Ted’s 2011 MLB Cap Rankings: A Response

Over at The Cardboard Connection, Brett Lewis created an illustrated list ranking all of the 2011 MLB caps.

I don’t know about you, but for me, such a list represents an irresistible opportunity to piggyback on Brett’s idea and create my own. The fun of a rankings list is disagreeing with it, and the best way to right history is to make your own. So make sure to check out The Cardboard Connection, because it was his idea first, and below you’ll find my response in the form of Ted’s 2011 MLB Cap Rankings, worst to first:

30. Cleveland Indians

I’m over racist mascots, and that includes incredibly offensive caricatures of oppressed peoples right on the cap. Also, the alternative C cap has the feel of a JV high school team.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks

Snakes in the shapes of letters are for stoners.

28. Milwaukee Brewers

While they earn a few points for using the good retro design, the modern Brewers hat is playing so far below replacement level that it cancels out the throwback. I get the concept, logo designer, but the cap doesn’t have to look exactly like a Miller Light Can.

27. Tampa Bay Rays

The powder blue highlights are a bold design choice, and I can respect that (however, for more on the drop shadow see below). This cap, however, just feels stilted. The letters seem gangly and awkwardly conjoined, like two middle schoolers slow-dancing to “You Look Wonderful Tonight.”

26. Texas Rangers

These primary colors make my head hurt. I’d also like to introduce the idea of the offensive drop shadow. A drop shadow should just barely exist, offering a subtle effect without being prominent (I am not a designer, but this feels intuitive). The Rangers cap drop shadow is also one of its main colors. Worsening matters, the regular and alternative cap just flip flop colors between the main color and the drop shadow. Bleh.

25. Cincinnati Reds

At first glance, this cap looks like a venerable classic design still in use. As I stared at the logo, however, I realized that there is another offensive drop shadow! The old school C is there, but it’s laid on top of black in two versions, and white in the other, like some kind of lame Tron 3D-style reboot. Johnny Bench and Pete Rose didn’t need three dimensions, and neither do I. Also, that black cap is just ugly.

24. San Diego Padres

The Padres have slowly sapped all personality from their uniforms over the last few years, and the hats are no exception. These hats have the classic logo, which is decent, but it’s colorless; there’s no blood pumping through its veins. The only bit of spark comes from the military connection, and the camo design is bold, but it’s ruined by the fat-edged treatment of the logo, and the same sort of visual flatness.

23. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Rare is the cap that uses the same color in the logo that it does for the cap itself. For good reason, I’d argue. I find it a bit weak to use the little barbs on the sides of the A. It’s a letter, let it be a letter! There’s already a halo perched on top, why do you need to ornament it further? And with its inner glow on the A, and the halo on top and the lack of contrast, the whole cap design feels cramped and excessive.

22. Colorado Rockies

The purple is coming! Read these caps from left to right and tell me there isn’t a disturbing invasion of purple into the cap design. I’d agree with Brett that “the color scheme fits Colorado perfectly,” but that may only be a result of their stubborn commitment to the hue that made the nurple famous.

21. Houston Astros

I’ve never much liked the Astros’ brick, black, and cream color scheme, a fact that sinks the overall cap design (the star itself I don’t mind so much, even if it’s a little crowded). The color scheme was meant, I think, to mesh with the brick  of the new Enron Field, but it’s time to move back to something more worthy of space city. I’ll admit that it’s an improvement over the 90s heinousness, though if a team is ready for some retro goodness, it’s the Astros. And if it’s me wearing the hat, there’s no way I would appear in public in the all-brick alternate.

20. Chicago White Sox

This is the first hat that’s probably more a personal repulsion than one that is broadly accepted. I appreciate the nod to the past, but I don’t like the logo’s downward-falling lettering, or its jangly asymmetry. And though he likes it more than I, I’m with Brett: these look like bones hung on a wall. Or, as the typical White Sox fan would put it: perfect!

19. Washington Nationals

In a case of perhaps reaching too low, the Nationals decided to just use an old cap from the archives, and unfortunately it’s taken from a look that wasn’t all that hot to begin with. The logo’s got a bit of character in the jovial curls, but it threatens the confectionary faux pas noted below. And that alternate cap is just not very attractive.

