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MLB and the Cubs made a big mistake on this year’s spring jerseys

The names and numbers on the back are almost unreadable.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Can you read the name and number on the back of this Cubs jersey?

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Chicago Cubs Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Well, sure you can, mostly, now that I’ve called your attention to it. And even with no name and number on the back, you’d probably soon figure out from the face and pitching motion that it’s Jon Lester.

But the red numbers against the blue jerseys are really, really hard to read unless you’re up close, as that photo is. From the seats at Sloan Park, most of them are completely unreadable, and it’s not much better on TV.

Ever since Major League Baseball declared Spring Training (officially, you’re supposed to CAPITALIZE the first letter like that, though I rarely do) a “jewel event” (like the All-Star Game or World Series), they’ve taken over this aspect of playing the games. Many teams, before MLB’s takeover, used to wear their alternate jerseys at both home and away games during spring camp. The Cubs would wear what amounted to their batting-practice top for road games, but generally would wear the white pinstripes for home games at Sloan Park, and before that at HoHoKam Stadium.

But now, MLB has mandated that teams wear these special jerseys for all spring games, which results in games like Saturday night’s, when both teams are dressed in nearly the same color:

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Not optimal, I’d say, as these teams look essentially alike on the field, the difference being evident only in the logos and pants color. As you can see, the Dodgers have a similar red number on the front of their spring jersey (an identical style to their regular season tops), but on the back:

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Well now. That’s a lot easier to read, isn’t it? Why couldn’t the Cubs do that?

Oh. Turns out they did, just last year:

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

That’s so much better. Why they felt the need to change it for this year is beyond me. Look, I get it, they want to sell these as “game jerseys,” and they certainly could have done that even with the same look as last year, because each jersey has an “AZ” patch with the year on it. You can see that patch on Kris Bryant’s left sleeve in the photo above, and also on Peter Bourjos’ left sleeve in the photo showing him above. The patches are pretty cool, actually, and are made of plastic, not embroidered.

Also, in the photo of Jason Heyward at the top of this post, you’ll see wordmarks on the numbers that say, among other things, “AZ” and “2018,” along with the MLB logo. That’s actually kind of cool, but... those make the numbers even more difficult to read.

What if they had red numbers with a white outline on them? That would make them easier to read. What a concept! Oh... wait.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That’s Anthony Rizzo sporting the spring jersey in 2016. Blue, with red numbers, with a white outline. Easy to read, even at a distance! The red on the 2016 jersey is actually identical to the 2018 red — it’s just easier to read because of the white outline.

Part of the problem here is that for the Cubs, blue and white are the main team colors and red is supposed to be more of an “accent” color, on the logo and on the cap. Making red so prominent on the names and numbers is not only jarring, but as noted above, the contrast between the Cubs’ red and blue simply doesn’t work without some white also weaved in. If you’re interested, here is a chart with all the official PANTONE and RGB colors for all 30 teams. It’s from last year, but I don’t think there have been many changes for 2018. (Incidentally, look at the Bourjos photo again. It would appear the Cubs jersey and the Dodgers jersey are different shades of blue, even though the PANTONE and RGB colors for the teams are the same, according to that chart.)

So, Major League Baseball, here’s some unsolicited advice: For 2019, please go back to either the 2016 or 2017 style for Cubs spring jerseys, and stick with it. I promise the Cubs’ team store in Mesa will still have lines out the door ready to buy lots of jerseys, and maybe even more if you sell them with names and numbers that are easy to read. I’m not sure who was responsible for this year’s design, MLB or the Cubs, but it should have been better thought out.

Lastly, I grant you that in the grand scheme of baseball things, this is a minor annoyance. But if MLB’s going to go to this length to make “Spring Training” a “jewel event,” they ought to take better care to get the uniforms right.


The Cubs’ 2018 spring training jerseys...

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Too hard to read! Hate them
    (417 votes)
  • 8%
    I like red on blue! Love them
    (72 votes)
  • 41%
    Don’t care either way
    (350 votes)
839 votes total Vote Now