It only took three years for Major League Baseball’s Players Weekend to go from novelty to annoyance and that’s a bit amazing.
It’s also extremely predictable given what fans have seen from MLB over the last century or so. The only way it’s shown it can operate is with strict adherence to whatever rules — written or otherwise — it puts in place no matter how silly the League ends up looking for it. And if you look around baseball on Saturday, you’ll see plenty of silliness.
If it’s not another manager or player bemoaning the monochromatic jerseys, it’s the league quickly chastising teams for daring to wear their normal caps or straight up refusing to allow the Dodgers and Yankees to wear their own iconic threads during a rare inter-league matchup.
No one is complaining about the players using their nicknames instead of surnames or that the custom cleats are distracting. The bigger issue seems to be that MLB isn’t quite sure who it wants Players Weekend to benefit.
Here’s how MLBPA executive director Tony Clark described the genesis of the weekend gimmick back during it’s inaugural year in 2017:
"Players are increasingly interested in finding unique ways to connect with their fans by allowing them to see more of their personalities and interests. The collective desire to express their diverse interests and backgrounds is what motivated players to lobby for the creation of Players Weekend. This will be an exciting and unique opportunity for the players to literally wear their passions on their sleeves, and equipment, too, as they embrace this chance to let their true identities shine."
Where is any of that on the field right now? What about dressing players up like they’re about to act out a live version of “Spy vs. Spy” allows their personalities to shine?
Baseball players gave the league a near-perfect premise to spice up three games out of the 162 each club plays and MLB couldn’t get out of its own way to make it happen. Instead it tried to legislate fun, hoping squeeze a profit from it via a few extra jersey sales.
As long as that’s the case all future Players Weekends will feel as stale as this year’s does.
If Players Weekend were to follow Clark’s words it would look vastly different than it does now. We’d see something like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio each rocking their dad’s old threads. Or Anthony Rizzo custom designing his own jersey that shows off the various causes and charities he supports.
It would look like teams choosing whether they all want to wear the same colorways or if players wanted to each pick their own. It wouldn’t confine all clubs to a specific weekend where they were forced to wear the uniforms, it would give teams options. Instead of making it harder to enjoy Yankees-Dodgers, New York could choose to add some flair to another otherwise meaningless game against a rebuilding team.
The idea of uniformity on a weekend expressly designed for individuality is never going to work no matter how much Major League Baseball tries to force it.
As long as that’s the case, Players Weekend will be about the players in name only.
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