It's a sure sign that spring has sprung: the Uni Watch MLB season preview, now in its 18th annual edition, with all of the uniform changes for the upcoming season. And here's something we don't usually get to say: This year literally every game will have new uniforms.
That's because MLB's uniform outfitter, Majestic, has come up with a new jersey format called Flex Base, which all teams will be using. Flex Base jerseys are pretty easy to spot -- they have mesh ventilation panels running up the sides, which isn't so bad for solid-colored jerseys but looks awful for pinstriped designs:
Majestic's new Flex Base jersey's mesh side panels look brutal on pinstriped designs. pic.twitter.com/zdZcs4x2Xd— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 29, 2016
The Flex Base template also includes a mesh panel for the rear shirttail, which some fans have already derisively labeled "the diaper." Again, this looks a lot worse for pinstriped or patterned jerseys, although it won't make a difference on the field, because players wear their jerseys tucked in. Fans, however, may think twice about buying these:
Flex Base jersey's mesh "diaper" panel looks worse on pinstripes/patterns. Will be tucked in on field, thankfully. pic.twitter.com/M0Vx5KnHMz— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 29, 2016
But enough about Flex Base -- you want to see what your favorite team will be wearing, right? With most teams set to open their seasons on either Sunday or Monday, here's our annual comprehensive team-by-team breakdown of what you can expect to see on the diamond. There's a lot to go over this time around, so you might want to grab a cold drink first. Ready? Go!
Jump to a division:
National League East
• With Turner Field preparing to shut down after only 20 seasons, the Braves are saying farewell -- or is it good riddance? -- with this sleeve patch:
First look at the Turner Field Final Season patch that we'll wear this season: pic.twitter.com/JLSUodk1Y8— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 26, 2016
Over on their other sleeve, the Braves have added a memorial patch for longtime coach Bobby Dews, who died back in December:
Also: The Braves and Marlins will be playing a game at Fort Bragg in North Carolina on July 3 -- the first MLB game ever to be held at an active military installation. No word yet on whether the teams will wear camouflage uniforms, but it seems like a safe bet.
Meanwhile, Braves catcher Tyler Flowers has been experimenting with a new mask design. You can read about that here.
• No announced uniform changes so far for the Marlins, although it's worth noting that new skipper Don Mattingly has enacted a facial hair ban, which has drawn a stern rebuke from the American Mustache Institute. Take that, Donnie Baseball!
Finally, it's worth noting that slugger Giancarlo Stanton is continuing to wear a faceguard attachment on his batting helmet when facing right-handed pitchers (but not against lefties), a practice he started last season:
• The Mets will mark the 30th anniversary of their 1986 championship team by wearing '86 throwbacks for Sunday home games. Interestingly, the uniform mock-up in the official MLB Style Guide shows this design being worn with high-cuffed pants and stirrups, although it remains to be seen if the players will actually go along with that:
MLB Style Guide shows Mets' '86 throwbacks, to will be worn for Sunday home games, w/ high-cuffed pants & stirrups. pic.twitter.com/ZbO9fmWsYo— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 25, 2016
In addition, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and pitcher Bartolo Colon have both requested and received accent marks for the names on their jerseys:
New for this season: Bartolo Colon's jersey now has an accent on his name. pic.twitter.com/vxfPJwSwoJ— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 25, 2016
Meanwhile, the Mets have mothballed their "Military Mondays" camouflage jersey and cap:
Mets scrapping "Military Mondays" camouflage uniform this season. pic.twitter.com/qsCPycrjbk— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 25, 2016
There's also a notable design change at Citi Field, where the Pepsi Porch is now the Coca-Cola Corner:
• Nationals: No announced changes.
• The Phillies have added a red alternate jersey to their uniform rotation. It will be worn for six Thursday-afternoon home games, with the team's cream retro uniform worn for all remaining afternoon home games (more info here):
National League Central
• Several changes for the Brewers, beginning with their standard home and road pants, which will no longer have the gold piping from years past:
New for '16: Brewers have eliminated the gold piping on their white & gray pants. Old version on left, new on right. pic.twitter.com/7laWKJktJg— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 28, 2016
Gold has also been banished from the Brewers' navy "Milwaukee" alternates. The gold trim has been replaced by yellow, and the sleeve patch and cap logo are being replaced by the team's "ball in glove" throwback logo. The plan is for this uni combo to be worn for most Sunday games, both at home and on the road (additional info here):
In yet another move to de-emphasize gold, the Brew Crew's gold alternate jersey (or "lager," as it was sometimes called) has been scrapped:
In addition, the Brewers will wear 1990s throwbacks on July 30:
• No uniform changes for the Cardinals, but it's worth noting that newly acquired pitcher Mike Leake will be joining the small fraternity of MLB pitchers who've worn single-digit numbers. He'll be wearing No. 8, which was his number at Arizona State (more info here and here). At present there are two other single-digitized MLB pitchers: Rockies right-hander Adam Ottavino who wears No. 0 (but is currently on the 60-day disabled list) and Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, who wears No. 6.
