The New Red Sox Uniforms: Baseball Enters the Golden Age of Grotesque

At some point, the Major League Baseball brain trust will realize that they don’t need gimmicks to grow the game. Sadly, that day is not today.

If you’re any sort of baseball fan at all, you’ve already seen the new Red Sox uniforms, pictured above. These are the “City Connect” series, a joint effort of Nike and Major League Baseball to create new hip uniforms and get people talking. These are not replacements for the traditional blue and red Red Sox uniforms. Though the traditional uniforms at least have the color the team is named after on them, unlike these monstrosities.

The uniforms are supposed to hearken to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Which is all well and good, but has nothing to do with baseball. The only connection that the Marathon has to the Red Sox is the 11:05 am start on Patriots Day and the Red Sox wearing “Boston” uniforms at home in memory of the victims of the 2013 terrorist attack.

So what’s the point of all of this?

"We wanted to be at the front of the line. We told them that we would love to collaborate in any way you see fit," [Red Sox Chief Marking Officer Adam] Grossman said. "That was two years ago, and that point, they said they were going to do the City Connect program that if we're going to do this, we are all-in, and even though we are a traditional historic franchise, we want to do something completely different.

"We want to push the envelope and be bold in this."

Let me cut through the murk to get to the point of all of this:

  1. To make baseball more interesting to younger non-fans;

  2. Sell merchandise.

Never mind the fact that these colors have nothing to do with the Red Sox. Never mind the fact that it makes the Red Sox look like the UCLA of the East. The Red Sox brass loves these uniforms and, with the sales of swag they will earn with this, so does MLB.

Never mind the fact that this is yet another punch in the face of traditional baseball fans. You know, the fans that are actually keeping the sport afloat on a day-to-day basis. But Grossman acknowledges that they don’t care about that:

"We understand that for traditionalists, this may not work for them and we're OK with that," Grossman said. "We get it. This is not meant to replace our crisp whites. That's not what this is about, but it's about connecting and having other people look at us differently, especially younger more diverse crowds. We embrace that, and it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that, and that's what this represents."

So it represents yet another effort of baseball trying to be something that it’s not to appeal to people who still won’t care about the game long after this fad has passed. And baseball has decreed that all thirty teams, even the Dodgers and the Yankees, will dress up in clown costumes as bad or worse than this.

Why does baseball continually do this? Why can baseball not leave well enough alone? They’ve blown up the minor leagues. They keep trying to change the very nature of the game. And now they come after the very literally visual fabric on which the game is made.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for traditional uniforms. But this presentation goes far above and beyond that. This isn’t the White Sox wearing shorts, or the Astros creating the tequila sunrise pattern. In those instances, teams changed up their entire visual identity and presentation. Here, the Red Sox are going to wear different uniforms featuring collars that are totally unconnected to their team or their history. And all for the explicit purpose of attempting to attract the disinterested. It’s a bonkers scheme to separate casual fans from a small portion of their money, potentially at the expense of losing the business of diehard fans and a larger portion of their money.

At some point, the Major League Baseball brain trust will realize that they don’t need gimmicks to grow the game. Sadly, that day is not today.