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The Yankees should ditch their dumb grooming policy

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There is some chattering going on about Yankees outfield prospect Clint Frazier. It’s not trade chatter. It’s not chatter about how quickly he’ll make it to the big leagues. It’s chatter about his hair.

It’s red and curly and, for most of his time in baseball, it has been long. It was long and flowing and crazy when he was with the Indians, but he got it cut after coming to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade last summer. Now, however, it is long again, as you can see in the above photo.

That’s not terribly long but as the New York Times reminds us, when you play for the Yankees, you’re ordered to wear a haircut you can set your watch to:

But with the Yankees, Frazier’s hair has brought unwelcome attention. In short, the Yankees do not do big hair (or beards), under a policy set years ago by George Steinbrenner and vigorously policed by his daughter Jennifer. Now there is a guessing game over whether the team will send Frazier to the barber before sending him to the plate.

The talk now is whether or not — or when — Frazier will be forced to cut his hair.

A lot of you will just nod and say, hey, this is Yankee Tradition and it’s part of their image so Frazier should cut his damn hair. And I appreciate that sentiment to some degree. While I come off as a radical about a lot of things, I do believe that balancing tradition and modernity is important and it doesn’t always come down to “new = better!” This is especially true in baseball, which is more bound up with tradition than most pursuits, and for which I would never argue chucking tradition just for the sake of doing so.

But it’s worth looking at why this is Yankee Tradition. It’s worth looking at why the Yankees, in the year 2017, continue to police players’ grooming habits like this.  I mean, it’s not as if baseball players need short hair to play well. Recent history has shown us otherwise. And it’s not as if Yankees players being clean cut and short-haired is some absolute moral good handed down by God Almighty (word on the street is that His son had long hair, after all). Rather, the impetus for the policy was the era in which it was imposed and the social and political leanings of the guy who imposed it.

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973. This was at a time when long hair had been in fashion among civilians for several years, but was just beginning to filter into baseball. While Richard Nixon and the Silent Majority couldn’t do anything about the way the hippies wore their hair, Steinbrenner could certainly do something about his players. Whether he hated the hippies or just worried that Yankees fans did and wouldn’t come to the ballpark to see them, his imposition of the short hair rule was an unmistakable reactionary response to the world changing in a way a rich businessman from Cleveland didn’t like. Or, at the very least, to what he worried his customers wouldn’t like.

While one can argue that such a statement was reasonable in 1973, it’s hard to see why it still holds in 2017. But not just because a lot of time has passed. Rather, because the very purpose of the long hair ban — a perceived need to react to allegedly threatening hippies — has passed. Maybe it’d be a different case if the grooming policy had its roots a hundred years back. Maybe if Miller Huggins had established it with reference to some sort of 1920s neo-classical idea about What Makes Men Virtuous or something. That may have been silly too, but at least then someone could argue about it being an aspirational thing that had long been part and parcel of the Yankee Tradition as a whole.

But as it is, the policy’s sole motivation is tied up in reactionary fear of change. What kind of tradition is that? It’s actually kind of pathetic, especially given how, whatever you think of the hippies, The Establishment has clearly won by every possible metric short of personal grooming.

Anyway, like I said: balancing tradition and new ideas is always important. But when the tradition is based on something dumb it has no real argument to recommend it. Such is the case with the Yankees haircut rules. They should be chucked. Let Clint Frazier and every other Yankee fly his freak flag as high as they’d like.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 13, Orioles 8: Leonys Martin hit a grand slam out of the leadoff spot and the two-slot hitter, Jeimer Candelario, drove in three via a two-run homer and an RBI single. They play for the Tigers, by the way. Figure a lot of you were not aware of that. Heck, outside of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos, figure most of us don’t know most of the guys on the Tigers anymore. You do know that Manny Machado plays for the Orioles. Know that he hit two homers in a losing cause. Know that, given how the Orioles are doing these days, he won’t be with the Orioles too much longer, I reckon.

Cubs 8, Cardinals 5: Chicago built an early 6-1 lead on a bunch of singles and sac flies and stuff and Jason Heyward capped the Cubs scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth. Jon Lester allowed only an unearned run over six. Every Cubs starter had at least one hit. Anthony Rizzo had three. Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez had two a piece. After the game Joe Maddon said:

“This is so much fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Seeing inside the ball, using the whole field. With that you’ll see better situational hitting, better batting average. That’s just good hitting.”

Without looking, I’m going to guess that the Cubs’ eight-run outburst was, at least in part, a function of good launch angles and exit velocities. Not that Maddon would be the first person to engage in the fallacy of assuming mutual exclusivity where it does not exist.

Astros 9, Mariners 2: Charlie Morton tossed seven shutout innings, dropping his ERA down to 0.72 in his three wins. He has also struck out 33 guys in 25 innings and has walked only six. At this rate he’s going to be in a three-way race with two of his teammates — Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander — for the Cy Young. Seattle dropped three of four in the series and, as a team, went 15-for-100 against Dallas KeuchelLance McCullers Jr., Cole and Morton.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: Aaron Judge homered and, while the Jays threatened late when David Robertson couldn’t find the strike zone and loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, but he got out of the jam with only one run scoring. Judge — who a lot of you wise acres thought would struggle this year now that everyone is ready for him — is hitting .339/.481/.629 and is on a 48-homer, 152-walk pace. So, yeah.

Phillies 7, Pirates 0: OK, I think Jake Arrieta has finally finished his late spring training. Here he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out ten. Rhys Hoskins homered, Odubel Herrera singled in runs in the second and the fifth, J.P. Crawford and Cesar Hernandez knocked in runs on singles as well. More importantly, look at the photo on the top of this post and acknowledge how spiffy Philly looked in these blues. Their only fault is that teams that do this should, like the White Sox the other day, wear the blues on the road as originally intended.

Braves 12, Mets 4: Matt Wisler was called up from Triple-A to make a spot start. Guessing he’s going to get a bit more than that after allowing only two hits in seven innings. Matt Harvey, meanwhile, allowed six runs in six innings and after the game Mickey Calloway would not commit to him making his next scheduled start. He’s just not the guy he used to be. Preston Tucker drove in five with a bases loaded double and a two-run double. Kurt Suzuki had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run homer. The Braves offense leads the NL in runs scored. We were all expecting that heading into the season, yes?

Brewers 12, Marlins 3: It was close until the sixth, when Milwaukee put up a seven-spot. Lorenzo Cain homered, doubled twice and scored four times and Ryan Braun hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer. Those three runs gave him 1,000 RBI on his career. Lewis Brinson — who came over to the Marlins from the Brewers in the offseason trade for Christian Yelich — hit his first two career homers.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1: Zack Greinke held the punchless Giants to one run over seven innings, with a Brandon Belt homer being his only blemish. The Snakes got homers from Ketel Marte and A.J. Pollock. The Giants have scored only 51 runs in 18 games. That’s the lowest run total in baseball, tied with the Royals, who have only played 16 games. It ain’t 2014 anymore, is it?

Red Sox 8, Angels 2: And the Red Sox never lost again. Homers from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi. Eight runs on 14 hits against six pitchers. A fine outing from Eduardo Rodriguez. Seven wins in a row and, heck, even though it covers the whole season, 16 of 18 for Boston.