MLB Players’ Weekend isn’t the disaster it’s made out to be
LOS ANGELES — Let’s start with the obvious: These Players’ Weekend uniforms stunk.
Or did they?
“They were dope,” my 15-year-old son told The Post.
How many approving 15-year-olds neutralize disapprovals of other fans, geezer media types like myself or the actual people playing, managing and coaching the games?
On this third annual Players’ Weekend, which arguably caused more negative blowback than the first two combined, let’s not lose sight of the impetus behind this initiative: To engage a younger audience and to give the players themselves more agency, particularly with their footwear. It will go forward and it absolutely should, just with a couple of easy, obvious tweaks.
“I really, really, really enjoy Players’ Weekend,” CC Sabathia, one of the event’s Founding Fathers, said Sunday, before the Yankees and Dodgers wrapped up the weekend at Dodger Stadium. “I have no problem with the uniforms or anything like that. It’s been a lot of fun the last three years, getting to see guys’ personalities, what guys want to wear. It’s been fun.”
Sabathia, who will be retiring after this season, said he wasn’t aware of the grief this year’s uniforms had drawn. His own manager Aaron Boone, generally a baseball progressive, admitted that he “felt a little silly” wearing the Yankees’ all-black ensemble. Other skippers, like the Indians’ Terry Francona, who said unis made the participants “look like morons,” and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon (“Just really awkward, very awkward”) exhibited less diplomacy.
If nothing else, the home, all-white unis, including white-on-white numbers and names, mitigated the joy of the players’ nicknames, as you could barely make them out.
So next year, maybe expand your test audience before unveiling the gear? Get more feedback. Don’t catch people by surprise.
People generally liked (or at least didn’t hate) the 2017 and 2018 Players’ Weekend look, so now a sample size of three exists, with two good and one bad, to serve as a guideline.
The other issue that arose took place right here in Chavez Ravine: A source confirmed a report by Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports that the Dodgers asked Major League Baseball to play one of these three games against the Yankees in the traditional uniforms.
MLB turned down the request, which also would have needed the approval of the Players’ Association since this is a joint venture.
Quite simply, baseball should not have scheduled Yankees-Dodgers and this players celebration on the same weekend. It was so easily avoidable. Nostalgia remains a driving force for baseball, and Yankees-Dodgers injects nostalgia into the relatively new concept of interleague play. It doesn’t get more beautiful, from a uniform standpoint, than seeing the Yankees and Dodgers go at it wearing their beloved garb.
So in 2022, the next time these two clubs will face each other in the regular season (unless a work stoppage destroys the sport altogether), baseball should ensure that the Yankees and Dodgers don’t face each other on Players’ Weekend. Since no other interleague matchups in the interim will create this level of hype and history, consider it an every-three-years issue.
With all of baseball’s concerns — labor strife, tanking and radical changes in the on-field play probably top the list, and the latter two can be linked to attendance drops — it can’t afford to give up on Players’ Weekend, or on finding ways to shorten the times of game, or on taking its product to new and exotic locations like Europe, the Little League World Series and Iowa.
“I think players like it,” Sabathia said of Players’ Weekend, “and I think that’s all that really matters.”
He’s right, in the sense that fans will and should connect most with players. And in the sense that bad uniforms and bad scheduling can be fixed, but good ideas will last a long time.
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