Looks like newly signed Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake will be going w/ a single-digit number. pic.twitter.com/9cNp01ouP3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 22, 2015
Also: The Cardinals will have at least two Garcias on their roster this year, and could have as many as four, but they'll all simply have "Garcia" on their jerseys, with no first initial. Why? Because that's the St. Louis way.
• Wrigley Field opened in 1914, so two years ago the Cubs wore a sleeve patch to celebrate the ballpark's centennial. But the Cubs themselves didn't start playing at Wrigley until 1916 (the team that played there for the first two years was the Chicago Whales of the old Federal League), so this year the Cubs are wearing another patch, this one celebrating their own centennial at Wrigley. Seems a bit redundant, but at least it's a nice patch design:
In addition, the Cubbies plan to wear 1916 throwbacks on July 6:
Finally, in a textbook case of addition by subtraction, the Cubs have eliminated their alternate road jersey, which always seemed extraneous to begin with:
New for 2016: Cubs eliminating alternate road uni (shown at right), retaining primary road uni. pic.twitter.com/hnqOKDMZ2S— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 25, 2016
• The Reds are adding a memorial patch for longtime clubhouse manager Bernie Stowe, who passed away in February:
The Reds will be wearing a special patch this year in memory of longtime clubhouse manager Bernie Stowe. pic.twitter.com/bi5Bgow67s— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 28, 2016
Also, the Reds will mark the 40th anniversary of their 1976 Big Red Machine championship team by wearing 1976 throwbacks on June 24 and retiring Pete Rose's No. 14 on June 26:
National League West
• The award for the most radical makeover of the year -- or perhaps the decade -- goes to the Diamondbacks, who made a lot of changes that are either innovative or heretical, depending on your point of view. For starters, they've added a sublimated snakeskin pattern to their jerseys:
Good view of the Dbacks' new snakeskin on jersey. pic.twitter.com/19RnHFxmI9— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 4, 2015
The same pattern also appears on their pant cuffs, where it sort of makes everyone look like they're wearing Curt Schilling's old bloody sock:
Another look at the D-backs' new "bloody socks" pants. pic.twitter.com/GoVzuGtgC8— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 23, 2016
In addition, the D-backs' road grays are now more like road charcoals, as they're using a much darker shade of gray:
Dbacks using much darker shade of gray for road uni. pic.twitter.com/JCpnhRvi6s— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 4, 2015
There's a lot more, including truncated striping on the pants, matte-finish batting helmets, and a whopping seven different cap options. There's a detailed breakdown of everything here, with follow-up analyses here and here. And you can see some of the proposed designs that didn't make the cut here.
All the newfangled gewgaws aren't your thing? No worries -- the D-backs will once again be wearing their throwbacks for Thursday home games:
Diamondbacks will continue their Thursday Throwback program this season. pic.twitter.com/Qge7gHBNhZ— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 28, 2016
Finally, just in case all of that wasn't enough to keep you busy, the D-backs are also tinkering with the possibility of adding striped socks to their wardrobe:
Latest team experimenting with striped socks: the Dbacks, as seen here on LF Jason Bourgeois. pic.twitter.com/TaFQQzMN3J— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 9, 2016
• Dodgers: No announced changes.
• The Giants have added a pair of memorial patches -- one for Monte Irvin and one for Jim Davenport:
• Lots of moves in San Diego, where the Padres are hosting this year's All-Star Game and have taken an odd approach to their uniforms. First, they've updated their color scheme to blue and yellow and come out with new home uniforms, including All-Star Game patches for their new cap and jersey:
The party line is that this new home uniform is just a one-year experiment, tied to the All-Star Game, with the "possibility" that it might be retained as the new full-time home uni if fans like it. But top-level pro sports leagues require lots of lead time to get new designs and retail product into the pipeline, so it seems unlikely that the Padres could make a decision like that on the fly. Whether they're planning to keep this new design or scrap it after one year, that decision has probably already been made.
If that sounds weird, here's something even weirder: The new yellow tone is not being added to the team's road uniform set.