18. Toronto Blue Jays

This cap is an easy target: it’s a bold design, with a really expressive graphic element. I really tried to dislike this hat even more than I do, but in reality there’s something likable about it that I can’t place. It looks like an arena football logo, but even that I could let pass, as I think the colors really pop. Then I looked more closely at the J. First of all, it’s a J, for “Jays.” That is a little too chummy for a major league baseball cap. Second, the J is made of metal, and third, it is wavy, with only half of a serif on top. It just gets too weird upon such closer inspection.

17. Atlanta Braves

I’m going to play the racist mascot card here again. While I’ll concede that the design of the two primary hats is nice in itself, and pretty iconic, the alternate hat, with the tomahawk, is as tasteless as the racist caricature it represents, and reminds me only of the terrible tomahawk chop chant.

16. New York Mets

I can’t get over the droopy arms on that Y, though I’ll cede that the typography is sort of charmingly anachronistic, like something you’d see on Knights of Columbus letterhead. The colors are equally challenging, urging me to dislike them. They are best served by the first cap, where the two main colors live together. As the black is introduced, and the logo darkens, it goes to hell. The alternate cap feels like staring at a photo negative.

15. Philadelphia Phillies

The blue button on top of the main Phillies cap is a quesy little M&M atop a cupcake of a cap. Try and tell me that P isn’t written in icing.

14. Seattle Mariners

The concept is strong, and the design is bold, incorporating a thematic graphic element into the typography. It could do with an update, however, I think, in agreement with Brett, who believes it’s “gone stale.” The teal is an issue (though living in Seattle I can attest it’s a big part of all of the sports teams here and is basically a fact of life), and the components are a bit jumbled.

I own a nice Mariners cap, and in person it’s shimmery in an outdated 90s way. But there’s a lot of potential, and a bit of simplification could go a ways towards rejuvenating what is a solid foundation. (On that note, it bears saying that a cap is much different up close and in real life, where the richness of the fabric and the thread makes it pop. I haven’t looked at each cap in real life, so that’s a kind of handicap in this process.)

13. Florida Marlins

I am truly conflicted over this hat. It’s fair to say that if I was a Marlins fan I would love it. I would be proud of it, for all of its hubris, for it’s improbability. Let’s look at it closely. First, the F is enormous. Second, this F is draped in the full figure of the marlin itself, like a society dame in her mink stole. Marlin can reach almost 20 feet in length. Simply put, there is a 20-foot marlin on this cap. To put that in perspective, the other MLB caps that include the full figure of the team’s mascot include two birds, a snake, and a pair of socks.

In the end, the Marlins cap leaves something to be desired with its continued use of teal, long after the rest of the world left that regrettable color choice behind, and by the black-on-black letter design and its odd scale. That said, this cap is one of the boldest entries, artistically.

Also, now is about the point where I like the hats. The vitriol is above, and below, the overall sentiment should read as positive.

12. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals red cap is an unapologetic testament to the color itself, a brilliant use of the word’s double-meaning as a color and a bird. This brash commitment renders the white logo all the more substantial. The blue cap, frankly, I can do without in either form, but the strength of the red carries the rest.

11. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates make the all-black cap look good, through the use of a simple, bold yellow logo. The high contrast and the vaguely industrial typography do well to embody the team’s general aesthetic.

10. San Francisco Giants

Color-pop and contrast, lettering intertwining like plumbing that isn’t worried about legibility, and orange and black define this cap, which is essentially the offspring of an Orioles-Pirates coupling. That’s why I’ve squeezed it between the two. More on these colors below.

9. Baltimore Orioles

Staring at the primary Orioles cap, I couldn’t quite figure out why it made me vaguely uncomfortable. Then I realized it was one of the few main caps that does not use initials or lettering. It’s just a drawing of a bird. It’s a very nice drawing, though, and the Baltimore orange continues, against the odds, to be one of the nicest colors in baseball. Again, using a great color can make the use of black in the palette an asset rather than a liability.

That said, a drawing of a bird does not make it into the upper echelon of hat designs. And the O’s alternate cap feels a bit too casual for me.

8. Kansas City Royals

Color rules in this cap, and the slim, sensible lettering doesn’t get in the way, a few clouds in a summer sky.

7. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox B lays against the navy blue clapboard of the cap like a painted sign resting against the pine wall of a neighborhood hardware store. The alternate cap design with the actual red socks on it is like a made-for-TV movie adaptation of a Salinger novel.

