Thursday, October 8, 2009

Caught With Their Pants Down

It has become disgustingly fashionable for Major Leaguers to wear their baseball pants as low as possible on their legs, often with pants that are one size too big to begin with. I don't know which diamond genius first thought this chic, but it's caught on like wildfire and transformed the game for the worse. Not showing any stirrups—one of the classic elements of the baseball uniform—is bad enough; some players take even this horrible look to the extreme: pulling the pants leg past the top of the cleat, nearly to the heel, completely covering the ankle and the back half of the cleat itself. Not only does it not look looks retarded. Whereas baseball pants hiked just below the knee, exposing plenty of stirrup, looked so good on old-timers, current players such as David Oritz, Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard, C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, and—perhaps the worst offender—Prince Fielder look like fat kids wearing footed pajamas.

See how Fielder used to wear his pants—traditional, classic, stylish. But since he began covering up his stirrups and cleats, Fielder looks like he belongs in a sack race, not the batter's box. Sure, it's more important to play well than to look good—and these players do—but it's more important to look good than to look asinine—and these players don't. They simply don't look like athletes.

In fact, the frumpy full-pants look makes the already-rotund Sabathia resemble the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Why has baseball turned its pants on such a vintage and unique feature of its apparel?

Observe how much Brendan Ryan (left) and Juan Pierre (right) look like ballplayers. Sleek. Classy. Graceful. Had Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle worn their pants in the aesthetically laughable manner of Prince Fielder or David Ortiz, they never would have become everlasting icons—because they would have looked too ridiculous to fit the part of their legendary achievements. The stirrup is akin to the hockey sock, another definitive uniform component—and remember how bad the Philadelphia Flyers and Hartford Whalers looked in long pants in the early 1980s. Long pants were an affront to the sport, and the NHL wisely outlawed them. Well, this cleat-covering movement is as big an embarrassment to baseball as the steroids scandal—it just hasn't left its mark in the record book.* I almost prefer the 1976 White Sox' short pants, which remains baseball's darkest hour—but not by much. If Commissioner Bud Selig wishes to salvage any shred of his legacy during his scandal-stained administration, he needs to outlaw this preposterous practice of pants-to-the-heels.

*I encourage the Elias Sports Bureau to henceforth denote in the Official Record Book the annual statistics of any player who collected said statistics while wearing his pants legs at his cleats, so that his achievements—however lofty—will be tempered by the fact that he looked stupid while attaining them.

Say what you will about The Babe. Sure, in later years, he was, like Sabathia and Fielder, a blob from the waist up—but at least he still looked like half a ballplayer.

(Photo of Babe Ruth copyright NY Daily News.)

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