Major league baseball training camps are open, and spring training games begin next week. So this is a good time for a new edition of the Uni Watch MLB Power Rankings. We rank all of the MLB uniform sets, from first to worst.
In our previous installments of the Power Rankings, we ranked each of the "Big Four" pro leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) at the same time and then intermixed them. This time we're spreading it out over the course of the year.
Ranking MLB uniforms is a fairly enjoyable exercise because baseball is a pretty good-looking sport these days. Even the worst-looking teams are way ahead of the bottom-feeders in the NFL or NBA. Yes, the ongoing scourge of
the pajama pants remains a problem, but still -- things could be (and have been) much, much worse.
Before we get started, here's a refresher course on the Power Rankings ground rules:
• All judging has been done by the Uni Watch Power Rankings Executive Committee, which has a membership of one and freely admits its biases. The committee is rather fond of striped socks and the color green, for example, but is less enthusiastic about the color purple and design "innovations" that just feel like gimmicks. If you don't share the committee's preferences,
then you're totally hopeless and it's a wonder you can dress yourself in the morning that's fine -- the whole point of a project like this one is that it's fun to argue and disagree.
• Each team has been ranked primarily on the basis of its current home and road uniforms, with alternate uniforms taken into account if they're part of the team's regular uni rotation (and given extra weight if they're worn a disproportionate amount of the time). One-off designs, special promotions and so on have not been considered.
• The rankings take into account all of the new uniforms that have been released for the 2015 season. Factoring in these new designs was, by necessity, somewhat speculative, because we haven't yet seen them on the field.
Remember, you can click on each team's name to see its current uniform set, and use the "Trending" column to track a team's movement up or down on the chart since the previous edition of the Power Rankings.
Uni Watch MLB Power Rankings
Ranking Team Trending Comment 1 St. Louis Cardinals -- It's little odd that the Cardinals wear their team name on the road and their city name on the home alternate, but whatever -- this is still baseball's best-looking team (thanks in part to a team president who takes an unusually strong interest in his team's uniforms). Fun fact: The Cardinals are among the few teams that still execute their chest logo via chain-stitching, an old-school embroidery method that really makes those birds on the bat pop. Uni Watch's highest rating. 2 Philadelphia Phillies +2 Sometimes you can make progress by standing still. That's the case with the Phillies, who've moved up to the second spot by sticking with the tried-and-true while the teams ranked above them last time around have indulged in ill-advised tinkering. This is how it's done, kids: First-rate home and road unis and a very solid retro alternate. Fun fact: The Phils have never worn the word "Philadelphia" on their jerseys, although they were considering it in the early 1990s. 3 Chicago Cubs -1 Mistake No. 1 from last season: Adding a second gray road jersey, which was completely unnecessary. Mistake No. 2: Giving the new gray jersey its own set of alternate gray pants, which was utterly ridiculous. The Cubs are still a good-looking team, and at least they don't have 13 different caps, unlike some franchises we could mention. But with Wrigley getting a makeover, it wouldn't be surprising to see them adding more cap, jersey and logo options soon. 4 Toronto Blue Jays +4 Yeesh, remember this old look? It's now clear that the Jays' 2012 makeover was the best MLB redesign in recent memory. This set is beginning to feel like a modern classic -- here's hoping they stay with it for a long, long time. 5 Los Angeles Dodgers -- Much like the Cubs, last season the Dodgers added a completely unnecessary alternate road jersey and then upped the ante by pairing it with an even more unnecessary set of alternate pants. Still, the Dodgers remain very easy on the eyes. Now if they would just remove that "LA" sleeve logo and replace it with a circular patch of some sort. 6 New York Yankees +1 Back in 1999, when other teams wore those futuristic unis that were supposed to show what baseball would look like in the year 2021, the Yankees declined to participate, with owner George Steinbrenner saying: "We're already wearing the uniform we'll be wearing in 2021." It appears he will turn out to have been right. But we docked them a notch for occasionally wearing batting practice caps during regular-season games, something this team should never do. 7 Detroit Tigers -1 A classic look, but it wouldn't kill the Tigers to jazz it up a bit with a navy alternate jersey, an orange-brimmed cap or an alternate-logo cap for Sundays. When you think about today's uniform free-for-all, it's actually pretty amazing that they haven't tried any of those things. 8 Oakland Athletics -5 The A's have the best color scheme in the game, but they've made some small missteps since the previous edition of the Power Rankings. The road-cap logo now looks too clunky. Ditto for the piping on the green jersey, which would be better off being gold instead of gold-white-gold. 9 Boston Red Sox +7 Why the big jump for the BoSox in this year's Power Rankings? Because of the new road uni that was introduced last year -- a big upgrade. They'd move up even higher if they'd just get rid of that garish red alternate jersey, which they've been inexplicably clinging to for a dozen years. 10 Kansas City Royals -- Last year's World Series gave many people their first extended look at the Royals in years, maybe decades. Pretty good-looking team, right? Nothing fancy, but plenty classy. 11 L.A. Angels of Anaheim +1 The Angels have very solid-looking home and road sets, but they lose points for their alternate jersey, which features red type on a red background -- a serious no-no. 12 Chicago White Sox +3 Such an odd franchise. In the 1970s and 1980s, the White Sox were changing their look every five minutes. But they've stuck with their current set for a quarter-century. It's a solid look, and the Sunday throwbacks are a nice reminder of the wacky old days. But the ghost of Bill Veeck is wishing they'd shake things up a bit. 13 Baltimore Orioles -4 The Orioles' current home caps and helmets, with the white panel in the front, were a big hit here at Uni Watch HQ when they were reintroduced in 2012. But it's time to admit the hard truth: The white panel was really fun in the 1970s but doesn't work so well today. In fact, it feels a bit rinky-dink, like something a minor league team would wear. Still, a decent-looking set (black and orange work so well together), but they should go back to a conventional headwear template. 