It feels like this happens every year, doesn’t it? A player on the New York Yankees comes to camp with giant hair or a crazy beard and has to get it shaved or cut because the Yankees don’t allow beards or hair that falls below the collar.
This year’s casualty? Clint Frazier’s thick mane of bright red hair.
— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) March 10, 2017
Seeing that hair on the floor is so tragic, because Frazier’s huge head of hair was approaching epic proportions. Despite that, it’s pretty clear that his hair is in violation of the Yankees’ phenomenally ridiculous appearance policy. However, manager Joe Girardi gave a really strange reason for Frazier’s trip to the barber chair.
Joe Girardi said that Clint Frazier's hair did not violate the Yankees' policy, but that "it had become a distraction" in camp.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 10, 2017
The word “distraction” here is just not right. It’s hair. Unless it’s getting in his face when he’s doing a baseball thing, or it’s somehow getting in the faces of other players (don’t ask me how that could happen), it’s not a distraction. That’s a ridiculous word to use. The Yankees have a longstanding appearance policy, started by George Steinbrenner in 1973, that covers both facial hair and head hair. And as far as head hair, it can’t be below the collar. Frazier’s hair was pretty much there, and what it lacked in length it made up for in sheer poofiness.
What managers typically mean when they say something has become a “distraction” is mostly a combination of annoyance and old timey tradition. It means “everyone in the news and on the internet is talking about your hair instead of talking about baseball, and it has to stop.” And in this situation, it may not have been “everyone,” maybe just the New York Times, which published a story earlier in the week that featured Frazier’s hair and a deep dive into the Yanks appearance policy.
And that brings up the most important thing about Clint Frazier’s trip to the barber: the Yankees appearance policy is monumentally stupid. For any reason. For every reason. Pick a reason out of thin air and that’s a worthy reason to get rid of it. It’s antiquated. It feels like the only reason they still have it is to reinforce the narrative that they’re the most “traditional” baseball team, they’re playing by the old rules and still have “respect” for the game.
No matter what anyone says or thinks, baseball has evolved over the years. Players are no longer paid in beer, and they don’t leave the mound in the middle of pitching a game to chase a fire engine. Women are allowed in stadiums to watch games, and male players of all nationalities and ethnicities are allowed to play at a professional level. That evolution has also included the gradual change in how people in general choose to present themselves to the world. Someone’s appearance is a form of personal expression, and during the time professional baseball has existed, that’s changed a lot. Tattoos and piercings are no longer taboo, beards have gone in and out of style, and hair has become acceptable at many lengths. Most teams let their players look however they want. They don’t think a player’s choice to wear a beard or long hair has any impact on the team at large, because they’re not head models. They’re baseball players.
Clint Frazier’s hair wasn’t hurting anyone, and it brought a little joy and fun into the game, because it was a cloud of fluffy red hair (R.I.P.). Its presence didn’t make anyone play any better or worse. It meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, but the Yankees just had to insert themselves into the situation, if only to stop people from having so much fun with baseball because it’s a Very Serious Sport.
If a team has an appearance policy, then they care too much about something that is absolutely inconsequential. They care about controlling their players’ lives even more than they already do. They care about projecting a certain image, even if that image is outdated and unnecessary. That seems to fit the Yankees to a T.
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