Orioles give Andrew Cashner beard exemption

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Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun wrote a “getting to know Andrew Cashner” story over the weekend. It’s the usual sort of spring training story regarding a new signee: this is who he is, this is what motivates him, this is how he’s relating to his new teammates, etc. etc.

It contains one interesting little tidbit, though: Cashner would not have signed his two-year deal with the Orioles if they had not allowed him to keep his beard. From the story:

Cashner’s schedule, which has to this point occurred mostly outside the public view, has allowed for all of his personality to shine in the Orioles clubhouse. It’s about creating comfort on both sides, something he’s particularly invested in. That’s why he requested and received ownership’s assurance that his trademark beard can stay, provided it is trimmed, on a club where facial hair outside a well-manicured goatee is outlawed.

“I just think it’s a part of who I am, and it’s a part of my personality — it’s just me,” he said. “I think this length is kind of what it’s supposed to be, I guess.”

I have a few thoughts.

I am not a big fan of the several-years-old beards craze in Major League Baseball. It’s the most notorious part of Brian Wilson’s legacy, even worse than the “BECAUSE I’M BLACK OPS” Taco Bell commercial. That being said, team policies about facial hair are stupid. Every player should have the unalienable right to look as sloppy and scraggly as they want to. It’s one of the primary reasons why we fought the British and then stole one of their schoolgirl games and claimed it was our national pastime.

Even if you are going to have a facial hair policy, why have one against beards but allowing for goatees? Goatees are terrible. WAY worse than big gross Brian Wilson beards.

Given how tough this offseason’s free agent market was, I wonder what really would’ve happened if the Orioles said “nah, you gotta shave. Go find $16 million someplace else. Bet ya can’t.”

I’m sad this isn’t all taking place in Boston, because if it was, and if Cashner had a bad season, I’d bet $1,000 that, come September or October, the Globe or the Herald or WEEI.com or someone would run a followup story, citing anonymous front office sources, that the “special treatment” Cashner’s beard received was a source of divisiveness on the club.

Whatever the case, I can’t help but think today’s players are going to look back on the Beard Era of Major League Baseball with as much embarrassment as players of the 80s must feel when they look back at the Cop Mustache + Metal Glasses Era. I suppose every generation has to deal with such things, however.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go delete some pics of myself from the early 90s.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.