Last weekend, the Padres celebrated their 1984 team and delivered a subtle nod to the “Bring Back the Brown” movement by wearing retro brown uniforms and giving away retro brown T-shirts and sunglasses. The team even changed the color scheme of their website, Padres.com, and FOX Sports San Diego changed much of its blue graphics to brown for the entire series against the Cubs. Most fans and critics rejoiced, believing it to be a sign from ownership that they were ready to talk about a return to the team’s original yellow and brown color scheme .
Then, suddenly, Ron Fowler spoke up. The team would not likely be bringing back the brown, the team chairman said. Considerable research told the team to stick with blue and white, Fowler said. When AP reporter Bernie Wilson asked if he could see the research, Fowler said no.
Even if the only ones pining for a return to the original colors were a vocal minority, Fowler gave them a microphone. The minority was so vocal that the team’s chief marketing officer, Wayne Partello, appeared on the Padres Social Hour this week to talk about it.
“We worked on some brand research, not uniform-specific. None of that. That work hadn’t been done in a very long time and we took the time to do that work and are just finalizing that,” Partello said. Later, on Twitter, Partello said the research is “not done and it is premature to share any work.”
Partello seemed to be saying that the team’s new owners didn’t feel comfortable making such a bold change.
“We look at ourselves as stewards of the brand,” he said.
Tom Werner, on the other hand, changed the team’s colors from brown and orange to blue and orange soon after he bought the franchise in 1990. Werner who sold the team just four years later, but apparently left such a strong imprint that his initial decision could never be reversed.
But Fowler and Partello’s explanations beg the question: Just what brand is attached to the blue and white? The last time the team went to the playoffs was 2006, when their third color was “sand.” The last time they won a playoff series, orange and pinstripes dominated the uniforms. The current color scheme not only lacks character, it represents a losing baseball team that can’t seem to escape the drama and buffoonery coming out of the owner’s box. If I were Fowler, I would want to distinguish myself from Jeff Moorad and John Moores as much as possible.
Partello told me during his appearance that the blue was chosen as a callback to the team’s original colors of red, white and blue when they played in the PCL as a minor-league team. Even if that were true, I don’t see how the team’s minor-league history trumps the team’s first 22 years in the MLB.
There are plenty of options out there that allow for the team to be original, unique and move on from the past eight years without simply going back in time and stealing Ray Kroc’s ideas. There is some precedent here, too. Plenty of teams have tried to wash away their recent history by going with an updated version of an old logo or uniform, the Giants and Jets being two easy examples.
When it comes to their colors, the Padres have run out of good answers to the most basic question: Why not? They’re currently hiding behind “market research” that is too incomplete to share with the public, but complete enough to stick with what we’ve got.