As a 37-year-old dorky white guy, it is not, generally, wise for me to wear athletic jerseys. A football jersey emphasizes the body I don't have; a basketball jersey emphasizes the one I do, much to my detriment. Sports jerseys exist to provide freedom of movement, to allow for proper perspiration, to easily identify the name and number of the person wearing it. They are not meant for normal, regular people, who aren't in perfect physical condition and/or currently running. I present Exhibit A, Exhibit B and Exhibit C.
But baseball jerseys … baseball jerseys are different. Baseball jerseys are shirts. Nice shirts, actually: button-up shirts. The football and basketball jerseys I own (and never wear) are folded up in a drawer somewhere; my baseball jerseys are hanging up. Baseball jerseys are special. You can wear them. To be honest, I have a few friends for whom their baseball jerseys are among their finer garments.
Earlier this week, Paul Lukas of ESPN's Uni Watch put together his second annual Uni Watch Power Rankings for baseball jerseys. Lukas is the unquestioned expert of sports sartorialism. He has been ranking the other sports all week as well and had been doing this for more than a decade. (He's also a very nice man. And, on his website, a thorough chronicler of ballpark promotions.) But when he's talking about baseball uniforms, he's talking about my strike zone.
His rankings are excellent, well-informed and smart. But they are simply rankings, and as he puts it, "The whole point of a project like this one is that it's fun to argue and disagree." Which I take as an invitation to do my own rankings, and you should take as an invitation to do your own. Realize that we're talking about many things when we're ranking jerseys, from logo to design to color to just how it looks when a regular non-athlete person is wearing them. We're going try to keep sentiment out of it: It doesn't matter whether the team has the history of the Yankees or the short, mostly silly history of the Marlins. These rankings are based, at least in theory, on merit only.
I'm going to count backwards to provide the illusion of suspense.
30. Miami Marlins. (Lukas ranking: 29.) I know the loud, garish orange is supposed to be evocative of the city they make their home. But that doesn't help the massive headache it gives me to look at it go away. Who Wore It Best? Giancarlo Stanton.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks. (Lukas ranking: 27.) The colors are a little better than they used to be, but the fonts here are still a nightmare. I know, intellectually, that this is a "d" and a "b" for "Diamondbacks," but it still looks like some sort of optical illusion trick. Also, it's never good when a team actually abbreviates its name on its own jersey. If you're going to have "D-backs" on your jersey, you might as well just make that your name. Who wore it best? Kirk Gibson.
28. Houston Astros. (Lukas ranking: 23.) Just because you look better than the optic nightmare of the '80s doesn't mean you look all that sharp now. They look better than they did in the '90s too. I think it's the name "Astros." It's impossible to come up with something for a team like that -- one that tries to be futuristic but only ends up sounding archaic and lame -- without looking a bit silly. Who Wore It Best? Rick Ankiel.
27. Seattle Mariners. (Lukas ranking: 19.) Argh, that green, or whatever color that is. The logo is also confusing and cluttered; there's too much going on there. The Pilots jerseys look a lot better. Never, ever forget their "future jerseys," from 1998. Who Wore It Best? Nick Franklin.
26. Tampa Bay Rays. (Lukas ranking: 18.) Nothing could possibly be more horrifying than these, so an improvement there. It's easier to put together a uniform now that they've dropped the "Devil" from their name. Also the "R" in the logo is supposed to be a Ray, I guess, but mostly looks like a printing mistake. Who Wore It Best? Evan Longoria.
25. Colorado Rockies. (Lukas ranking: 22.) I know this isn't a ranking of mascots -- which might be a fun thing to do down the line, all told -- but Dinger is so crazy and specific that I can't separate him from the uniform itself. Also: The Rockies have the only uniform in all of sports that makes black look a little gaudy and over-the-top. I do love the hat, though. Who Wore It Best? Todd Helton.
24. Washington Nationals. (Lukas ranking: 26.) I think it's that weirdly scripted W in the logo that gets me. It's so looping that I can barely decipher it as a letter at all. The road jersey, with "Washington" across the front, looks better than the home jersey, with just the W over the left breast. Who Wore It Best? Bryce Harper.
