Advertisement

Cincinnati Reds on 'tinfoil hats' and the Great Uniform Scandal of 2024 | Press Box Wag

GOODYEAR, Arizona — For anybody who might be living under a rock or too preoccupied with dealing with the snow to have heard about it, apparently the biggest story in sports this side of Taylor Swift is about all the ire and outrage over the uniforms delivered to major-league clubhouses this spring for use this season.

“Not good,” Reds pitcher Nick Martinez said of his take on the new unis — which have been ripped by players from Florida to Arizona this spring for everything from the ill fit of non-tailored pants to the lightweight, “cheap” feel of the jersey fabric to the smaller lettering of names on the backs and even the colors.

You can count pitcher Nick Martinez among the players spring training-wide who have problems with the new uniforms. “Not good,” he said simply.
You can count pitcher Nick Martinez among the players spring training-wide who have problems with the new uniforms. “Not good,” he said simply.

Players with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in particular have remarked about the slightly different hues of team colors, and Martinez said even the Reds’ home white is a different shade than before.

Reds spring training news Reds reliever Emilio Pagán is ramping up from a sports hernia injury

Reds spring training signing Why Josh Harrison thinks he can beat non-roster odds to go home again with Cincinnati Reds

Reds spring training Tyler Stephenson What Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson learned from his challenging 2023 season

Wait, what?

“You can tell,” he said, explaining that the texture of the change in material makes even the white appear a tone off of the previous look.

“This is, what — tinfoil hat, right — a little conspiracy theory,” Martinez said. “But maybe they altered the color a little bit so you wouldn’t wear last year’s pants or last year’s jerseys. So if you wore last year’s jerseys or pants you could tell, and then Nike wouldn’t like it.”

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) imitates throwing to second during catching drills during spring training workouts, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) imitates throwing to second during catching drills during spring training workouts, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

Yes, “tinfoil hat” is the correct term here.

Mostly, this is much ado about something that’s not nothing to elite, professional athletes — especially the ones required to wear these uniforms for games played almost every day for more than seven months of the year, counting spring training and potential playoffs.

But it’s also nothing new. Every so many years, the uniforms change because of the league’s vendor — though MLB has taken the new and alternative looks to stupid levels in recent years trying to capitalize on merchandise sales.

Reds spring training uniforms In MLB jersey controversy, cheap-looking new duds cause a stir across baseball

The difference this time around is that the Majestic Athletic brand unis that preceded this Nike-designed, Fanatics-manufactured version seemed to be universally loved.

And also this: Before this change, players got used to ultra-customized fits of both jerseys and, more importantly, the pants.

Players have been told that by the end of spring training, they’ll be measured for the customized fit they’re used to.

That’s one reason why at least two people believe the Great Uniform Scandal of 2024 will die down soon.

-
-

“In baseball, any new initiative, there’s going to be some negative feedback,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said during a media event Thursday. “First and most important, these are Nike jerseys. … Everything they’ve done for us so far has been absolutely, 100 percent successful across the board.”

He said the new uniforms have a “performance wear” design “tested more extensively than any jersey in the sport.”

That’s probably why they’re more lightweight in appearance and feel.

“When something changes, even if it’s awesome, people are going to be resistant to it because they’re not used to it,” Reds reliever Emilio Pagán said. “I think you give it till the end of spring and this isn’t going to be a story anymore.”

Reds spring training news Cincinnati Reds LHP Sam Moll (shoulder) slowed in camp but expected to be ready for opener

Reds spring Jake Fraley's daughter How Cincinnati Reds' Jake Fraley found strength in faith and team during daughter's healing

Reds spring training Elly De La Cruz The Elly De La Cruz plan: Inside Cincinnati Reds' approach with a young star

And this is a guy who actually had to switch pants size after getting his uniform the first day because his “right size” didn’t fit.

Some other Reds had issues with the pants, too. Some, such as Spencer Steer, isn’t a fan of the size or new font of the lettering on the back.

And some, such as catcher Luke Maile, have “no problem with it whatsoever.”

Presumptive Opening Day starter Hunter Greene even gave a quick laugh at the mere mention of the uni controversy.

“I know it’s been getting a lot of flack in the media,” he said, adding he doesn’t have strong feelings on it. “The pants are a little funky, but the jerseys are cool. And we’ll be able to make our adjustments. … But I know each guy’s different. When you look good, feel good, you play good — all of that stuff.”

But as Pagán said: “It’s a big league uniform. I’ve got a number. I’ll take it.”

Martinez said even some of his stronger feelings should be taken in the context of adjusting to something new.

"It's just change," Pagán said. "Change is never easy.”

Just ask some of the old timers who had to give up their beloved flannels all those years ago.

And don’t get some of us started about our beautiful, old, trusty flip phones.

Man with a Plan

Cincinnati native and non-roster invitee Josh Harrison is on a mission to earn a spot with his hometown team this spring and knows that plan starts with his exceptional versatility.

“I’ve got all my gloves,” said Harrison, who has made big league starts at all three outfield positions, three infield positions and also played first base. He even has pitched.

“The only thing that I’m not bringing is a catcher’s mitt or catcher’s equipment,” he said.

But this guy even has a plan for that position if called upon:

“I’d borrow somebody’s (gear) and then just call pitchouts.”

Said manager David Bell: “I think seven (positions) is enough.”

He Said It

Cincinnati Reds infielder Josh Harrison talks with teammates during Cincinnati Reds spring training workouts, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Goodyear, Ariz.
Cincinnati Reds infielder Josh Harrison talks with teammates during Cincinnati Reds spring training workouts, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Goodyear, Ariz.

“I’m going to win 20 myself.”

*Reds starter Frankie Montas, dismissing the Baseball Prospectus computer model that projects the Reds will win 78 games this season.

And Then He Said It

“He’s capable of it. …He’s in midseason form right now. When he’s healthy he’s as good as any pitcher out there.”

*Bell, not dismissing Montas’ projection.

Manfred with a Plan

For a certain segment of baseball fans and even players the best news to come out Manfred’s media event Thursday was that the 65-year-old commissioner does not plan seek another term.

On the other hand, that announcement comes with the caveat that those fans and players still have another five years of the often polarizing commish’s current term to endure.

At least it provides plenty of time to find the perfect candidate to present the esteemed “piece of metal” to the 2029 World Series winner.

Graham Ashcraft, above, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Frankie Montas, four of the pitchers projected to be in the starting rotation when the regular season starts, combined for 15 months of time on the injured list.
Graham Ashcraft, above, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Frankie Montas, four of the pitchers projected to be in the starting rotation when the regular season starts, combined for 15 months of time on the injured list.

The Big Number: 15

That's the combined months of injured list time in 2023 for the Reds’ top four projected* starting pitchers in the 2024 opening rotation (Greene, Nick Lodolo. Graham Ashcraft, Montas).

*-If healthy.

Burning Question

Before Montas signed with agent Scott Boras and eventually inked his $16 million deal with the Reds, he was represented by Roc Nation, the agency owned by superstar artist/entrepreneur/businessman Jay-Z, better known as Beyoncé’s husband.

And because it’s obviously what everybody wants to know, we asked Frankie if he knows Beyoncé. He does not.

“That would be dope,” he said.

Naturally, we then asked the obvious followup.

(No, that’s not why he switched agents).

Did You Know

Harrison has two All-Star selections in his career, both with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 2014 and 2017.

Cool, right?

Also extremely rare in these parts.

The 61 other players in camp combined have one: Closer Alexis Díaz last season.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: How Cincinnati Reds feeling pinch of MLB's new 2024 uniform design