Padres road uniform will remain unchanged. pic.twitter.com/6VxiCB98c4— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 2, 2015
Padres blue alternate jersey, previous worn at home and on road, will now be a road alternate. pic.twitter.com/MnKaMGh3mO— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 2, 2015
Meanwhile, fans who've been clamoring for the Padres to bring back the brown have had their prayers answered, at least somewhat. The team is adding a new retro-styled brown alternate -- not a pure throwback, but more of a faux-back. It'll be worn for Friday home games:
The Padres' Sunday camouflage outfits are also getting a redesign. This year they'll be blue -- a nod to the Navy:
But wait -- the team's marine camouflage jerseys will still be worn occasionally as well, but they've been updated with new chest lettering to match the blue camouflage design:
And there's still more! The Padres will wear 1990s throwbacks for six Wednesday home games:
If all these changes don't have your head spinning too fast, you might notice that the Padres have become the latest team to switch to matte-finish batting helmets:
New batting helmets are 🔥 pic.twitter.com/wC8rR24Cev— San Diego Padres (@Padres) February 18, 2016
Finally, in the realm of ballpark aesthetics, the Padres are relocating their retired numbers at Petco Park in order to make room for a big advertising sign (more info here):
• Rockies No announced changes.
American League East
• The Blue Jays have added a 40th-season patch:
Close-up look at the Blue Jays' 40th-season patch. pic.twitter.com/FWUXWreTsX— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 21, 2016
Also: Rogers Centre had been home to the last remaining MLB infield with a sliding pit at each base. That will be changing this year, as the stadium is finally getting a full dirt infield. Still sticking with the artificial turf, though (additional info here and here):
• No announced uni changes for the Orioles, but something interesting has surfaced during recent spring training games -- a matte-finish helmet:
Are they planning to wear that during the regular season? Nobody's saying, but we'll find out soon enough.
In addition, the O's roster has undergone a few uniform number switcheroos:
Pitching coach Dave Wallace will wear No. 16. He has No. 37, which is going to Dylan Bundy, whose No. 49 is going to Yovani Gallardo.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) February 25, 2016
• Rays: No announced changes.
• The Red Sox will retire Wade Boggs' No. 26 on, fittingly, May 26. Before that could happen, infielder Brock Holt had to give up the number, which he happily did.
Also: Now that pitcher David Price has joined the Sox, Boston fans are discovering what fans of Price's previous teams (and devoted Uni Watch readers) have long known, namely that Price removes the button from the top of his cap. He's been doing this for years because he finds the button -- or, as he calls it, "the ouch button" -- uncomfortable:
• When Yogi Berra passed away in September, the Yankees added a memorial "8" patch. They're keeping it for this season:
And in what probably qualifies as the most subtle uniform change of the season, the Yanks have changed the button spacing on their home jerseys. The old version left a gap for lettering to run across the chest, but of course the Yanks don't have that kind of lettering on their pinstriped home jerseys -- the just have the interlocking "NY" off to one side -- so they've switched to more evenly spaced buttons:
American League Central
• Welcome news out of Cleveland, where the Indians have added some sharp-looking striped socks and stirrups to their wardrobe options:
In addition, Cleveland will wear navy 1976 throwbacks on June 4:
• The reigning World Series champion Royals will celebrate their title in two uni-centric ways. First, they'll be wearing gold-trimmed uniforms for their first two games of the season. The design looks better than some of the season-opening gold-trimmed unis worn by other recent World Series champs because gold is already a Royals team color:
Begin the 2016 season like the Champs. These gold threads will be available at the Team Store starting tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/sDZeOhUyXd— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 23, 2016
In addition, the Royals will be wearing a championship patch this season:
• A longstanding MLB oddity is that the Tigers use similar but distinct logos for their jerseys and headwear. The jersey mark has always been designated as the team's primary logo, but this year they've given that status to the cap logo. You can see it being used more and more at media conferences and other team events:
New for 2016: Tigers' cap logo (left) now designated as team's primary mark, instead of jersey logo (right). pic.twitter.com/FCp8GadVCh— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 28, 2016
• The Twins have a new red alternate jersey and cap, which they'll wear for Friday home games (additional info in this superb infographic):
• The White Sox will wear 1976 throwbacks -- without the shorts, alas -- on July 23:
White Sox will wear navy collared throwback jerseys from 1976 on July 23. Won't wear the shorts. pic.twitter.com/ZKfsLjzzgU— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 3, 2016
Also, the Sox have a new logo to mark the 25th anniversary of U.S. Cellular Field (although it has been called that only since 2003; from 1991 through 2002 it was Comiskey Park). So far it's appearing on ticket stubs and in other promotional contexts, with no announced plans for a sleeve patch:
American League West
• Angels: No announced changes.