23. Texas Rangers. (Lukas ranking: 21.) They somehow manage to make both blue and red look wrong. Also, the great state of Texas is truly a great state, but it is not necessarily the easiest shape to jigger into a uniform design. I still feel like they should somehow incorporate the uniform of an actual Texas Ranger. Who Wore It Best? Jurickson Profar.
22. Atlanta Braves. (Lukas ranking: 17.) It's the red jersey that's particularly galling, and it's telling that if you're not looking closely, you won't even notice whether the word on the front of the jersey is "Atlanta" or "Braves." They sure do like that tomahawk. Who Wore It Best? Jason Heyward.
21. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (Lukas ranking: 12.) The "A" with the Halo is nice, but these are mostly derivative, with a particularly ugly red uniform option. Also, you know eventually they're going to try to sneak the words "Los Angeles" on there, which is a lie. Who Wore It Best? Mike Trout.
20. Cincinnati Reds. (Lukas ranking: 20.) The problem here are the road uniforms: One of the rare times the grey doesn't mix with the name of the city well. They have terrific throwback uniforms they should wear more often. It's a shame that a franchise with the history of the Reds doesn't have a consistent design motif that has lasted through the decades, like some of the other older teams. Who Wore It Best? Joey Votto.
19. Toronto Blue Jays. (Lukas ranking: 8.) The Jays have made obvious improvement in recent years, particularly with the hat upgrade. (It's an underrated hat.) I'm still not crazy about the script the team uses for its lettering. That "Toronto" looks like something dopey from "The Jetsons." They're moving in the right direction, though. Who Wore It Best? Jose Bautista.
18. Milwaukee Brewers. (Lukas ranking: 25.) I like the name is written in a script that looks like it'd be the lettering of a sign outside a bar. The old light-blue pinstripes of the '80s might have nostalgic value, but they're also pretty ugly. Who Wore It Best? Aramis Ramirez (though he should probably keep his hat on).
17. Minnesota Twins. (Lukas ranking: 24.) The T and the C in the hat is the best of their logos; the "Twins" feels like the lettering of an old cartoon you're embarrassed to admit you ever watched. The pinstripes should work a lot better than they do. Who Wore It Best? Joe Mauer.
16. San Diego Padres. (Lukas ranking: 30.) Lukas is far harsher on the Padres than I am, probably because he (justifiably) misses the great early '80s garb. I'm in the minority on this, I suspect, but I'll confess to be a sucker for the military alternate uniforms. Sometimes I wonder if they should just make them their primary road jerseys. Who Wore It Best? Mat Latos.
15. Cleveland Indians. (Lukas ranking: 28.) Understandably, Lukas dislikes the offensive Chief Wahoo caricature on the hat, but I'm not sure this is place to penalize them for that. The road jersey with the city name on the front -- always a preference -- looks sharp, and "Indians" is in appealing, non-cluttered cursive. Would I love to see Chief Wahoo off the shoulder? Sure. But it's a clean outfit otherwise. Who Wore It Best? Nick Swisher.
14. New York Mets. (Lukas ranking: 14) I dunno: The stripes on the alternate jerseys never quite look right. (And considering their rivals in town, they probably shouldn't even mess with stripes at all.) The orange trim is sometimes a tad much too. These are still in the top half, but only barely. Who Wore It Best? David Wright.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates. (Lukas ranking: 11.) The word "Pittsburgh" on the road uniforms is too wide; it ends up with the "P" and the "H" somewhere around the belt level. I like the road black jerseys better than Lukas does, but again, this is another reason to be careful of pinstripes. They don't work nearly as well as everyone wants them to. Still: The Pirates have a classic look that feels bonded to their past. Who Wore It Best? Andrew McCutchen.
12. Baltimore Orioles. (Lukas ranking: 9.) The natural orange color of an oriole is quite lovely, and you can't go too wrong with that as your base, particularly with how well it meshes with black. The cartoon bird is also extremely cute. You do have to be careful not to overdo that orange, though. Who Wore It Best? Chris Davis.
11. San Francisco Giants. (Lukas ranking: 13.) Speaking of orange, the orange really doesn't work for the Giants: It sorts looks like parallel stains. Everything else looks great, though, and the hat is a classic. Who Wore It Best? Buster Posey.
