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MLB releases the top 10 best selling jerseys

Mar 23, 2011, 10:32 AM EDT

Jeter Jersey

CNBC’s Darren Rovell reports that, for the first time, Major League Baseball has divulged the list of their top selling jerseys, by player.  He has a story about it here and then lists the top 10 in a slide show, which is somewhat annoying. For what it’s worth, Derek Jeter is, not surprisingly, the top seller. Joe Mauer is second. All of the top 10 are superstars like Albert Pujols, Roy Halladay and A-Rod.  There are no particularly young players on there, with Tim Lincecum being the baby of the bunch.

I find this interesting: seven of the top ten are white American guys, with A-Rod, Pujols and Jeter being the only Latino and/or black players.  That’s not exactly representative of the player pool at large. Does it say anything about player promotion? Fans’ discomfort with wearing jerseys of players of a different race or ethnicity? Does it mean nothing and suggest that I’m just looking for a fight?  Probably some of all of that, to be honest. But it is the kind of stuff I think is interesting.

For the record, I own no player-specific merchandise of any kind, but if I was going to buy a jersey I’d probably get a Jason Heyward one simply because he’s the guy I tend to be more of a fanboy of than anyone else.  I once wrote a post — which I can’t find at the moment — of what player’s jersey I’d buy if I had to buy one for each team. If I recall, it didn’t track at all closely with who the best or coolest player was for that team. It was rather idiosyncratic, actually.  I suppose fulfilling that dream would require a lot of custom orders, though, and that for most people, buying the jersey of a team’s superstar off the rack is a lot easier.

But please, if you happen to see a pre-made Ron Oester Reds jersey, please let me know.

  1. Drew Silva - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    Craig, what about that Julio Teheran shrine you have in the corner of the living room? That not player-specific enough?

  2. heyblueyoustink - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I could use an authentic Mo’ Vaughn Mets jersey…..you know, something to cover the car in case of inclement weather…

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      Sabathia’s might be cheaper since he’s still playing—though you may have to fold it in half.

  3. shaggylocks - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    Interesting observations on race, Craig. Got me thinking about my own player-specific merchandise. I’m a white guy, and I have four different players’ shirts: one Japanese, two Latino, and one white farm boy from the Midwest, which I just bought last week. I usually pick players on my team that I think are undervalued, and our racial differences have never really occurred to me. It’ll definitely be something I pay attention to next time I go to the ballpark, though.

  4. thefoz26 - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    That’s why I like the jerseys that are blank on the back – they’re cheaper and trade/waiver/free agent proof

  5. bigtrav425 - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    i can almost promise you that race has nothing to do with it.While Baseball is my fav sport iv never really gotten into them as much as basketball or football jerseys when i was younger. i have atleast 9 b-ball jerseys and none are white and i have 5 or 6 football and 1 is white.i only have 2 baseball jerseys 1 white 1 Latino.I think baseball has a lil bit of everything to do with it starting with Promotion from MLB and the Local Teams.For Example ,with the Exception of Carlos Beltran who has the Royals had superstar wise in the last 10 yrs for anyone in KC to want to buy a pretty expensive jersey.(W/O checking they are prolly atleast 75 bucks) Price and the material they are made of has something to do with it as well…in the end it might be one of those unexplained things but it has more to do with everything but race

  6. b7p19 - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    My brother owns a powder blue and maroon Steve Jeltz Phillies jersey. Can anybody beat that?

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      Any day where there’s a Steve Jeltz reference is a good day……next thing you know someone’s gonna bust out a Kim Batiste game jersey…

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM

        Ricky Jordan was the man.

  7. nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    I think most of it has to do with who are the biggest stars on the teams with the more intense fanbases.

    Looking at that list, you have 1 Red Sock, 1 Cardinal, 2 Yankees, 3 Phillies, and 1 world champion Giant. The first four have insanely fanatical fanbases and all four are routinely challenging for division crowns and the Giants just won the World Series, which is sure to spike merchandise sales.

    Pedroia – 1 of top 3 players on his team with the other 2 being recent pickups (Crawford and Gonzalez), World Series winner
    Pujols – best player in baseball, World Series winner
    Jeter – Mr. Yankee, multiple World Series winner
    A-Rod – 1 of the most polarizing players of all-time, also 1 of the best, World Series winner
    Utley – top position player on his team, World Series winner
    Halladay – best pitcher in baseball
    Lee – 1 of the best pitchers in baseball
    Lincecum – 1 of the best pitchers in baseball, World Series winner

    I’m most surprised by A) the fact Boston only has 1 guy on the list, B) Hamilton and Mauer being on the list at all (not because they don’t deserve it, just because they don’t play for teams with high marketability), and C) A-Rod being on the list considering it seems everyone hates his guts no matter what he does.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      Hamilton’s on there because he’s baseball’s comeback and/or feel-good story of the year(s).

