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New Nats Uniforms: Hold The Flagwaving

The Washington Nationals have more than their share of problems--soft attendance, the worst TV ratings in all of baseball, and a miserable paucity of talent on the field.

Their uniforms were not in the top 20 among their woes. But it's new uniforms that the team unveiled today, and, well, the new duds are, um, duds.

Not all of them: The new away uniforms are just fine--not as attractive or classy as the ones they replace, but fine.


Nationals outfielder Lastings Milledge, with model at right, sports the new road jersery at ESPN Zone restaurant in Washington D.C. (Dominic Bracco II -- TWP)


They even sport a nice traditional touch, a script "Washington" stretched across the jersey front, complete with a underlining of red that harkens back to uniforms from the sport's golden era.

The other bit of good news is that the standard home uniform will remain unchanged. But the alternate home jerseys are a big step in the wrong direction. The less offensive of the two--this bright red number with a curly W and white piping--is perfectly fine, but it's just not as distinctive as the very similar jersey with the "D.C." logo that it replaces.

The second alternate home jersey is like something that would have emerged from the design studio of Up With People! if they'd hired the staff of the Independence Day parade.


Models with the new Nationals home jerseys. (J. Scott Applewhite -- AP)

The "D.C." logo that dominates the jersey front is a caricature of conservative 1970s patriotic graphic design, a painfully glaring jumble of swirling red and white stripes under seven stars (Is there some hidden meaning to the number of stars--is this the launch of a seven-year plan to build toward mediocrity? Is seven the number of new starting players the team needs to have a prayer of playing .500 ball? Is seven the number of fans who will be in attendance by next September if the team doesn't acquire some actual major league players?)

Flag imagery certainly fits with a tourist's view of Washington, but it says nothing to hometown fans other than that the Nationals don't get this region. You don't see the Skins, Wizards or Caps waving the flag anymore than do teams in other cities, and the Nats shouldn't fall into that trap either. The old Bullets and Caps were deep into the red, white and blue years ago, and a fat lot of good it did them. You'll notice that they've left that graphics legacy far behind them--and they're doing far better these days.

The new uniforms smack of change for change's sake--perhaps just to sell more paraphernalia. But to sell more stuff, the team will need more fans to come on out to the ballpark next year, and that means improving the performance on the field.

The good news is that the buzz in baseball is that the Lerner family has gotten serious about spreading some money around and acquiring a top-shelf free agent or two in the coming weeks. That's not going to be easy--even if the Nationals come up with the cash, it's likely to be a hard sell to get one of the top players on the market to agree to come to a team that's just at the beginning of a ground-up (re?)building project.

But that--and not new unis--is where the energy and effort of the team's bosses needs to be. The Nationals have lots of work to do, but they enjoy a stadium that has won excellent reviews from most fans, a ballpark that turned out to be much easier to get to than many had anticipated, an economy that should reward entertainment offerings that are priced at bargain levels (as baseball should be and as the Nats' decision to reduce ticket prices will produce), and a town that rewards success on the field with support at the gate.

There's not a whole lot the Nationals can do about the fact that the rival Baltimore Orioles control their TV coverage. Don't expect much in the way of programming about the Nats on Baltimore-centric MASN. But the Nats can and must get out into the community to build interest in, knowledge of and emotional ties to baseball and the home team. Fiddling around with the uniforms and making them hokier won't help.

By Marc Fisher |  November 6, 2008; 2:47 PM ET
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Comments

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The Caps changed their uniforms last year to a new red and white theme (Rock the Red!)

Posted by: mbrandy | November 6, 2008 4:10 PM

Heavy emphasis on the red, though, in Ted Leonsis's new marketing strategy. No sign of the red, white and blue patriotic blends that used to be the signature of Abe Pollin's teams back in the day.

Posted by: Fisher-TWP | November 6, 2008 4:18 PM

I don't know. The red, white and blue "DC" ought to induce vertigo in opposing pitchers. Pretty sneaky if you ask me.

Posted by: staxowax | November 6, 2008 4:36 PM

Strange that Fisher declares the uniforms duds in the headline, but then says that 3 of the 4 are perfectly fine. But then, his columns never make much sense.

Personally, I like the new away jerseys, but really don't like the white lines along the alternate red jersey.

As long as they get Strasbourg signed....

