• Catchers who wear the goalie-style mask are starting to challenge their hockey brethren when it comes to flashy graphics. For a case study, let's chart the progression of Expos/Nationals backstop Brian Schneider: As a rookie in 2000, he wore a mask with the then-standard baseball laces design. By 2002, the team's logo and wordmark had appeared on his mask, and things got bigger and louder in 2003. But check out what he's wearing this season – yowza! While several other catchers were still using the 2003 design template in spring training, at least one other catcher – Toronto's Gregg Zaun – appears to be following Schneider's lead. An MLB-wide trend seems inevitable. (Special thanks to reader Asher Smith, who brought Schneider's new mask to Uni Watch's attention.)

In more conventional developments, there are new alternate caps for the Orioles and Braves, and the Pirates have a new pinstriped Sunday uni – in short, the usual merch-driven shell games. The real eye-opener is Atlanta's new alternate jersey, which has enough bad aesthetic karma to single-handedly derail the team's string of division titles. And just when you thought the Rockies couldn't look any more embarrassing, they've added – get this – a black alternate vest, which will be paired with purple undersleeves. Uni Watch has been unable to procure a photo of this ensemble, presumably because it melts camera lenses.

This year's sleeve patches generally look good, although the commemorative occasions have gotten rather predictable – a stadium closing here, a pennant anniversary there, and the now-obligatory patch for this year's All-Star Game hosts.

That leaves us with the season's one brand-new design: the Expos-turned-Nationals, whose wardrobe is a mixed bag. On the plus side, it's cool that they've patterned the home and road caps after the ones worn by the old Washington Senators in the mid and late 1960s. But the cap logo doesn't match up well with the jersey typography, and the overall effect feels a tad clunky. The road jersey has a really nice sleeve patch, but Uni Watch has major issues with the "Established 1905" slogan on the home sleeve patch, which is more than a little disingenuous. Bottom line: This could've been worse, but there's room for improvement. And most of the top entries in last year's Uni Watch design contest were at least as good.

NAME GAME REVISITED
Several readers have written in regarding the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, who gave this year's NCAA Tournament a bit of visual flair by positioning their player surnames beneath their uni numbers.

Just for the record, while this number/name format is unusual, it's hardly unprecedented. The first team to employ it, surprisingly enough, appears to have been the Cincinnati Reds, usually considered one of the more tradition-bound franchises. They adopted the drop-name style in 1964 – red lettering at home, navy on the road – and used it for three seasons before switching to the more conventional format in 1967.

Continued...


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