      Mauer’s on there because he’s the best catcher in baseball right now, has won batting titles, silver sluggers, gold gloves and AL MVP, and has been an All Star how many times?

      ARoid is like the Yankers—you love him or you hate him. There’s very little, if any, in between.

      • nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

        I completely understand WHY they’re there. I’m just surprised. I mean, it’s not like baseball fans as a whole always support the best players.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      But your comment also brings up another question for the last full week before any meaningful baseball is played.

      What in God’s name is the singular form of Red Sox or White Sox?

  8. paperlions - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Derek Jeter is Latino?

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      That’s why he added the and/or black part.

      • ThatGuy - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:03 PM

        Derek Jeter is black? Guess I never thought about it, but I always kind of thought he was like Italian or somthing.

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        Take it with whatever size a grain of salt you want to, considering the source, but from Wikipedia:

        Jeter was born in Pequannock, New Jersey in 1974. His father, Dr. Sanderson Charles Jeter, a substance abuse counselor, is African American; his mother, Dorothy, is Caucasian and of Irish/German descent. Charles and Dorothy met while serving in the United States Army[9] in Germany.[10]

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        Heyward is from Jersey too. No Not just El Bravo Heyward, the real one. Jersey rules everyone, just admit it.

      • nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        Yeah but as soon as Heyward was born, they got the hell out.

      • paperlions - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        Yes, I know his father is black; it was sarcasm. Sheesh.

  9. nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    My first baseball jerseys (real, iron-on lettering, or t-shirt varieties) go like this:

    1. David Justice (iron-on)
    2. John Smoltz (t-shirt)
    3. Greg Maddux (t-shirt)
    4. Ken Griffey, Jr. (real)
    5. Chipper Jones (real)

    I was also given a Mark McGwire one in ’98 but never wore it.

  10. dashtreyhorn - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    I think it has more to do with the popularity/success of any given team and the specific players more than any perceived racism or bias by the fans. (Note: “racism” is probably the wrong word to use.)

    The represented teams (Giants, Cardinals, Phillies x2, Yankees x2, Rangers x2, Red Sox, and Twins) are all considered to be playoff teams with above average fan bases, and if you break down those teams, you’ll see that the best players are the ones being represented by the jersey sales, and those players just happen to be primarily white.

    For the Giants, Lincecum is an easy pick. Same for the Cardinals and Pujols. What other jerseys would the fans get?

    For the Sox, Pedroia makes sense. Position player, MVP winner, etc. Ortiz had his day a few years ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez on this list next year.

    The Rangers are in a similar situation, as Hamilton is *the* guy over there. Aside from Young or Kinsler or Cruz, that is. Also, the Rangers didn’t get “good” until 2010, which coincided with Hamilton’s MVP season. I assume that the bulk of Cliff Lee’s jerseys were from his Texas days after he came to town. Same reason applies. Good team, good pitcher.

    The inclusion of only white players on the Phillies is interesting, because they have Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard – both black players who arevery popular, and I suspect that they would have been on this list two or three years ago during their MVP years. It makes perfect sense for Halladay to be on this list, as it was his first year on the team, and everyone had to have this jersey. And Utley is the best player position player on the team.

    For the Yankees, Jeter is a slam dunk at number one, and A-Rod, despite being A-Rod, is similarly a no-brainer. I am curious to see where Cano and Sabathia rank, however. It’s fair to assume that CC’s jersey sales spiked in 2009 when he came over, and I suspect that Cano’s jersey sales are on the rise. But if you’re playing on the Yankees, your jersey sales are going to suffer if you’re not named Rodriguez or Jeter.

    All told, economics play a huge role in all of this. Given the going rate for a jersey, it’s likely that most are buying only one, and it is typically going to be the best player on the team.

    • kellyb9 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      As a Phillies fan, I entirely expected Howard to be there. Rollins has been so injury prone the past few years that I’m not entirely suprised he’s no longer on this list.

  11. Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    I don’t know, 60% of MLB players are white, I don’t see 70% of the top ten best sellers being white as any sign of anything. You have to expect a 10% fluation when your only looking at the top 10. Right? I mean 1 player is 10%. Boooooooo!!!!

    • cur68 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      statistically speaking you are right, I think. Without running any sort of analysis, off the top of my head I’d say 60% is NOT significantly different than 70% from a sample size of 10. Anyone feel like testing that hypothesis?

      • nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        All I know is 60% of the time, it works every time.

