Category Archives: Baseball

The Padres in Brown

The San Diego Padres, also known as the hard luck Padres, los pobres Padres … you get the picture. San Diego fans are acquainted with grief. Even now, the Friars are sitting on a .447 record for the season with no hope of postseason play. This is about average, actually, since as of 2015, their all-time win percentage stood at 46.4. But, there’s always next year (and there always will be). Needless to say, the Padres haven’t made a name as an aspirational team like, for instance, the New York Yankees—the most successful team in baseball historically, with an all-time win percentage of 56.9 and a whopping 27 championship titles.

But never fear, because there is something the Padres can do to improve their image. I’m talking uniforms. The Padres should bring back the brown.

A few years ago, I’d never thought I’d say that. In 2004, when Petco Park opened for the first time, the team uniforms also got a makeover, and the colors were changed to sand (a light tan), navy blue, and white. I really liked it. It looked subdued and professional, and incorporated the seaside location of the gorgeous new park. I thought they should never change it. But the Padres have never stuck with one uniform for too long. After several years, the sand was replaced with light gray. This looked nice, but maybe too subdued. Maybe even … a bit boring.

Let’s wind the clock back a little. I’m not going to fact check this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Padres, though a young MLB team, born in 1969, have altered their look more than any other MLB team. (The Yankees never have in over a hundred years, and the they won’t, either.) In the spring of ’69 the brand new Padres sported brown and gold. They wore some combination of brown and gold for quite some time, adding orange as an accent color in 1980. Beginning in 1985, the Padres dumped the gold and used brown and orange on pinstriped jerseys. In 1991, the brown was ditched and the Padres thence used navy blue and orange, retaining a white home jersey with pinstripes, but blue pinstripes. (Perhaps thinking this was the secret to the Yankees’ success.) Remarkably, the Padres kept this basic look until 2003.

In 2016, the Padres gave a nod to the past in two ways. One was introducing a light yellow-orange as an accent color. The ball cap with a white S and yellow-orange D was reminiscent of the ’90s ball caps. Also, they introduced a brown and gold home alternate jersey, worn on Fridays. This is paired with a brown and gold cap resembling the cap worn between 1972 and 1984. The yellow-orange was a one-season deviation, but they kept the browns in 2017. And you know what? Those alternate jerseys look good!

Brown, properly executed, has at least three things in its favor. One, it recalls our roots. The Padres began in brown and used it a primary color for 21 seasons. In this way, it makes sense. This would not be an arbitrary color change, but a deliberate shift towards something that is culturally San Diegan and identifiable as such. Which brings me to thing number two: brown is unique. No other MLB team uses brown. How many teams use blue? About half of all the teams! Brown and gold uniforms would stand apart. Third, when done right it looks good. Really good. (See 1972 for how not to do it.)

Naturally, I have my own ideas about implementation. I don’t want some kind of “replica” jersey. It would be a modern iteration, using brown and gold as the coloring scheme. Pants would be white or gray because colored pants don’t go over well in baseball like they do in football. Don’t know why; they just don’t. But I’m not the only one with ideas. Below are a couple fake mock-ups of what this might look like.


This mock-up is created by a guy named John Brubaker. He calls is a “little PhotoShop dream of a better looking team.”


This is also a mock-up by the same guy. Now, below are some real pictures of the Padres’ current brown alt jerseys:


Don’t those look good? These shouldn’t be the alt jerseys. These should be the main jerseys! We should lose the blue and reform our identity around the brown. We need to stop the changing around all the time (like the yellow-orange from last year). When someone asks what the Padres’ colors are, the question should have a simple answer―something you can take to the bank, something that identifies the franchise, linking it to the past and carrying on as long as balls and strikes, innings and outs, stolen bases and double plays shall endure.

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Let’s Review This Call

It was a Wednesday night. Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had thrown 26 consecutive outs, leaving him one out away from doing what has only been done 20 times in Major League Baseball history, a history that dates back over a hundred years: throwing a perfect game.  On the next pitch, the ball is hit. The first baseman runs in to scoop it up and Galarraga rushes to cover first. The throw is bobbled but retrieved and the quick toss made to the bag. It’s close. The call on the field: safe. The perfect game is blown.

The reality? The batter was thrown out at first.  Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, has had a long and fine career. This isn’t a matter of making him feel guilty. He already does. He apologized to Galarraga, holding back tears. No, this is about reopening that perennial baseball can-o-worms, the question of using instant replay to reverse on-the-field calls. Baseball, with its roots deep in a historical heritage, has always been, it seems to me, the most reluctant sport to defer to the all-seeing camera. In 2008, instant replay verification was approved for double checking close homerun balls—fair or fowl, did it bounce back in, etc. I think it’s high time for the use of replay to correct base calls and close catches or misses low to the ground.

I’ll tell you what I don’t want. I don’t want cameras used to call balls and strikes, and I don’t want every call to be double checked. I don’t want cameras used for balls and strikes because that would 1) be impractical (checking the replay every pitch?), and 2) umps have their own quirks. Some call wider or narrower strikes zones. They aren’t consistent across the board from game to game and ump to ump. But as long as an umpire is self-consistent during the course of one game, it’s all part of baseball’s idiosyncratic nature.

