Toronto Blue Jays' New Uniform: Simple Throw Back or a Harbinger of a New Era?
With the Jose Bautista MVP snub story in its infancy yet already a rented mule, it seemed prudent to turn my attention to lighter fare: the not-as-beaten-to-death topic of the Toronto Blue Jays' new jerseys.
Old school meets the new school as the classic 1977-1996 uniform gets modernized. No longer the angry bird of the J.P. Ricciardi era, the vintage blue jay sharpens its lines, inflates in size and loses the baseball backdrop.
Also gone is the less-than-intimidating powder blue from both the logo and the piping. Instead, they are going with royal blue and white as the primary colours, along with grey for the alternate jersey and the red maple leaf on all three uniforms.
However, what has yet to be discussed is the obvious (to me at least) allegory within these uniforms.
First, the development and design process involved a massive cooperative effort. Fans were asked to submit designs for all three uniforms (home, away and alternate) and during the final development stages, players were solicited for input and analysis.
"They just asked for ideas," said JP Arencibia. "The colours, the piping, everything that goes in to the uniform, and we just said 'yes, no' to certain things."
An anecdote among the growing lore of GM Alex Anthopoulos states that he takes the time to get to know every single member of the Blue Jays organization. From the groundskeeper at the Bobby Mattick in Dunedin to a 35th-round draft pick toiling in rookie ball.
Meanwhile, J.P. Ricciardi was at best cool and prickly with the media and saw his players as a collection of sabermetric chess pieces and staff as simple cogs.
Thoughts on new uniform?
Another example is the team's homage by bringing back the original design. Team officials seem to understand that its entirely possible to look towards the future without completely ignoring the past.
Unlike the previous regime's decision to completely reinvent the team look with sharp-edged font and the now infamous "angry bird," they also decided to reinvent the Blue Jays' team-building philosophy.
Ricciardi bought in to his press clippings as a money ball wunderkind and gutted a scouting staff that was once the envy of Major League Baseball. After several wasted drafts, a slew of brutal roster mmoves (ahem, Chris Carpenter) and authoring two of the worst contracts in baseball history for Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, JPA is now a member of the Mets' front office.
Their shared history of scouting failures and contract mismanagement is absolutely synergistic.
Coming back to the new jersey, this throwback edition has looked back to better days and modernized the esthetic with an eye on trend forward design.
Which appears metaphorical when you consider that Anthopoulos and his staff have worked tirelessly to rebuild their scouting network and aggressively pursue the best unsigned young talent on the market. Not to mention his almost Pat Gillick-like ability to come out on top when making trades.
Where Alex has carved out his own identity, like the new logo, is his innate ability to constantly build from the ground up even when it's not clearly evident at the time.
Case in point: the trade for Miguel Olivo on November 4th, 2010.
With JP Arencibia the heir apparent and Jose Molina the highly regarded backup or mentor, both fans and media were generally confused by this move. That was until they declined his 2011 option the next day. This meant that once he was signed by another team, Toronto would be awarded a compensatory draft pick for that year.
All it cost was a low-level prospect and a bit of cash.
And finally, the new logo.
Toronto is the first team in Major League Baseball to use the "Puff Patch." This is a raised logo on the actual jersey to accentuate and sharpen the image instead of the tired, old silk-screen look used since the days of Abner Doubleday (I assume).
Where's the subtext in this, you ask?
Just that. Subtlety. Not only is this groundbreaking design for MLB jerseys, its a subtle bit of team swagger. A wink of the eye, a soft chuckle, a Cheshire cat smile as Toronto climbs the trail to the summit of the league's elite.
No need for the empty posturing of an angry bird that reeked of overcompensation. This team will politely kick your ass and still give you no option but to love them.
If you're like me and have a closet dedicated to nothing but team jerseys and caps, Foot Locker is releasing the new uniform apparel on November 23rd. I'll be there, will you?
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