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David Brown

Face it: Cards' Franklin an All-Star just by the hair of his chin

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Ryan Franklin(notes) no doubt belongs on the NL All-Star squad, considering his 20 saves in 21 opportunities for the first-place Cardinals, along with a 0.844 WHIP, 0.84 ERA and .476 OPS against.

The stats are there, and so is Franklin's beard, which is probably the thickest facial hair in the majors. It looks like a Hollywood prop, or like maybe one of his teammates borrowed a janitor's push broom and glued part of it to the bottom of Franklin's face.

Yet, the hair comes from his own follicles. And his bushy chin deserves recognition at Busch Stadium next week.

After all, where was Franklin — an All-Star for the first time at age 36 — without it?

He was an OK starter with the Mariners in another life, but got diminishing returns and, after testing positive for a banned substance in 2005, moved to the bullpen for the Phillies and Reds. He was nothing special there, either, and wasn't All-Star material the past two seasons in St. Louis. And he wore the same kind of boring beard that marked his so-far unremarkable career.

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In these photos, Franklin looks no different from any of the however-many dozen hairy chinned guys in bullpens across the majors. No style, no panache, no individuality, no results of which to speak.

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Enter, the Buschman.

It's easy to conclude Franklin simply has matured, gotten better with age, honed his craft, etc.

Or he's benefited from two years under Dave Duncan, probably the best pitching coach in the league.

Or he's just thriving in ninth innings after someone finally gave him a chance to close regularly.

Conventional theories, all of them.

But the only difference we can prove about Ryan Franklin is the hair on his chinny chin chin.

No self-respecting ballplayer would admit to being intimidated by Franklin's face, of course, but how could he not be, at least, a little distracted?

A few fun facts:

• The beard measures 26 inches across, 11 inches high and nearly one meter thick*.

*Not its actual dimensions

• It functions as a spittoon and it sops up spilt milk in one easy motion.

• Its name is Maury.

After Franklin received word of his positive test and 10-game suspension in '05, he reacted with seemingly genuine shock and surprise. He also blamed the test for being faulty, or maybe it was the supplements.

He's tested clean ever since, but you have to wonder:

Has Franklin's chin been doing Rogaine behind his back?

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