Attempt to make splash goes splat

By SHARON FINK, Times Staff Writer
Published November 9, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - The biggest crime in fashion is being boring.

You can be bad. Misguided. Overly fond of tie-dye. A wearer of holiday ties every day from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

But don't be boring.

Unfortunately, that's what the Rays' new uniforms are.

In their zeal to be fresh, clean and classic - the Ralph Lauren of major-league baseball, if you will - the Rays have created a perfectly serviceable, and perfectly forgettable, collection of white, gray, navy blue and light blue.

The Rays ignored a basic fashion rule with their new uniforms: Fresh, clean and classic work best when they have a twist that makes them modern and stand out from everyone else's attempt to be the same.

The Rays didn't have to look far to find a twist candidate. They could have carried one over from their old uniform schemes: the vest top, green and purple, even the ray. All that was fashion-forward compared with most of what's seen in major-league baseball.

But the Rays bypassed them.

They aren't alone in their design misstep, though. The major leagues are full of teams that have tried the same "fresh, clean and classic" redesign tact and ended up with white home uniforms, dirty dishwater gray road ones and a color scheme used to create a soothing environment in rest homes.

Try distinguishing the Rays' new look from the Mariners, Brewers and Royals from 100 yards away.

The Rays' blue scheme could have a deeper meaning. Blue is considered a soothing color, so if next season starts shaping up as not much better than this one, maybe they hope it will subliminally lull fans into mellowness.

The one risky move the Rays did take was redefining "ray" and ditching the sea-creature logo for a yellow "sunburst" one. Ralph Lauren would never abandon his polo player. He knows how attached people are to it. And longtime Rays fans will always consider their Rays as sea creatures, not sunshine personified by something that looks like the light that dings off teeth at the end of Orbit gum commercials.

New designs and directions are always a hard sell in fashion. They're even harder when, like the Rays' old uniforms, nothing was fundamentally wrong with what was replaced. They're harder yet in sports, where fans cynically eye every new-look jersey as simply another ploy to get more of their money.

The Rays' brain trust wanted a new direction and a new feel. It went forward with an idea of what it wanted the uniforms to represent. It ended up with nothing that grabs the imagination.

Sharon Fink can be reached at fink@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8525.