14 San Francisco Giants -1 The Giants made one step forward since the previous Power Rankings: last season's new orange alternate jersey, which is an upgrade over the old one. But they took two steps back with this season's new black alternate. The black-on-black logo is a major mistake. Let's hope they don't wear it too often. 15 Seattle Mariners +4 It's hard to see, but the entire Mariners set has been tweaked for 2015, as they've adjusted the outlining on all of their chest insignias. That probably won't make much of a visible difference, but the new cream throwback alternate is a winner, and players who choose to go high-cuffed will now get to show their stripes -- nice. 16 Tampa Bay Rays +2 This set, which initially felt pleasant enough but too plain, has accrued some gravitas now that the Rays have worn it for a few seasons. One cause for concern, though: A lot of this franchise's appeal, visual and otherwise, seemed to flow from Joe Maddon's endearingly goofy presence as its manager. Now that he's gone, will the unis feel too plain again? 17 Pittsburgh Pirates -6 Is an alternate jersey still an alternate if you wear it 98 times in a season? That's how often the Pirates wore their black jersey last year -- more than all of their other jerseys combined. Meanwhile, the gorgeous home whites (19 games) and road grays (29 games) have become also-rans, and the new camouflage alternate is a disaster. 18 Texas Rangers +3 The Rangers cleaned up the lettering on their home and road jerseys last season. That's a real improvement, especially for the lettering on the players' names. They've also cut down on wearing red caps, sleeves and socks with their blue-lettered home jerseys (13 times in 2014, down from 33 in 2013). That's a good thing, as blue accessories look much better with that jersey. It would be nice if they had a jersey with their team name, but one thing at a time -- they're getting there. 19 New York Mets -5 They're blowing it. The Mets' basic home and road designs are among the very best in the sport, but they can't resist overdoing things. Two blue jerseys is at least one too many. Ditto for the three blue caps. And if you think the camouflage alternate looked bad last season, it's going to be even worse in 2015 because they've scrapped the "snow white" uniform, which means they no longer have white pants to pair with the camo jersey. So now they're stuck pairing camo with pinstripes, which is going to be a mess. 20 Atlanta Braves -3 Too many options here -- the Braves would be better off keeping it simple. Didn't think they could make that red jersey look any worse, but somehow they managed to last year. Fun fact: After a 2014 Uni Watch column pointed out that the Braves' cap and helmet logos didn't match, the team changed the helmet logo. Impressive! 21 Cincinnati Reds -1 The Reds would rank higher if not for all of the black trim, which feels sooooo 1990s. A more conventional number font would help, too. 22 Colorado Rockies -- The conventional wisdom is that the older franchises stick with their established looks while the newer ones constantly tinker and dabble. But the Rockies have more or less stayed with one look since their 1993 inception, and good for them. It's not a great design (especially if you dislike purple as much as a certain uniform columnist does), but they've grown into it and made it their own. 23 Houston Astros -- How did a team with one of baseball's most dynamic visual histories end up with such a bland, generic-looking visual identity? That's a shame. The Astros' first order of business should be making the orange cap and sleeves their primary home look. They were the first MLB team to really make that color their own, and they should own it. And they have to do something about the jersey lettering -- as it stands now, the team and city name on the front are the same size as the player names on the back, which is absurd. 24 Minnesota Twins -- The Twins' new home uni, which was unveiled last fall, isn't bad when viewed in a vacuum. But it doesn't make sense in the context of the team's overall wardrobe. Why add gold to the home design when there's no gold anywhere else in your visual program? This may make more sense if they end up adding gold to the road and alternate designs at some point. But for now, it makes no sense. 25 Arizona Diamondbacks +2 Never thought I'd be saying this, but the Diamondbacks' look is growing on me. A little. 26 Milwaukee Brewers -1 Well, you certainly can't accuse the Brewers of underdoing it. In addition to the six uniforms that are part of their official uni rotation, the Brewers also have their annual Spanish-language jersey, plus they typically do one other foreign language uni and a Negro Leagues throwback each season. It's a fun approach, and you can give them points for variety. But that won't hide the fact that their script looks hopelessly bland. 27 Washington Nationals -1 Right from the start, the Nationals' approach, if you want to call it that, has been to mix and match blue and red with no apparent rhyme or reason. Red cap with blue brim, blue cap with red brim, whatever. The elegance of their jersey script is undermined by the clunkiness of their number font, and that stars-and-stripes jersey is a clown suit, bro. Once the team is done celebrating its 10th anniversary this season, can we please schedule them for a makeover? 28 Cleveland Indians -- Cleveland fans are caught in a tough bind now: The Wahoo cap is a racist caricature, and the block-C cap is utterly characterless. Scrap them both and bring back the crooked C! 29 San Diego Padres +1 Fans have been clamoring for the Padres to bring back the brown for years, and they're finally responding, if just barely. They'll be wearing late-1980s throwbacks for five Wednesday-afternoon home games in 2015. It's not the best brown-inclusive look from their history (that would be this one), and the rest of the team's wardrobe is still MLB's most boring set. But it's a start. 30 Miami Marlins -1 Think about this: In the past two seasons, the Marlins haven't bothered to wear their gray road jerseys. Not even once. And they've worn their orange alternate cap only twice. Why bother having official uniform components if you're never going to wear them? The Marlins also have one of the game's most unattractive jersey-back designs, so it's appropriate that they're saddled with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the player with the longest surname in MLB history.
Paul Lukas will do the NFL Power Rankings shortly after the NFL draft. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.