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Thursday, December 07, 2006  

The winter meetings are, I think we can all agree, endless amusement. Yes, there is the ridiculousness of some of the contracts offered (this year in particular) and the hilarity of watching grown men snark back and forth at each other while low-level ESPN peon # 206 makes up rumors just to see someone's boxer briefs get all in a twist. But there is more than that. The winter meetings are fun on an even more simple level, which can be summed up in one phrase:

"Baseball guys wearing what they consider to be business casual dress."

Heavens yes, this never ever EVER fails to be something you can laugh heartily at when large numbers of baseball people get together, because while a few of them might have their sartorial shit together (or at least their wives caught them before they made it out the door), you can be dead certain that plenty of them will not.

See, when they're on the field, they just wear the uniform, or their warmups, or some combination of those. These clothes are HANDED to them, so baseball players don't have a problem wearing them. And if an event's really formal, they can usually handle the concept of "suit and tie", although there are a select few who manage to bollocks that up as well. But the realm of 'business casual' is a dreaded one in the world of baseball. It's pretty evident that they, quite simply, have no freakin' idea what to do with themselves.

One of my favorite business-casual-confused ballplayers is of course Jon(athan) Papelbon, as pictured above, because there simply are not many events outside of painfully hipster outings, prep schools or nursing homes where argyle sweaters of that sort make sense, and to the best of my knowledge, Papelbon is neither hipster, nor prep student, and certain not octogenarian. Another repeat offender is Roger Clemens, whose collection of 'casual but not tshirt' shirts appears to have been put together by a sadist hopped up on psychotropic mushrooms.

But this is not about the players, because this is the winter meetings. This is about the managers, the GMs, the owners, the people who are OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER, but who still show up dressed to give us a laugh, because they are baseball guys, dammit, they weren't stylish in their day, and they're not going to start being stylish now.

Images are tiny so as to not overwhelm-- clicking them gets you to the marginally larger version.

Mike Hargrove, manager, Seattle Mariners

We'll start off slow. Hargrove's problem here is not the cut of the shirt, at least not as far as we can tell from this shot. The problem lies in the fact that it looks, subtly but undeniably, like the kind of fabric you'd find in your grandmother's living room. Pea green and what looks like muted, yellowed embroidery stripes.... that's not a shirt fabric, that's a fabric for upholstering the couch with.

Buddy Bell, manager, Kansas City Royals

If this shirt isn't shiny, and it's just the light... it doesn't matter, because the truth of the matter is that this is a shirt that WANTS to be shiny. It wants to be silver and gleaming and is almost exactly the same color as ol' Buddy's hair. Kids, it's generally not a good idea to match your outfit to your hair, unless your hair is neon pink and you're going for a Certain Look. Also, shiny shirts with open collars make me think of dance clubs. Impressionable children and managers would do well to never forget the hilarious disaster that was Justin Verlander in shiny purple (and, to his credit, at least Verlander seems to have since made progress in the right direction).

Bobby Cox, manager, Atlanta Braves

This outfit is not so much problematic as it is utterly perplexing. Cox, perhaps knowing his own limits, just decided to throw out all that 'business casual' bunk and wear a normal suit. Braves colors would be a nice touch on the tie, but these colors are, if not particularly topical, at least inoffensive. What confuses me here is how a simple suit can make Bobby Cox look EXACTLY like William Shatner. Because, damn. Seriously, how did that happen?

Brian Cashman, general manager, New York Yankees

I suppose it's not too hard to assume that working full-time for Steinbrenner is a stressful job. I'd imagine that, during the offseason, Cashman doesn't get too much sun. Which is cool, as someone who spends the bulk of the daylight hours holed up in a 10' x 10' cubicle box studio, I can understand. And light blue by itself might be OK, but a light blue shirt under that pale tan jacket is making Cashman look even more pale than he already does, if that's possible. Add in the fact that he looks as though he hasn't slept in about three weeks, and you've got a GM wandering around the hotel looking so sickly that no one (except for ladylike-glasses-chain-dude here) will want to come near him to work out a trade, because they'll be afraid of getting consumption if they get within spitting distance.

Bob Melvin, manager, Arizona Diamondbacks

I believe this pattern (or, more accurately, group of several patterns, laid eye-twistingly on top of one another) speaks for itself.

Joe Maddon, manager, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Another one that's not so much bad as it is baffling. Maddon does NOT look like a baseball guy here. He looks like he could be wandering around an art gallery. The outfit, the haircut, the artsy glasses... I don't know whether to be afraid or very impressed. I guess you have to take a different tack when you're working in Tampa Bay... the traditional ways obviously aren't working anymore.

Grady Little, manager, Los Angeles Dodgers and Eric Wedge, manager, Cleveland Indians

Double whammy of STYLE! Good old Grady Little looks like Miami Vice gone elderly, with his shrimp-pink shirt under grandfatherly pale gray jacket. Eric Wedge looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I'm not sure what kind of look he was going for with the all black deal, but whatever it was, it's wholly neutralized by his slicked-up hair styling and homocidal grin. Grady, we know you aren't one to move very fast, so you'd better get a running start now while you still can.

Manny Acta, manager, Washington Nationals

The black-on-black gridded shirt over a black tshirt... the bald head... the giant neck... Manny Acta is mere steps away from being an actual bouncer at a nightclub. It's possible that this is actually a useful vibe to put out if you're dealing with baseball players up close and personal for a whole season; perhaps they respond better to this sort of thing than to a manager.

Brian Sabean, general manager, San Francisco Giants

Here is a very simple way to know when something's wrong with a shirt, gentlemen. Look at the shirt. Think to youself, "Would Roger Clemens wear it?" If the answer is yes, don't wear the shirt.

If Sabes had looked at himself in the mirror before leaving his hotel room, he would have realized that Roger Clemens would wear this shirt (seriously, is that a Greek square spiral pattern down the centers of those inexplicable white chunks? seriously?), and we could have avoided all this.

Kenny Williams, general manager, Chicago White Sox and Jerry Reinsdorf, owner, Chicago White Sox

This is one of my favorites. Kenny Williams is wearing a tolerable color (it's a little bright, but they are in Florida) that's ruined by the weird satiny cowboy-style embroidery down the front of the shirt. It actually looks better in this photo than it is, because he's standing next to Reinsdorf, who looks senile, or at least like he allowed a senile buddy of his to dress him for the day. He appears to be wearing a shell jacket. From the 80s. Along the lines of something like this. Chicago fans can be thankful that it's in White Sox colors instead of, say, lime green, but that's about all anyone can appreciate in this little number.

It also looks like Brewers manager Ned Yost showed up wearing the same shirt as Reinsdorf. Awkward!

Jim Leyland, manager, Detroit Tigers

I love him to pieces, but this lurid floral pattern on this curiously formal cut of shirt really does not work well on anyone, up to and including Jim Leyland. It doesn't help that he's got his hands going down the front of his pants (next time, ask your wife to get you some pants with pockets, Jim), but it's really the shirt that leads to laughter.

I dunno, Leyland just looks weird wearing anything other than a baseball uniform anyways... perhaps he was trying to have a little fun with it. Who can fathom the workings of his genius mind? Certainly not us mere mortals.

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