6. Chicago Cubs

This is a cap that will draw you in like a nice light coming from the doorway of a bar. It’s a cheerful cap, bright and inoffensive. The logo’s edges are soft, like a smile. If the Cubs won a World Series, the smile wouldn’t seem so tragic.

5. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers cap is a sharp-edged answer to the Cubs cap’s soft side. The blades of that white D come up like Cobb’s spikes, without apology, with the authority of time and tradition.

4. Minnesota Twins

This cap does what the Reds cap fails to, embracing tradition and resisting the urge to modernize an already solid design with cheesy contemporary flourishes. And think about it: the T and the C refer to the “Twin Cities.” This sounds obvious, but the initials on the cap refer to the city’s nickname. How bad-ass it is, that the cap manages to wrap its conceptual arms around a strange geographical feature! Imagine if the Rangers cap initials were “DFWMA” the Angels’ were “LAAA,” or the Marlins’ were “?”.

3. Oakland Athletics

The history of the A’s features, as much as any team, showmen and showboats, circus acts and self-aggrandizers. If there is a ball cap that contains like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp the spirits of Charlie Finley, orange baseballs, Rickey Henderson, an elephant standing on a baseball, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Herb Washington, white shoes, and the Bash Brothers, it is this glorious A’s primary cap.

The other two are compromises.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

The crooked union of the A and the L as the former dangles from the latter reminds me of the letters of the Hollywood sign and how they fluctuate with the contours of the hillside. Blue the deep color of the ocean.

1. New York Yankees

The N stretches wider than it should, to straddle the slingshot Y. Are these train lines meeting in the middle of the city? Are they skyscrapers jockeying for position on the skyline? What is the gravity that pulls the legs of the N inward, bowing them? Of all the caps, this one raises the most questions, and seems more than any to be the result of chance pressed against opportunity.

The images are from The Cardboard Connection, and again I encourage you to visit Brett’s fun list.

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20 Responses to Ted’s 2011 MLB Cap Rankings: A Response

  1. Craig says:

    I’m glad someone did a rank of the caps that didn’t have the Brewers so laughably high as that other one. Me, I love the Indians’ alt “C” cap. And I like the blue squatchee on the Phillies cap, too.

  2. Larry says:

    Agreed: the Rangers hat is offensive. “Knights of Columbus letterhead”: classic. Can’t go with you on the Twins; it just looks goofy to me. I kinda like the Nationals’ W. It’s festive. The KC alternate cap is a bit much for my taste. Great job, Ted. Thanks.

  3. Other than my love of the Indians block C, I pretty much agree with you. Glad to see great minds think alike.

  4. Patrick says:

    I’d have a difficult time disputing your rankings, although I never cease to be charmed by the 1978 Brewers logo. I will say that I once owned an Atlanta Braves hat in my youth, and it inflicted upon me some strange, minor strain of vertigo. That loping, slightly asymmetric “A” always made me feel as if my hat were never quite straight, and I would continually tug it to the right. Eventually I gave up and got rid of it.

    I assume that I am the only person that has ever encountered this problem.

  5. Chris says:

    As a Jays fan, I’m surprised their new cap ranked as high as it. Personally, I think it’s butt ugly. I was about to suggest they might deserve that ranking based on the strength of the old-school alternate cap, but a quick perusal of various sites seems to indicate they dumped the powder blues for this year. Sadness fills me.

    Great post, btw.

  6. Ted says:

    @ Craig: I want to see you do a list, from a pro’s perspective.

    @Larry, the Twins cap does threaten goofiness, but I guess existing on that edge is what makes it interesting.

    @Michael: more love for the simple C. I understand it on the one hand, but on the other I think it’s almost too easy.

    @Patrick: re: the Braves hat, that is hilarious and amazing. One of the deepest relationships (though dysfunctional) with a cap I can think of. Re: the Brewers, if that was their main cap, the ranking would be far different.

    @Chris: the Jays cap has a weird allure, while also repulsing me. I think it’s the electric blue color, which I find to be quite nice and also slightly nauseating. I feel like I’m in a High Fidelity-esque relationship with that cap. Well, I guess High Fidelity is all about ranking stuff, so maybe there’s something to that.

  7. Ian says:

    That new Jays cap isn’t very good, I think a better version is their “throwback” cap – very clean, very crisp and an original logo.

