If you’re a baseball fan, you probably caught the Arizona Diamondbacks’ massive uniform overhaul a few years back. They arrived suddenly one offseason — with eight different styles in all — and went places where MLB unis had never gone before. In retrospect, most people never really wanted ball clubs to go there, and D-Backs management acknowledged it right away.
“We were just trying to go with what is popular and trending today,” Team President Derrick Hall told SportsLogos.net at the release party. “It’s out there enough that you open yourself up to criticism, but … if you do what you think is right for baseball and for the team, you just hold your head high and don’t look back.”
Soon enough, players were not holding their heads high; they were looking back constantly instead. Players mocked them, and celebrities piled on, too.
So changes arrived for the 2017 season. In response to a backlash by fans, players, and good taste, some of the more bizarre innovations disappeared. However, what remains still puts the Diamondbacks ahead of the pack when it comes to ugly uniforms. In the history of baseball, there may have been more cringeworthy designs. But right now Arizona stands alone in the terrible uni department.
Start with the colors
How many clashing colors can you fit on a few square feet of fabric? Designers tried their best to get a dozen in on Arizona’s alternate road grays. You’ll notice right away that the gray is darker than any other MLB team has gone (by a lot), and it gets even darker on this uni back.
But the colors will draw the most attention from this angle. You have black numbers with red outlines, teal names with black outlines, red logo patches, black sleeves, and black sleeve stripes with teal outlines. None of it works.
Continue with the logos and accents
We tried to like the D-Backs uniforms that stuck to three or four colors and went for some type of unity. However, the different accents and logos lost us even on these examples.
Just when you think the jagged “A” on the hat is convincing, you notice the red tint on the black background and get distracted. The same goes for the sublimation dyes along the sides of the shirts. Arizona’s shoulder style doesn’t win many fans, but the section beneath the armpit fares even worse. Besides, the snake is cartoonish rather than scary.
The tragedy of sublimation
If you say the word “sublimation” to people, most will not understand what you are talking about. Stylistically, there may be a good reason for that, but we must mention it in order to explain why people hate these uniforms. Unlike silkscreens, which sit on the fabric as a separate entity, sublimation dying makes the design one with the fabric. Overall, it’s a good concept, but the execution here is brutal.
Sure, the “diamond gradient” effect (from small and light to darker and larger) may hint of snakeskin, but that doesn’t make it look good on a ball field. When combined with a sublimation-dyed sleeve of a different color, it gets a little worse. We’re not saying everyone should look like the Tigers have for the past 100 years, but we can’t blame ballplayers for mocking the Diamondbacks the first time they saw these.
They actually improved
If you think the 2017 D-Backs gear is bad, take a look at the original uniforms — especially the pants. When they emerged in 2015, the stripe or “piping” on the leg only went about three quarters of the way to the waist then stopped cold. This bit of flair made sense to no one and was the most obvious thing to strike down following that season.
Also, the snakeskin design on the back of the leg (starting below the knee) died before 2017 began.
So we have progress, folks. Don’t forget this as the Diamondbacks march onto the field one of these days and you spit out your beer. Even if we need to continue moving forward, we have already come a long way.
Miami is competitive
Now that the Diamondbacks have semi-normal pants again, the spread has gotten smaller. Just one season ago, Arizona had blown out the pack in the ugly uniform department. It was like the Cubs in 2016: wire-to-wire domination, with the nearest competitor about 15 games behind. However, things tightened up this season. Miami’s bad uniforms have gained ground on the D-Backs.
If we wanted to make it really close, we would just go with the Marlins‘ orange alternate home unis. We imagine the design came from a contest held at local preschools. Of course, the logo on the hat threatens to swallow the entire thing, and the All-Star Game patch sucked up most of the remaining space. The rainbow “M” logo has to be one of the game’s weakest (if not the weakest).
But there’s only one Arizona
Nonetheless, you only get a terrible uni in Miami occasionally. All-Star Games only come along once every few decades. On most nights, the Marlins look like the mediocre expansion team they are. Our Diamondbacks rarely take the field in a uniform that doesn’t make you gag or do a double-take.
We understand they wanted to push the envelope. That took some courage in a sport dominated by tradition. (If you doubt us, brush up on the response to the new nickname jerseys you will see for a weekend in August.) But bad colors and hodgepodge designs never work, whether it’s new-school or the oldest thing around.
Still, we celebrate the ugliest uniforms in baseball. Without them, we wouldn’t appreciate the Dodgers in LA or the Red Sox on the road. We welcome reminders of how classic a baseball uni can be.