The Best and Worst Uniforms of All Time: The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos

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I think it’s fair to include the Expos in this one, don’t you? They’re not otherwise represented, and there is franchise continuity here.  To be fair, I’ll include the Browns with the Orioles, Senators v.1 and v.2 with the Twins and Rangers, the Pilots with the Brewers and so on. Cool?
Best: With apologies to Jonah Keri, I can’t in good conscious say that any Expos uniform would make a “best” list. They have their charms, sure, but so much of it is retro-charm and a fondness for things that are no longer with us rather than beauty on the merits.  No one who wasn’t an Expos fan really thought that stuff looked stunning at the time, even when it looked good.  For what it’s worth, the Expos rarely changed anything anyway. They sprung from the head of Zeus (or was it Bowie Kuhn?) fully formed, with powder blue roadies and the cool stylized M on the cap in 1969 and only made the slightest of alterations between then and 1992. The pre-1992 uniforms were good, but if we’re being honest here, we can’t say that they look better than the Nationals’ current road uniforms.  Which are probably the only uniforms that look better than the team’s home uniforms now that I think about it. That may change tomorrow when the Nats unveil new duds.
Worst: The last generation Montreal uniforms were bad, not because they looked so terrible, but because the team lacked the cajones to put the sylized “M” on the jerseys themselves where God, Nature and Rusty Staub intended it to be. And if any team was born to wear powder blue roadies, it was Les Expos, so they looked not quite themselves in gray. I hate the Nats current home uniforms because of that block lettering. Which, as I recently noted, was apparently a historical accident that left them looking like the Diamondbacks-East.  That will presumably be remedied tomorrow, with a script “Nationals” on the front a la the roadies.

Assessment: The Nats are probably limited to threads that are more or less like those they currently wear. They basically have to stick with red, white, and blue.  Marketing probably dictates that they keep the curly W on the cap.  It would be cool if they could experiment a bit, but it’s not gonna happen.  They’ll always look pretty good, but a bit boring. Which describes most teams nowadays, come to think of it.

Oh well, that’s it for the NL East.  Tomorrow we’ll start in with the NL Central.  There’s a bit more history there — the East has only two teams that predate the Kennedy administration — so it will a bit more fun.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.