  8. daveinsm says:

    very nice piece about baseball cap aesthetics, love the oakland a’s home cap

  9. There’s a mistake, you have the Yankees cap ranked first.

  10. Ted says:

    @Ian: no question about it, though there’s something to be said for new ideas, even if they’re flawed. It’s easy to fall into the trap of nostalgically rejecting new designs. I’m not saying the new design is better, or that you’re nostalgic, but you know what I mean.

    @daveinsm: thanks. I agree on the A’s cap.

    @Navin: well, what’s your choice, hot shot?

  11. Mark Hamming says:

    Your top five is perfect if you take out the twins..no way doe’s that logo top the tigers “D”

  12. John says:

    Love this Teddy.

    I feel the Angels entire look is decent. They won the World Series with this look, so it carries that positive connection.

    More and more, I do kind of look back fondly at the early 1990s Angels garb, which they wore as throwbacks for a few games one or two seasons ago:
    http://www.sportsbuy.com/images/oldscans/3406822.jpg
    http://www.baseballcardbust.com/2010/03/mark-langston-jim-abbott-chuck-finley.html

    I also like the CA days that followed, this is what I really remember from childhood:
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f041fd69970b-pi

    Then there was the dark, dark Disney era. I was then, and continue to be today, mortified at the Disney-era get-up:
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/gallery/featured/GAL1171011/21/23/index.htm
    http://www.booksonbaseball.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/finley.jpg

    I’ll close with one more old school Angels pic for the road…Rod Carew is a badass
    http://www.eworldpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/carew.jpg

  13. Janelle says:

    Why exactly is the teal an “issue”?

  14. Ted says:

    @ Mark: There’s been some backlash against the Twins cap. I find it sort of stubbornly self-assertive. Perhaps I’m falling into the trap of valuing retro over all else…but I like it.

    @JP: love it, thanks for the insight. The Angels have always had a tough road, as it’s a hard concept to translate in a traditionally sort of macho way. The early 90s gear was simpler and better, but I think with the Angels it may be time to take things in a new direction.

    @Janelle: I feel like teal was the “it” color for awhile, back in the 90s. So in a way it’s perfect for Seattle, which has a way of hanging out in the time when it rose to prominence. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, and it’s probably a non-issue now that it’s not over-used.

  15. Rhys says:

    Well I’m a Jays fan and obviously biased, how do you properly judge their hats without looking at their retro one? Many of these teams you include retro hats, and at times up to four hats. The Jays have three hats – retro, the “T” and the one you have listed.

    I believe it was the NY Times that did something similar during last season, and the Jays retro hat was one of the best-selling hats. But hey, we are all entitled to our opinion.

  16. Ted says:

    @ Rhys: I’m judging based on the hats that teams are actually wearing this year. As far as I can tell, they aren’t using the old school cap, and the “T” design is a practice cap.

  17. Drew says:

    They do wear the T hats for regular game play but I can’t seem them ranking too high here.

    As a Jays fan allow me to go on the record re: the retro hats. Outside their retro appeal, what makes them beyond reproach for Jays fans? Not a huge fan of multi-coloured panels myself.

  18. Alex says:

    The Braves hat should be ranked much higher. It’s a classic logo and I think the colors play well together. Also, I’m tired of people referring to the Braves and Indians as racist mascots. Did we as a country mistreat the American Indians? Yes we did, but that doesn’t make any reference to them racist.

  19. Jonathan Fox says:

    I mostly agree with the rankings, although being an on field cap collector for 20 years I consider myself an expert. The braves deserve top 10 maybe even top 5. Whatever your personal reasoning, its traditional style dating back to boston, its simplistic design, and the greats that have doned it make it a choice pick. Oh and its great looking as well.

    Marlins should be #30 for worst ever!

    Seattle not too much further up.

    Bluejays you hit dead on. For years I didn’t like the new design, but lately it has really grown on me. In fact I bought the home hat yesterday. I think it’s a combination of the color scheme and the logo but I have really fallen for it!

    Thanks for the rankings!

  20. Yannick says:

    Hey Ted, really like your rankings. Now, I’m curious to see you do the same with the NFL. I was thinking since the NFL and New Era just unveiled an official on-field cap for each team this year, you could rank these hats from 32 to 1 !