Posted by: orson72 | November 6, 2008 5:31 PM

The new road uniforms are alright (I do like the Washington script) but the new alternate uniforms are tacky. The old - and new - home uniforms are terribly boring with ugly font and colors. They should have jazzed up the hats a bit - i.e. make the gromet white. Not much creative thinking here - like most of the Nats marketing efforts.

Posted by: DodgersSteve | November 6, 2008 5:52 PM

I think the away uniforms are by FAR the best of the Nationals uniforms. The script Washington actually belongs with the curly "W", which the current home and road uniforms lettering doesn't. My only regret is that the home uniform hasn't changed. Also, why is the road uniform's script red. How does that look with a blue cap? Or is the blue cap gone?

Finally, I understand there's a new blue cap with a red visor.

Posted by: dclawyer2 | November 6, 2008 10:26 PM

To clarify the above, it's the NEW road uniforms I like. The current ones suffer the same defect as the home ones - the lettering on the jersey bears no relation to the lettering on the cap.

Posted by: dclawyer2 | November 6, 2008 10:27 PM

I respect the consistency with the Post. Chico made a smart comment about the patriotic being uniforms only Toby Keith would like.

It is OK to wear patriotic clothing on holidays. A team that plays on South Capitol Street should recognize its connection to the Nation's capitol. The amount of discomfort Fischer has with this county's symbols is a little sad.

Posted by: EXTRA1E | November 6, 2008 11:11 PM

So when are we getting major league baseball team? I am still waiting. Lerners' are a joke. Please jsut take your team and leave. I am sure some twon will build you a combo shoppingmall/stadium. Just leave. You are making Bob Short a favorite of mine!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | November 7, 2008 7:28 AM

After reading the Phil Wood interview on Nats320, my understanding is that MLB, not each individual team, is responsible for uni designs. Wood also pointed out that the size of the flag-themed logo is part of the reason that it looks off. I didn't care for that design when I saw it, but proportion as a factor had not occurred to me.

I like the road uni and the alternate red is okay, though I liked the DC logo on the old one.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 7, 2008 8:12 AM

Yeah, the stars and stripes thing is cheesy. They don't need two alternate jerseys, they need two outfielders who can catch flyballs on a regular basis.

But here's an unmentioned problem with them that Fisher doesn't comment on. The DC and W logos on the alternates are nearly visible from space! That DC is HUGE!

Posted by: kolbkl | November 7, 2008 8:56 AM

Marc,

Let's put this into context.

First the Alt 2 Jersey will be worn about 5 games a year (Natl holidays & a couple of military days) so that in very small doses it's not bad. Certainly better than the Cammo Unis that the Padres wear.

Second, the Curly W is, sort of in context with the hat. I guess it's OK, but then I've never understood the attraction of that logo. I much preferred the red block W with white outline on a blue cap (late 40s/early 50s). Also, the block W on the Uni was pure class.

Third, the "traditional" Washington road Uni had either a block Washington arced over the chest or, if memory serves, simply a blue block W on the left chest.

Frankly, the script Washington might as well be Los Angeles or Baltimore (where I think that the Orioles are now returning to). Just not special.

My judgment out of 10 -

Home standard: 8
Home Alt 1: 4
Home Alt 2: 6 (in small doses)
Road: 3

Posted by: Catcher50 | November 7, 2008 2:11 PM

When I heard we were having new unies released, I first guessed we would do something cornball, swaping Blue to home and Red to away with a Democrat in the white house. Too bad, that would be better than this weird Blue flag uniform.

I have no problem with a flag uniform but it would be better to do some 80's tastic rip on the old huston astros uni with the whole jersey looking like a flag rather than the corny thing inside the logo. If you took the DC off that blue shirt, it is actaully a nice look,I like the red and white piping.

I like the new away, totally a rip of the old Senators script. But we should have a Blue jersy for any old alternate away games, not just as a 4th of july thing.

Posted by: alex35332 | November 7, 2008 3:08 PM

No one's noted that the new Nationals' road uniforms look a great deal like the road unis the Expos wore in their final decade or so. I'm not too crazy about the alternates, although I hope the numbers are readable (a problem with the old blue numbers on red background alternates).

But I agree with kolbkl. Get the Nats a few new outfielders, preferably while ditching Clint (you don't see his equivalent in Philadelphia -- there, at least, the fans have a management that respects their intelligence!) and banning "Sweet Caroline" from Nationals Park forever (it's bad enough that the park will be invaded by Ivy League yuppie Red Sox fans next June, many of whom live here, but do we have to hear their song in our park?).

Posted by: VPaterno | November 10, 2008 11:18 AM

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