2017-03-17 / Sports

The Yankee Way

By Mark C. Healey

"I have nothing against long hair, but wearing a Yankee uniform represents tradition. I think a Yankee should look well-groomed. After all, I'm paying the bills and issuing the paychecks around here and I feel a certain way about the Yankee tradition." – George M. Steinbrenner, October 1977.

When the New York Yankees traded reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians for four minor leaguers, including outfielder Clint Frazier, the top-rated prospect in the Indians’ system on July 30, many pointed out how great the deal would be for the Yankees’ future.

All I could think about – knowing full well that Frazier has a long, flowing, head of red hair – was that he would have to cut those locks before too long.

Why? Because it’s The Yankee Way.

There seems to be a growing concern about how baseball needs to change, to embrace new fans by allowing players to look like cavemen.


Yankees manager Joe Girardi told prospect Clint Frazier his hair was becoming a distraction. 
Photo by @YankeesPR Yankees manager Joe Girardi told prospect Clint Frazier his hair was becoming a distraction. Photo by @YankeesPR Like a lot of baseball writers, the New York Times’ Billy Witz seems to think the Yankees’ policy is archaic and bad for baseball. He also seems to like Frazier’s hair.

“Frazier’s hair is spectacular. It is red. It is curly. It is voluminous,” Witz wrote on March 5. “It also seems to defy gravity as much as it defies any attempt by a batting helmet to contain it.”

Okay then.

Witz also writes that “Frazier, who could be a starter this season, is viewed as being central to the Yankees’ youth movement, and with his hair and provocative personality, he might offer a jolt of enthusiasm largely absent from Yankee Stadium these days.”

Ok, now first off, I’ve always been a believer that team rules come before any individual goals, especially in baseball. In Frazier’s case, while it’s true that he didn’t have a say in the deal to the Bronx, he also hit just .228 after the deal.


Using current logic, Derek Jeter is just another player with a short haircut. 
Photo By Bill Menzel Using current logic, Derek Jeter is just another player with a short haircut. Photo By Bill Menzel Know your role, let your bat do the talking and other unwritten codes have been a part of baseball for generations. Most teams allow their players to look like they just crawled out of a drainpipe, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should do the same.

Also, to be even fairer to Frazier, he attempted to trim his locks at the time of the deal, posting photos of the process on social media.

But after a week or so of spring training, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told Frazier his hair – which was still long and very red -- was becoming a distraction and shortly thereafter, the Yankees public relations department posted a photo of the prospect getting a buzz.


Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals is emblematic of the growing trend of players who grow their beard and hair as long as they wish. 
Photo by MLB.com Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals is emblematic of the growing trend of players who grow their beard and hair as long as they wish. Photo by MLB.com “After thinking to myself and talking to a few people, I finally came to the agreement that it’s time to look like everybody else around here,” Frazier told reporters. “I had a talk with Joe [Girardi] yesterday and we both agreed it was time for it to be cut. It started to become a distraction, and I just want to play. That’s what I’m here to do.”

Newsday’s Erik Boland described Frazier as having “his hair buzzed on his neck and on the sides, with a bit of a mop still left on top that will be completely covered by a cap.”

There were far more people howling about the “fascist” Yankees on social media, and even Yankees blogger Mike Axisa, who writes for Yankees fansite RiverAveBlues says it’s time for a change.

“The Yankees are free to run their business however they see fit, though at this point, after all these years, it’s probably time to loosen up the hair policy. It’s not the 1970s anymore. It’s 2017,” he wrote on March 6. “The Yankees are building a very young and exciting team, yet the hair policy takes away part of the players’ personality. Frazier with his poofy red hair is a ton of fun. Frazier with a short haircut is just another ballplayer.”

Really? Was Derek Jeter just another player?

The 1996 Yankees were a boring team to the rest of baseball, Jeter, Bernie Williams; even the great Mariano Rivera had incredibly short hair. Where the younger Yankee fans who watched the birth of a dynasty bored by their boring hairdos? I think not.

We get it, baseball is trying to attract younger fans. But the Yankees are not going to change the Yankee Way, because they don’t have to. I mean, seriously, they are the Yankees. They have virtually the same uniform they wore when Babe Ruth saved baseball.

Fans and even players have resisted to support the policy – former All- Star Brian Wilson once declined to sign with the Yankees for the 2014 season because he didn’t want to cut off his famous (and some would say ridiculous) beard.

Wilson was lauded by FoxSports.com for turning down the chance to play for the Yankees.

“It’s not just any beard. If you haven’t seen it, picture a cross between Bigfoot and one of those Duck Dynasty guys. Wilson’s chin is a magnificent work of whisker art, but the Yankees consider beards the equivalent of black-velvet paintings.”

Well, his beard didn’t help his arm, and Wilson struggled in 2014, managing just a 4.66 ERA in 48 1-3 innings.

He retired after that season.

At the end of the day, the Yankees as an organization want this policy in place until they don’t. Until then, the Yankee Way is the only way.

“(The hair policy) has value because it’s a tradition,” Girardi told reporters. “It’s a tradition by a man [George Steinbrenner] that meant so much to this organization. And if it’s important to him and it’s important to his family, then it needs to be respected by all of us.”

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