Let’s start at the local level. Pittsburgh, really, come on. I know the Pirates spent a lot of time being bad, but it’s been a few years now. More than enough time to make things right. Besides, those couple decades of being bad are no excuse at all. The Pirates have been around since 1891. This isn’t Denver or Tampa. This is a traditional baseball* city with a long and (mostly) proud tradition. So how can you have an opening day so bland?
*And sports in general, really.
It was the same story last year. You can very quickly forget that this game is anything special. Sure, in the standings, there isn’t anything special about the first game. But on the baseball calendar? This is one of the holy days of hardball.* This comes with some certain expectations, just certain bare minimums. Believe me, the bar for this level isn’t hard. For one, give us the extended introductions. This may have happened yesterday in Pittsburgh, I don’t know. WGN didn’t really show us one way or the other. Second, dress the place up a bit. Let us know at a very quick glance that this is something special. Put up a bit of bunting or something. Patriotic is traditional, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at team colors.** Lastly, dress yourself up. Wearing the softball tops is akin to jean day in the office. I’m not saying it’s never to be done, but there are times when it’s just inappropriate. Opening Day is one of those days. Unless there is a very good reason not to,*** wear your good whites and greys. Especially when you’ve got uniforms as sharp as the Pirates have. That’s it. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
*In my mind these days are, in no particular order, Opening Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, All Star Game, and the World Series. If you want to expand that to all of October, I wouldn’t fight you.
**Obviously, you would have to change the logo on that bunting. But, I mean, isn’t it a little bit of a problem in itself that I was much more able to find Steelers bunting than Pirates bunting?
***Off the top of my head, I can only think of three exceptions, and they’re all pretty iffy. The Padres wore their camo tops, which I’m generally not in favor of at any time. I just feel there are better ways to honor the military. But, San Diego was at least among the first teams to do this, so I’ve always given them a pass for this. And, because they were one of the leading teams with the camo thing, I’ve always kind of thought it was a certain tradition for them. I still wouldn’t have made that choice if I were in charge of deciding the uniforms, but I won’t be too harsh about it. The A’s and Royals also have pretty strong ties to non-white colors with gold and powder blue respectively. Again, I wouldn’t pick those uniforms for Opening Day if I were charge, but I would accept it.
As a bit of an aside, I wasn’t a big fan of the Cubs new alternate road uniforms. I didn’t care for them much on a mannequin, but I was waiting to comment until I saw them on the field. Now I have, and my opinion is unchanged. They just look cheap. It looks like some knock-off jersey you would buy off a street corner somewhere or for your kid. The huge block letters just lack a certain elegance the normal road greys have. Plus, the numbers on the front of the new jerseys were tiny. That may have been the cheapest looking part of the whole get up. I’m excited to see a lot of the jerseys the Cubs will wear this year as part of the 100 Years of Wrigley celebration, but this one missed the mark.
Anyway, back to other Opening Day matters. Those are the minimum requirements. Other teams take it a few steps further, and it’s great. St. Louis usually busts out the Clydesdales, many times complete with the red blazered HOFers. Cincinnati (naturally) pretty well shuts down for Opening Day, complete with parades and starting local broadcasts at 4:30 in the morning. And, just to further prove that some teams simply understand what they’re doing, here is a picture from the Cardinals vs. Reds game yesterday. Cardinals in road greys,* Reds in home whites. Sure, it would be nice to see some high cuffs, but we’re taking baby steps here.
*With blue hats/helmets again. I thought I would miss that last year, but honestly I felt like the red hats worked pretty well. I’m a little surprised that experiment has apparently already ended.
Speaking of Cincinnati, what have you done, MLB? I didn’t like the weird opening schedule with games in Japan, and I don’t like it any better in Australia. That’s fine if you want to play games abroad and up the stakes to draw more interest. I don’t really see why these can’t be exhibition games, but whatever. But I just don’t see why these games have to be so far ahead of the rest of the regular season. They end up feeling like exhibition games anyway. And if the answer is “too much travel,” well, that kind of shoots the idea of an NFL team in London down, doesn’t it? And then there was yet another wonky Opening Day game in San Diego on Sunday night. Except it wasn’t an opener for the Dodgers, as they were involved in the Australia games. An unbalanced schedule is one thing, but that felt especially bad.
Can somebody please tell me what was so wrong in always starting the season at noon or one in Cincinnati? It’s a great nod to history in a sport that is typically so steeped in and reverent of history. And the way the city celebrates, it would be great for national TV. It’s a natural extension for ESPN or MLB Network to do a College Gameday type show every Opening Day. Again, it seems like such a simple answer, I just don’t understand how it ever got mucked up.
But, hey, I’m not the commissioner. Not yet, anyway. When does Bud retire, again?