I was ten years old when the Mariners made a major shift. To date, I'd only been decked in blue and yellow, from my first baseball cap to my first baseball that sat in my glove whenever it wasn't in use -- a Griffey fotoball issued in 1990, before the trademark smile and personality shone through every subsequent piece of memorabilia owned by young fans such as myself.
It's now been over 20 years since the Mariners changed from their former blue and yellow color scheme to the current silver and navy with teal. With the compass rose came a new, successful era in Mariners baseball fronted by a superstar with a beaming smile, joined by other stars in their own right. The Mariners toyed around with various color combinations over the years with jerseys and hats -- but the logo and color scheme have remained the same.
Most teams have made changes to their uniforms since 1993, even if they're subtle. The Orioles tinkered with the bird and brought back white paneled hats. The Indians introduced a new hat logo. The Tigers took the actual tiger out of their logo and returned to the old English D. Kansas City made light blue a primary color and tweaked their logo. The Angels went through a complete overhaul, as did the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays. Old was new again for the Blue Jays and Twins, revisiting old logos from the past. Even Boston introduced new jerseys and alternate caps. Among American League teams, only the White Sox, A's, and Yankees have mostly stood pat in the same time frame as the last logo change.
Through it all, the Mariners have stood still, long after the relative glory days of 1995-2003 have faded. A teal bill on a cap here, a throwback jersey there, or simply a navy or teal alternate jersey - the Mariners have slowly become one of the dullest franchises in sports when it comes to identity. It's understandable for franchises to stand still with a rich history of multiple generations of fans, but the Mariners don't have the age or the former glory to justify such a commitment to one logo. They're currently occupying the same identity of an era that's long passed, all while shamelessly reliving a past that grows more and more distant.
Perhaps it's best to finally leave the successful era behind. The Mariners have been treading water for a decade. The results speak for themselves, and even though each new offseason brings some semblance of hope, the well from which to draw said hope from is growing more dry every year. Now, faced with a general manager who could be described as a lame duck and a franchise with only one firmly established star, another year of taking up the same uniform as Griffey, Johnson, Buhner, and Ichiro induces an uninspired shoulder shrug. Felix Hernandez is the bridge between eras.
The Mariners were once fortunate to have one of the better logos in baseball. The compass rose planted firmly in the middle of the S was a revelation in the early 90s, but over time it has dulled. Baseball caps are worn today as fashion statements as much as a sign of devotion. When the Marlins underwent their overhaul, their awful new hats popped up everywhere -- in hip-hop videos, on celebrities, and even all across Seattle. New is interesting, even if the product on the field hasn't changed. New Era has changed the game with the boom of the 5950, and despite my begrudging resistance, it seems snapbacks are also here to stay for another few years.
Fan interest has flat-lined. Despite a small improvement in attendance this season, the Mariners are nowhere near where they should, or rather could be. A new identity, even if cosmetic, can make a difference in not only local but national awareness. People will wear the new hat, even if it's going to be another sub-par year. In fashion, new is always better -- and if it's a new version of something old, it's a bonus.
There was a flimsy rumor back in March that the Mariners may be moving to cream and gold for 2014. The buzz was based on a Facebook post from Ebbets Field Flannels, who claimed they were doing consulting for the Mariners. The company said they suggested the Mariners move to gold, and that started to spin out of control pretty quickly, and before long it was making headlines. Flash forward to a few weeks ago, and Ryan Divish passed along from a source in the organization that the M's weren't planning on making any changes. Can we believe them? Even if true, why not?
The Mariners have one of the best logos in sports sitting in their back pocket. A cleaned up version of the trident would look magnificent on navy, and there's plenty of room for alternates and innovation along the way. There's plenty of teams who now sport multiple logos throughout the season, and the Mariners are missing an opportunity to breathe some new life into the fanbase and team itself.
You can't even come close to quantifying the effect that a change in uniforms has on a team, or on the fans. Still, this is a remarkably young team, full of guys who care a whole lot more about their appearance than a team full of veterans. Being a major leaguer is a part of their youthful exuberance. You think Raul Ibanez has an Instagram account? The Mariners have a chance to give this group of young players their own new identity, to wear something that they can make their own. Create their own history in this city.
The Tampa Bay Rays changed everything in 2008 after going 66-96 in 2007. Evan Longoria was 22. B.J. Upton was 23. Carl Crawford was 26. James Shields, 26, was the oldest member of a rotation that stayed the same the vast majority of the year. The Rays won 97 games and went to the World Series. The Mariners don't have a brilliant front office, but they do have the chance to let this group of young players experience a new movement for themselves.
You never know what will inspire players. Perhaps it's a better spread for the post-game meal. Maybe it's a new airline with faster internet, or a new video game that starts epic pregame tournaments in the locker room. The Mariners are almost certainly not going to be better in 2014 simply because of a new look. But if there's a even a small chance that the Mariners could replace a stale logo and invigorate fans and young players alike, why not take it? This organization keeps talking about the foundation of young talent as if it's their team. So give it to them.