  12. Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    A year or two ago, I conducted a purely non-scientific call-it-as-I-see-or-notice-it survey heading to Phightins games and just around. I noticed Howard was pretty well represented out there, just as well as Rollins, Hamels and Utley, with a smattering of Werth and the Hawaiian—though there were a lot of Schmidt and Carlton ones out there too for some reason (like they ever amounted to anything :P ). That said, I wasn’t differentiating between jerseys and t-shirts, which are cheaper and much more likely to be giveaways at games.

    Last year, there were a lot of Halladay jerseys (though I will never understand the need for these guys’ names on throwback jerseys) with a spike in Oswalt ones at the end, and this year there are a lot of Lee ones. In 2007 and 2008, there were a number of Iguchi and Taguchi jerseys (though I don’t seem to recall a lot of Park ones in 2009). I think it has more to do with who’s been hot or who’s new. The new players always get hawked by the organization for new sales to people with jerseys already.

    Pasty white guy that I am, I would have absolutely no qualms about wearing a jersey of a player who is not the same color or ethnicity as I am. Though, you really don’t see too many pasty white guys around baseball—well, outside of the stands, that is.

  13. hermitfool - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    When Julio Lugo was playing for the BoSox I scoured the vendors for a Julio Lugo jersey, thinking if I could score one, it might be the only one in other than Julio’s worn at Fenway Park that evening. Every one of those vendors laughed in my face. Maybe major league talent evaluators should put more trust the jersey vendors.

  14. Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Wow! * fluctuation is what I meant.

    That reminds me. And since we’re going to ride the racial rollercoaster today it seems I have to tell a racially charged joke that contains *fluctuations.

    Overheard at the bank; There was a short line. Just one lady in front of me, an Asian lady who was trying to exchange yen for dollars. It was obvious she was a little irritated.

    She asked the teller, ‘Why it change? Yesterday, I get two hundred dolla for yen. Today I only get hundred eighty? Why it change?’

    The teller shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Fluctuations.’

    The Asian lady says, ‘Fluc you white people too!’

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:43 AM

      As offensive as that joke may, could or should be, my coworkers just shot me a look because of my laughing.

      • cur68 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        I make some version of that statement on a daily basis while analyzing my research data :)
        Damn fluctuations in the return of the sample data is KILLING me….

  15. JB (the original) - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Yeah, Mauer;s not marketable. I mean outside of being the best catcher (by far) in baseball, winning multiple batting champion titles, and the Gold Gloves, playing for a perennial playoff team, and known throughout all of baseball, players and fans alike, to be a “good guy”, what’s he ever done to garnish attention. What were the guys of “MLB: The Show” thinking the last 2 years? And ESPN using him in those commercials (spurring “Well Played Mauer” shirts to be printed and sold)?

  16. JB (the original) - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Yeah, Mauer’s not marketable. I mean outside of being the best catcher (by far) in baseball, winning multiple batting champion titles, and the Gold Gloves, playing for a perennial playoff team, and known throughout all of baseball, players and fans alike, to be a “good guy”, what’s he ever done to garnish attention. What were the guys of “MLB: The Show” thinking the last 2 years? And ESPN using him in those commercials (spurring “Well Played Mauer” shirts to be printed and sold)?

    • nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      I said the TEAM isn’t marketable. You almost never hear anything about them. How many teams win 2 consecutive division titles and still stay below-the-radar? People aren’t out buying Twins jerseys like they do for the Yankees, BoSox, or Phillies. And when people name the top players in baseball, Mauer is more likely to be left off the list than anyone else in this top 10. He’s a friggin’ beast of a player both offensively and defensively, but he doesn’t hit HRs (which is what sells in today’s game), doesn’t play on a team that is on national TV every week, and doesn’t play a position that is conducive to nightly web gems.

      Mauer deserves anything and everything he’s gotten thus far. Really, he probably deserves more. If he continues on this path, he could go down as the most complete catcher of all-time.

      • JB (the original) - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        The article is about particular players, not the particular teams they play for. And pretty much anywhere in the country I go, people love to talk about the Twins when they see my hats/shirts. You on the east coast by any chance?

      • nps6724 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        Craig’s article raised a question of why people buy particular jerseys. The team you play for definitely and directly ties into your jersey sales. A good Yankee player can outsell a great player in a lesser market simply because he’s a Yankee.

        You must be seeking out big-time baseball fans to find people outside of Minnesota who want to talk about the Twins. If so many people really cared, they’d get more time on all the different baseball recap shows and would be featured on all the weekly national TV games that air on ESPN and Fox and TBS. That goes for the majority of teams. The only teams people want to talk about across the country regardless of region are the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s it. Though thankfully, it’s to talk about how much we all hate them.

        I’m on the gulf coast, not the east coast. Closest team is in Atlanta 6 hours away.

  17. JB (the original) - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Don’t know about the double post, but I should add that my comment was in response to nps6724′s comment that Mauer should be on the list at all.

