Today, while I watched Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston waxing so non-poetically about the Blue Jays' new uniforms -- and, for the most part, agreed with him -- I couldn't help wondering what the official line was eight years ago, when the Jays ditched their previous look, dropped blue from their uniforms -- both the word "Blue" and largely the actual color, too -- in favor of just "Jays" and a combination of silver and black.
They must have seemed excited then too, right?
"This was under consideration for two years -- this wasn't a snap decision. This was well-researched and well-documented," said Paul Godfrey, the team's president. "We put it in a drawer for a while and came back. We had four different designs and the input of some of the players and fans. We're very confident that this is something that will last for many years to come."
Does eight years count as many years? Perhaps. Especially when it comes to uniforms. Today there's a whole process involved in changing a team's livery, but in the old days there was nothing to it, and some teams would routinely change their uniforms every year or two. Mostly, I think because the owners were bored and figured looking at uniform designs during the winter was sort of a fun hobby.
Even if eight years doesn't qualify as many, those were so ugly that it seemed like many years.
What I love is that Godfrey was so proud of those things, and of the wonderful process that led to them. Two years? Four different designs? And they still wound up with something that everyone, not really so many years later, agreed was pretty awful?
I think it's fascinating how similar the process seems to have been, this time around. According to the Blue Jays:
The new look was more than 18 months in the making. It was created by the Blue Jays with assistance from the Design Services division of Major League Baseball, in conjunction with members of Toronto's staff, manager John Farrell and several players.
You got that? Long process. Toronto's staff. Toronto's players. I'm sure MLB was involved last time, too. Supposedly the same process, and yet a completely different conclusion. The first time: modern, ugly. This time: old-fashioned, relatively elegant. You can't really argue with the results, but maybe someone needs to think about a process that delivers such wildly different products.
Anyway, I found this passage from 2003 interesting as well:
Godfrey was asked by one reporter whether the change could be viewed as an effort by the club to make a quick buck. Godfrey responded to that by explaining that Major League merchandise licensing fees are divided evenly among all 30 teams and that local revenues from apparel sales do not drastically affect an organization's financial picture.
"This isn't a big cash grab. Merchandise, of all the revenues a club gets, is almost near the bottom if not at the bottom," he said. "The club gets big revenues from attendance and television. If you think this is a cash grab, you've got the wrong understanding of how baseball operates. No team, even the New York Yankees, could live just on a sale of merchandise."
I think this is true, so far as it goes. And I won't try to argue that the Blue Jays' latest shift is being done solely with (Canadian) dollars in mind. I think there really are well-meaning people who realized that the old livery just wasn't getting it done, either commercially or esthetically.
Still, it would be terribly naïve to believe that nobody thinks about merchandising doesn't come into play in these situations. It takes two years because a lot of people care, and a lot of people care because there's at least a fair amount of money on the line. If there wasn't real money to be made, players wouldn't wear those awful World Series caps, or don those silly t-shirts immediately after winning a postseason series.