errands. It will save you gas, save you money and make you healthier (as long as you don't get run over by some guy in an SUV that gets 10 mpg).

MLB Being Manny: Forgive me, but I just don't understand why Manny Ramirez is allowed to come back with a 50-game suspension after a second positive PED test. Either you count all the games he missed when he "retired" after the positive test last year, in which case he has already served the mandated 100-game penalty. Or you don't count any of those games because he didn't really retire. But to give him partial credit for 50 games makes no sense.

Tek Support Congratulations to Jason Varitek on his fine career. Boston fans will miss you him dearly, while Seattle fans will continue to wonder why the Mariners traded him and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb.

CSI: Box-Score Answer

This was a tough one. The big clue was the five hits listed for Travis, which because of the surrounding names in the lineup, could have helped you know this was Cecil Travis. But what was significant about getting five hits in a game? Perhaps you guessed that what made those five hits so special is that they came in Travis' major league debut. If so, you're right. Travis set the modern record with five hits in his debut, May 16, 1933.

Travis had an amazing career. He batted .300 eight times in his first nine seasons, led the majors in hits in 1942 and had a .327 career average when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He served in the army in World War II and suffered frostbite at the Battle of the Bulge. He never returned to his pre-war ways after his four-year military service, hitting .241 the rest of his career before retiring after the 1947 season at age 34.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com