• The Astros have a new Sunday alternate jersey. It's basically the same design as their old batting practice jersey, which they're now scrapping (more info here):
• Athletics: No announced changes.
• No announced uniform changes for the Mariners, but it's worth noting that an unusually large number of Seattle players have new uni numbers this season, including Taijuan Walker (who's switching from 32 to 44); Mayckol Guaipe (53 to 48, which he's doing in memory of former teammate Victor Sanchez); Stave Baron (10 to 28); Jesus Montero (63 to 10); and Franklin Gutierrez (30 to 21, which had been his number from 2009 through 2013 until he gave it up for then-manager Lloyd McClendon).
• Nothing new this season for the Rangers, but here's a uni-related note from their promotional schedule: Third baseman Adrian Beltre doesn't like to be touched on the head, which of course means his teammates love to touch him on the head. Fans will be able to get in on that on Aug. 14, when the Rangers give away a Beltre bobblehead with a removable helmet to allow for easy head-touching.
• The MLB silhouetted batter logo has already appeared on the back of each cap, batting helmet, and jersey for years now. But just in case you weren't sure you were watching a real MLB game, the logo is being added this year to the rear belt tunnel of each team's pants:
New for 2016: All teams wearing MLB logo (in team colors, same as on jersey and cap) on rear belt loop. pic.twitter.com/8tmj6Un1um— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 28, 2016
That new rule has particular implications for the Tigers, who've traditionally worn thin belt loops instead of thicker belt tunnels. The MLB logo wouldn't fit on those loops, so the Tigers have made a tailoring adjustment to their pants:
Good look at how Tigers have adjusted their belt loops to accommodate MLB logo. Old version on left, new on right. pic.twitter.com/QlAeOyczNk— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 28, 2016
• Speaking of the MLB logo, that new mark on the pants will be a Chromaflex patch -- the same technology used for recent Super Bowl patches. The MLB logo patches on jerseys are changing to Chromaflex as well:
New for 2016: MLB logo patch on jerseys will now be Chromaflex, not embroidered. Old version on left, new on right. pic.twitter.com/OAFKpEvH0f— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 29, 2016
• The players aren't the only ones wearing the new Flex Base jerseys this year. The umpires have them as well, as you can see from the telltale mesh side panels:
• With this year's MLB All-Star Game being played in San Diego, the BP jersey designs for the game, which will also be worn in the Home Run Derby, are a shout-out to the Padres' old "Taco Bell" uniforms. Nice job:
• MLB will once again observe Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 by having all uniformed team personnel wear No. 42 with no player names on the back.
• MLB hasn't yet officially announced anything about teams wearing camouflage-trimmed uniforms for Memorial Day and stars-and-stripes-themed uniforms on Independence Day, but the Giants spilled the beans on those uniforms at a recent media event. In addition, teams will also be wearing pink-lettered uniforms for Mother's Day and blue-trimmed designs for Father's Day, both of which are MLB firsts:
• As you've probably noticed, players have been wearing new spring training jerseys and spring training caps over the past month or so. Don't be surprised if some of those designs make it onto the field for regular-season games here and there.
• Remember the padded cap attachment that Mets reliever Alex Torres wore last year? There's a new generation of protective headwear for pitchers this season, and it looks more like a lightweight visor version of a batting helmet:
Pitchers on several teams have been experimenting with the near headgear during spring training, but it's not clear whether any of them will wear it during the regular season. You can learn more here and here.
• More and more players have put decals on their bat knobs in recent seasons -- sometimes using standardized team designs and sometimes going for more personalized looks. A new rule this year has put the kibosh on the personal designs:
New MLB rule bans personalized bat knob decals (like Matt Duffy's). Standardized team design & player number = OK. pic.twitter.com/hZnVqLvfIo— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 25, 2016
Fans have responded to this news with a lot of "no fun league" comments, but the reality is that almost nobody ever saw these decals anyway, so it doesn't much matter one way or the other.
• Here's this year's World Series logo, which you can expect to see as a sleeve patch and cap patch in October:
• And in a development that isn't exactly uni-related but will nonetheless affect the game's visual presentation, you'll see fewer players with bulging cheeks and tobacco-stained jerseys this season, because several MLB cities have banned smokeless tobacco in their stadiums, including Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York.
OK, have you got all that? Now let's play ball.
Paul Lukas, a lifelong Mets fan, is more excited for the start of the season than he has been in a long time. 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.