Secondly, no one wants chaos. I think MLB can take a lesson from the NFL, which has been able to come up with a workable replay system. I think that on-the-field calls should always stand unless officially challenged by the opposing team. A procedure for challenging, and perhaps a limited number of challenges, would be put in place. As in the NFL, the call should not be overturned if the video is questionable. Only a clear, undeniable contradiction of the call on the field could reverse it.

Ultimately what we want is truth in sports. If a runner beat the ball, fairness dictates he be safe. If a fielder beat the runner, fairness dictates he be out. I think that if we did expand the use of instant replay review in baseball, it might not be utilized as frequently as some fear. The vast majority of calls on the field are correct, and umpires elicit a high degree of respect. But there are times when they err, and when the all-seeing camera could help improve the game by restoring simple justice.

In Defense of Baseball

Spring is upon us, and with it the start of the baseball season. I’m so ready for this, just as I am every April. It’s fun, it’s frustrating—it draws you in.  Around this time of year, though, the most frustrating thing is having to defend baseball to haters (such as my baseball-bashing roommate, Gary).  I’ve never considered writing a blog about it before, but here are the five most basic reasons I like baseball.

  1. Baseball is unique. There is no sport like it (besides baseball offshoots such as softball, kickball, over the line, and good old Wiffle ball, but you know what I mean). The other major pro team sports are generally different iterations of the same game: get the ball into the opposite goal, while the opposing teams tries to prevent you. Soccer is the most obvious, but basketball, hockey, and football use the same basic template, though football deviates the most out of those. In baseball, the ball serves a completely different purpose than the “marker” it serves in the other sports. And this is interesting, and pretty cool (at least to me): baseball is the only sport in which the defense has possession of the ball.
  2. Baseball is perfect.  This, you must be thinking, should be reason #1.  By perfect, I merely mean that the diamond’s dimensions are so finely tuned to create dynamic game play, they appear as if they were given directly to us by the finger of God from Mt. Sinai.  For those unfamiliar, the baseball diamond is a 90-foot square. Ninety feet is a magic number, and to change it, even by a foot, would result in either too many or too few base hits.  The pitcher’s mound is 60½ feet from home plate (yes, I’m getting these numbers from the top of my head; I guess I’m a geek), and the same magical properties apply.
  3. Baseball is the only sport I can think of where every playing field is different, and I love this added variety, which you find nowhere else. While the infield dimensions are exact, outfield dimensions are given quite a bit of free play.  Some ballparks have long, capacious outfields, where homeruns are harder to hit; some have shorter fields that favor hitters.  Some have more foul ball territory; some have only narrow foul ball territory. Since a ball hit foul can still be caught for an out, this changes the game! (Less foul ball territory favors the hitter).  Every ballpark, therefore, has its own flavor, and local fans and baseball fans in general, myself included, love this fun and memorable aspect of baseball.  It’s why baseball fans grow to love not only their home team, but their local ballpark as well.
  4. Baseball is dynamic.  The most frequent complaint from haters is that baseball is boring.  Not to me! But I think I know what the complaint means.  In baseball, the action is punctuated. There are times of even pace, and then, bam!, something fast or big happens. You never know when it will spring. I like this.  Football also has punctuated action, but in sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey, what you get (in my opinion) is a constant high pace, where punctuations are in low contrast to the the mean action level. It’s kind of homogeneous, if you will. In basketball, scores are high and you at least get to see baskets made every few minutes.  In soccer, nothing ever happens, and that is my biggest problem with it. Soccer is still fun, and I don’t bash any sports (except curling, of course). But rather than believing baseball is boring, I really enjoy the high contrast, up-and-down dynamism of it. I suppose it’s the very thing others find “boring” that really keeps my interest, which is why the boring accusation always baffled me.
  5. Baseball is subtle and therefore engaging.  So, what exactly goes on in those evenly paced times we just discussed? A lot more than meets the eye, but this is where you begin to have to be more of an active baseball spectator.  There is a battle being fought between the pitcher and the batter—one of the most intriguing battles in all of sports. Think about it. The pitcher has to pitch the ball over the plate, just in the area the hitter can best hit it, and try to strike him out. If he pitches out of the hitter’s reach, that doesn’t count, and goes toward the hitter. How can the pitcher do this and yet not give up a hit?  That’s the battle!  And it’s a game of strategy at least as much as skill. Since 1870 (I didn’t get that off the top of my head) pitchers have had more pitches to choose from than just the fastball. The catcher makes decisions about which pitch to throw in an attempt to catch the batter off guard. “Breaking balls” (balls that curve) do this either by making the batter think he’s getting a strike and swinging at a ball that breaks away, or by making him think he’s getting a ball and letting the ball pass as it breaks into the strike zone. Strike! The batter, in the meantime, is trying to get into the pitcher’s mind and be one step ahead.  When you realize what’s going on every at-bat, it makes the game engaging and supremely interesting, and even a little heady. There are more subtleties (think runners trying to steal, base coaches and their famous hand signals, etc), but this is enough said.

Now that you undoubtedly have a greater appreciation of baseball, enjoy the 162 games of the regular season.

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