MLB Players Are Calling the New Fanatics Jerseys “Cheap”

Free agent pitcher Rich Hill has emerged as the most openly critical voice

FT. MYERS, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Ceddanne Rafaela #43 of the Boston Red Sox poses during team photo day before a spring training team workout on February 20, 2024 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Ceddanne Rafaela of the Boston Red Sox in his new jersey before a spring training workout.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

People are not fanatical over MLB’s new jerseys. Lovers of the league and a growing number of its players have been openly critical of the threads, issued by Fanatics, the “quasi-monopoly” sports merchandise company with a long history of poor production. The grumblings started on February 10 when X user Bobby Mullins posted comparative images of a 2023 Seattle Mariners jersey and another that just hit the racks. Though Mullins, “a 38-year-old banker,” as his profile says, boasts just 177 followers, his tweet has reached 1.4 million pairs of eyes.

“They cut corners and increased prices, citing demand & inflation as causes for the incremental price hikes,” he wrote of Fanatics’ efforts. He later noted that Fanatics had “eliminated the majority of stitching on the jerseys” and instead they had heat-pressed, single-layered patches. “In what appears to be a race to see how bad things can get and how high can we jump prices, this year simply says, hold my beer,” he added

A few days later, X user and St. Louis Cardinals reporter Jeff Jones, posted an image of a new Miles Mikolas jersey from inside the team’s clubhouse. “Players are pretty unhappy,” Jones wrote. “Miles Mikolas says they also don’t fit right; pants are no longer as customized, and the fabric is a very different consistency. ‘They look cheap,’ another player said.”

Other players went on the record with The Athletic, saying the Fanatics official team jerseys look like replicas, feel “papery” and do not feature iconic colors and logos. More recently, free agent veteran pitcher Rich Hill appeared on the Audacy podcast Baseball Isn’t Boring and said the new jerseys felt “cheap” and did not meet the standards of a major-league uniform. “And you earn that right, I believe, as a major league player [to wear uniforms] that should come with a certain level of quality,” he said. Such level of quality should mean that the jerseys are “personally fitted to each player,” he added.

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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred pushed back against the criticism, saying that the Fanatics jerseys are designed to be “performance wear as opposed to what’s traditionally been worn.” He said they have been “tested more extensively than any jersey in any sport,” and when players wore them during last year’s All-Star Game, the response was “uniformly positive.” (Solid pun there, my guy.) “I think after people wear them a little bit, they’re going to be really popular,” Manfred added.

He is entitled to that opinion, of course, but he also called the jerseys products of Nike, which is not exactly accurate and may reveal a mindful avoidance of the beleaguered Fanatics brand. MLB is in a partnership with Nike, but Nike licensed apparel production to Fanatics in 2020. “[T]he uniforms have the Nike Swoosh but with Fanatics quality,” wrote USA Today Sports.

It appears, though, that if there’s enough blowback from players and fans — which could ultimately come in the form of apparel sale drop-off — MLB is open to a discourse about modifications.

“It’s one of those things where there’s good and bad,” Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson told The Athletic, after criticizing the new jersey design for his team. “It’s hard to sit here and just blast them about it or praise them for it. There’s stuff on both sides, and I think the beauty is they’re willing to have those conversations. Obviously, if it’s a change of anything, initial reactions are always going to be (strong). But I do think there are some things that could be altered to make it better.”

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