10. Kansas City Royals. (Lukas ranking: 10.) That particular color of blue goes with everything. I've never been crazy about the logo -- which looks cartoonish and could probably use a redesign -- but the color makes everything work. This is rare team where the nickname looks better across the chest than the city does. Who Wore It Best? James Shields.
9. Chicago White Sox. (Lukas ranking: 15). I've got a soft spot for White Sox jerseys: They do black better than any time in the sport. And you know what? I even sort of liked it when they wore shorts, even if it was insane. Seriously, though: Black is a terrific sports uniform color, and the White Sox are the only team in baseball who really do it right. Who Wore It Best? Michael Jordan.
8. Philadelphia Phillies. (Lukas ranking: 4.) Actually don't love that alternative color all that much, and again, with the pinstripes. When you have those stripes with a bright color like the Phillies do, in the wrong light, it can almost look like a clown costume. (Especially when someone of odd proportions, like Ryan Howard, wears it.) It's still a lovely uniform, but often overrated. Who Wore It Best? Jimmy Rollins.
7. Chicago Cubs. (Lukas ranking: 2.) The home uniform works just fine, but those road ones, with the bear escaping a red C that's trying to eat it, have never quite done it for me. The logo and the cap are eternal, but all told, the Cubs have futzed with this more than you'd think. And they're about to futz some more. Who Wore It Best? Ryne Sandberg.
6. Detroit Tigers. (Lukas ranking: 6.) The logo is wonderful -- just looking at it makes you think of what this city once was -- and the home jerseys, with just that logo on the breast, is simple and right and just. The orange trim around the name on the road jersey doesn't quite fit, though. It's worth noting, as you surely have already noticed, that orange trim is not my favorite. Who Wore It Best? Jim Leyland.
5. Boston Red Sox. (Lukas ranking: 16.) Lukas is way too hard on the Sox, particularly the road jersey, which has the old-school-conjuring "Boston" across the front. The addition of the Boston Strong patch this year gives the uniforms some pathos too. Never crazy about the red jerseys, but it's the Red Sox, man, these jerseys are great. Who Wore It Best? Dustin Pedroia.
4. Oakland A's. (Lukas ranking: 3.) I can't put it better than Lukas did, so I'll just quote him: "[The A's] core look, once viewed as outrageous, has evolved into a modern classic." The green and the gold is basically chocolate and peanut butter: No one thought they'd come together to produce something so magnificent, but they certainly do. Who Wore It Best? Yoenis Cespedes.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers. (Lukas ranking: 5.) You know what I love most about the Dodgers' logo? The ball. Like much of Los Angeles itself, it should be cheesy, but it totally isn't. The basic design is so flawless that a road jersey can't really screw it up. Seeing this franchise rise to where it belongs has been one of the highlights of the 2013 season. Who Wore It Best? Yasiel Puig.
2. St. Louis Cardinals. (Lukas ranking: 1.) As a Cardinals fan, I was worried about the new "throwback" uniform they introduced this year, but I overcame my initial skepticism, mainly because they stopped wearing it so much. It's a nice alternative, but the classic white home jersey with the birds on the bat is so compelling, still, that it almost feels a shame to ever wear anything but. This is what jerseys are supposed to look like: This is what baseball looks like. (Could you tell I was a Cardinals fan in that last sentence? Probably didn't do a good job of hiding it.) Who Wore It Best? Allen Craig.
1. New York Yankees. (Lukas ranking: 7.) Lukas is right about one thing: Now that pants are looser than they used to be, the pinstripes don't look as attractive. (This is a problem for all pinstriped teams, as previously mentioned.) This is still the freaking Yankees, and they look great. That logo is perfection -- it's basically the logo for the whole city now -- and the slight alterations have only served to enhance the fundamental brand. Sorry: They're still the best. Who Wore It Best? Derek Jeter, obviously.
This list means nothing without you. Which do you like the most? Which old jerseys have we forgotten? What current jerseys need to go? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, holler at @williamfleitch on Twitter or leave whatever your thoughts are in the comments. I'll be here wearing my Allen Craig jersey.