For years now, the Texas Rangers have had trouble settling on their primary team color. First it was blue, then it was red, then blue again, and then word leaked last fall that they'd be going back to red. This chromatic identity crisis reached its logical conclusion Friday, when the Rangers unveiled a new uniform set featuring a truly magnificent stroke of idiocy: a garish two-tone batting helmet that's blue in the front and red on the sides, back and top. In a thoughtful gesture, the Rangers plan to wear this helmet for all games, home and road, ensuring that fans around the American League will be able to make fun of it.
How did this happen? Uni Watch sees three possible explanations:
1. The helmet manufacturer offered a closeout special on factory rejects.
2. The Rangers have drafted Lokai and Bele.
3. There was a marketing meeting that went something like this:
Marketing Guy No. 2: Sure, here. But listen, the rest of our uniforms will still have blue caps. We can't buy a whole extra set of red batting helmets just for a jersey we might wear twice a month. Can't we just wear the blue helmets with the red jerseys?
Marketing Guy No. 3: No way. Remember how bad it looked when we had it the other way around? This would be just as bad. You want some of these cold cuts?
Marketing Guy No. 2: Yeah, thanks. Hey, I've got it! We'll just come up with a helmet that's red and blue, so it'll work with all our uniforms.
Marketing Guy No. 1: You're a genius; problem solved! Hey, how come nobody ordered a cheese platter?
So which one of those possibilities do you think is most likely?
Like so many bad MLB ideas in recent years, this one can be traced to the Mets, who've been wearing their own two-tone helmet since 2006. But the black and blue tones on the Mets' helmet sort of blend together (ditto for the Rockies' black/purple model), while the Rangers' new helmet colors almost vibrate.
The Rangers' helmet is such an instant classic of bad design, it immediately leapfrogs all the competition and becomes the worst batting helmet in MLB history. But how does it stack up against other unirelated entries on MLB's all-time "What were they thinking?" list? Let's take a look:
•The Devil Rays' inaugural jersey: Worst. Jersey. Ever. Especially when you throw in the road and alternate versions. Nothing can compete with this, not even a remarkably ugly piece of two-tone headgear. Even stupider than the Rangers' new helmet.
•The Orioles in solid orange, the Phillies in solid burgundy, and the A's in solid green: Sure, these are all pretty awful, but each of them was worn no more than three times, so at least the teams in question had the sense to wise up after briefly losing their minds. Temporary insanity is more forgivable than the long-term variety. Not as stupid as the Rangers' new helmet.
•The Mets' Citi Field sleeve patch: This inspired piece of hackwork (which Uni Watch has already covered in considerable detail) is arguably the saddest, most pathetic design element ever slated to appear on a big league uniform. But at the end of the day, it's just a sleeve patch -- a minor accessory -- while a batting helmet is an integral component of a team's uniform system Let's call it a draw. Just as stupid as the Rangers' new helmet.
•The 1999 "Turn Ahead the Clock" uniforms: The idea of dressing MLB teams in "futuristic" uniforms, which was originally a fun idea dreamed up by the Mariners for a one-game promotion in 1998 (further details here), was transformed the following season into a corporate sponsorship boondoggle for Century 21 Real Estate. The uniforms were embarrassing in the extreme, and one day we'll be able to look back at them and laugh, but not yet -- the wound is still too fresh. Even stupider than the Rangers' new helmet.
We could go on, but it looks like the Rangers' two-tone helmet falls squarely in the middle of MLB's all-time brain cramps. Of course, we may need to reassess its status as the season progresses. Meanwhile, it'll be bad enough for a player to have to step into the batter's box four times a game in these helmets, but let's all shed a few extra tears for Texas coaches Gary Pettis and Dave Anderson, who'll have to suffer the indignity of wearing the multicolored lids while coaching the bases every single inning.
Oh, and you might want to mark June 16 on your calendar. That's when the Rangers will be holding their annual Batting Helmet Night promotion. Uni Watch, for one, can't wait.
Paul Lukas is willing to bet right now that the Rangers won't keep this helmet design for 2010. His Uni Watch blog, which is updated daily, is here. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.