[Update: CLICK HERE for what may be the Rays alternate uniform to be used in 2009 that will feature "TAMPA BAY" across the front]
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays found a way to piss off 360 of their 522 fans.
Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Professional Baseball Club officially unveiled their new uniforms. This change was has been in the works since the new ownership group took control of the franchise following the 2005 season, and sketches of the new uniforms were first leaked on the internet on September 20th of this year.
The logos are as first reported, but as we mentioned back in September, we needed to wait until we saw the uniforms “live” before passing judgment, as the coloring is very different when compared to the original sketches, as can be seen in this side-by-side comparison.
The main blue color is clearly much darker (very good). The lighter blue is not nearly as noticeable (good) and the sunburst is almost unnoticeable (thank god). Now that we have seen what the colors look like on the actual uniforms, the comparison to the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and especially the Kansas City Royals, seems much less warranted.
Even the grey on the road uniforms is much different than the original sketches, as the color seems to have much less of a blue hue.
Overall we actually like the new color scheme. Yes we understand the green was unique and the blue is less so, but we truly believe there would be more of an uproar if the team were switching from these colors to the green, blue and white of the last few years.
We don’t mind the new colors (we always hated the green alternate jersey), but we understand a lot of fans hate the new design. While some approve and many disapprove of the new hues, there are two other changes that seem to have angered the few loyal fans the Rays do have…
First and foremost is the change from “Devil Rays” to “Rays”. In doing so, the Rays become the first baseball team since the Houston Colt ’45s to change their nickname without moving. This screams boring and unnecessary. David Chalk, who covers the Rays over at Bugs & Cranks is campaigning his editors to keep using the moniker “Devil Rays” and we couldn’t agree more. The team has not used the full name “Devil Rays” on the uniforms since the original Rainbow Warriors set was last used in 2000. So then why the need to change the name? Because some people take offense to the term “Devil”? Sometimes people listen to marketing strategists a little too much. Good idea or stupid? Your fans say “Stupid”. The Rays removed the offensive term and gained a boring one. David Chalk wants to continue using “Devil Rays” on Bugs & Cranks and we hope he does, because we will continue to use the moniker on this site. In fact, we will probably use “Devil Rays” more often.
The second change that has Devil Rays fans up in arms is the removal of “Tampa Bay” from the road uniforms. Many fans are worried that this is a sign of an impending move from the Bay Area. This is another marketing strategy being employed by the team which just goes to reinforce the popular notion that the front office cares more about making money than they do about winning baseball games. The team has a new logo (Rays with a sunburst) and their goal is to push that logo every chance they get and that includes being used on the road uniforms in away cities.
In addition, the team is hoping that the Rays will become a more regionalized entity. There is nothing wrong with that desire, but removing “Tampa Bay” from the away uniforms will have ZERO effect on whether or not people in Orlando will buy Rays merchandise. There are teams littered throughout the four major sports leagues that do well selling merchandise outside of their home area. They do this in spite of having their city name labeled on their away jerseys. The key to marketing outside of your home area is simple. WIN. Win more games. Challenge for the playoffs on a consistent basis. GO TO THE PLAYOFFS every once and a while and all of the sudden fans in Walla Walla will start buying and wearing Rays merchandise, and they won’t give two shits whether or not it says “Tampa Bay” on the front. People in/from Tampa and St. Pete and the surrounding areas are damn proud to be from those places. They want to root for a team that is proud to be from that area also.
Now that we have seen the final product, we must say we do like the color scheme, but we understand why a lot of fans will not. However, we are irate about the name change and the failure to show any pride whatsoever in where the team is from. In the end, the Rays may have alienated more fans than they gained from these changes.
[Update: From a purely aesthetic point-of-view, Mrs. Professor says she prefers the new set, but it was a close call and trust me she has more style sense than any of us]