  18. kcq101 - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    As an avid fan (Phillies), but not much of a jersey-wearer, when trying to discern why a jersey of one player on the team is more prominent than others, one also has to consider the length of the player’s contract. The prime Phillies example being Cliff Lee’s first appearance to Philly (or dare I mention T.O.).

    I guess this notion of contract length is more applicable in the 2nd tier of players on a team. “Star”-power, one-year contract or 10 years, is, alone, enough to sell out a store. Plus, most Star players are franchise players with long contracts, anyway.

    But when you have a fan who is not trying to wear a jersey that everyone else and their mother is wearing, I would expect fans to consider how long that player is going to be with the team, as well.

    Not very relevant to the “Top Selling Jerseys,” but just some tangent musings from my cubicle.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 11:56 AM

      Well, there’s that too. But don’t ever, ever, EVER mention T.O.

  19. steve keane - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    I would guess Jeter would get a half vote for African American and half vote for Caucasian since him mom is white and dad is black

  20. pauleee - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    All my hockey jerseys are white guys: Hawerchuck, Babych, Cavellini, Lemieux, Stastny. I had no idea I’m a closet racist.

    • ThatGuy - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      hmm, you may be on to somthing. All my hockey jerseys are canadians and Fins… Do I hate America?

      • cur68 - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        My one and only hockey jersey is a signed William O’Ree # 22 Bruin’s Jersey. No, he isn’t irish…

  21. Jeff J. Snider - Mar 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Here’s the link to your old column:

    American League: http://shysterball.blogspot.com/2008/04/playing-favorites.html
    National League: http://shysterball.blogspot.com/2008/04/playing-favorites-national-league.html

  22. yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Only have one t-shirt with a name on it in my wardrobe. Drag it out every three years on August 4th.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:37 PM

      I might be overlooking the obvious here, but what’s that for? Do you have a thing Helen Thomas? Or President Obama? (Just a couple off the top of my head…)

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        Knew someone would bite,at least it was fellow cake lover Ut.
        Every three years, on August 4th (first at bat) A Rod hits a milestone HR. Next time 8/4/13 for 700. I call a couple of days before to remind him.

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        Yeah, that too.

    • cur68 - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      So…uh…you celebrate the tri-annual anniversary of the date traditionally ascribed to Dom Perignon’s invention of Champagne in 1693?

  23. genericcommenter - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I don’t wear jerseys since I’m not 13 anymore ( I used to wear Starter jerseys without names) or an ironic hipster. If I did wear jerseys, I would probably wear a black guy’s (I’m white). I think all my favorite guys are retired though. Names that come to mind- Griffey, Bonds, Sheffield.

  24. The Rabbit - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I don’t believe that fan “racism” has anything to do with this list and without knowing the underlying data from MLB, you can’t make any assumptions.
    As a retired financial analyst, I’d need to see a breakdown of the buying sources before I’d be able to form a hypothesis. Are these only the purchases from MLB.com? Does it include non-baseball oriented buyers from retail who operate upscale “souvenir” stores in their respective cities?
    The list itself is fairly logical given the media attention to these players. (Maybe the media and not the fans is racist?) I live in Cardinal/Royals territory and actually have friends who are non-baseball fans. These non-fans can recognize the names of two players: Albert and Zack…and they didn’t know that Zack was traded. Beyond that, they can’t name another player on either team. If they are going to buy a personalized baseball gift, it would be one of those two.
    BTW: My sis who still lives in South Jersey can be seen wearing her Shane Victorino jersey. She also had a shirt for her favorite player as a kid: Cookie Rojas.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      You have friends who aren’t baseball fans? WTF?

      (Posted this below, but I guess it didn’t register when I clicked reply.)

      • The Rabbit - Mar 23, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        LOL Yeah…I originally wrote that I had friends who weren’t baseball fans and “didn’t know how that happened” but deleted that part because I know how it happened.
        I moved to the middle of freakin’ nowhere. If you watch the Travel Channel No Reservations-The Ozarks next Monday night, you will see some people from town cooking squirrel or some other rodent for the host. (I kid you not!) I was told by one of the locals that they own the town’s health food store which I find hilarious.
        So, I’m a single female in a sparsely populated area where NASCAR, hunting, and fishing are the reigning sports. I am eternally grateful that there is high speed internet and other ways to communicate with fellow baseball addicts.

      • cur68 - Mar 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM

        Anthony Bourdain for president!…wait…is he an American?

  25. The Baseball Idiot - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    I’m a white guys and I have three two replica MLB jerseys, and one is Lou Brock’s. The other is Frank White.

    I have 8 replica Negro League jerseys.

    I don’t think race has anything to do with it, myself.

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