Yankees Facial Hair Policy: Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

Feb 16, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Johnny Barbato walks onto the field during MLB spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 16, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Johnny Barbato walks onto the field during MLB spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Since 1973, when George Steinbrenner purchased the team, the Yankees have had a strict appearance policy regulating how players look on the field.

After reportedly watching a number of Yankees players’ hair cover a portion of their numbers during a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, some 44 years ago, The Boss, who as born on the 4th of July, soon instituted an appearance policy that still stands to this day.

The exact verbiage of the decree goes something like this:

"“All players, coaches and male executives are forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair may not be grown below the collar. Long sideburns and ‘mutton chops’ are not specifically banned.”"

Luckily, in 2017 we don’t have to worry all that much about the presence of mutton chops. Alas, the great hair debate has recently come up in the news.

Upon his arrival as manager of the Miami Marlins in late 2015, Don Mattingly adopted the rule for his young upstart club as a way of instilling a sense of discipline and comradery. You know the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make it drink’? Well, after only a little over a year, Mattingly and team owner Jeffrey Loria announced they have indeed lifted the grooming ban because according to the former Yankees first baseman, enforcing the rule was a “pain in the ass.”

"“It was a constant fight last year, honestly, with guys,” Mattingly told ESPN. “Through the course of the season and watching the playoffs and the World Series, for me it just didn’t seem like that big of a thing. The most important thing is our guys prepare and play the game right.”"

Perhaps this had something to do with pitcher Andrew Cashner, whom the club acquired during last season’s trade deadline. Following his arrival from San Diego, Cashner voiced his displeasure with having to shave his mug, saying he “hated the policy,” and that re-signing with the Marlins would largely depend on them doing way with the restriction. Beard or no beard, Cashner was awful in 2016, going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA with the Padres, and an even worse 1-4, 5.98 ERA with the Marlins. Cashner eventually left the Marlins, signing a 1-year/$10M contract with the Rangers.

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Ironically enough, Mattingly himself defied the Yankees’ request to cut his own hair back in the 80s, even being pulled out of the lineup and repeatedly fined until he found his way to the barbershop.

This offseason I’ve often read people speculate that Bryce Harper won’t come to the Yankees when he’s a free agent following the 2018 season unless the team allows him to keep his current look — citing players such as David Price and Tim Lincecum who said they’d never pitch for the Yankees as long as the policy is in place.

If a player like Harper were to turn down half a billion dollars because he refused to follow a long-held team tradition then that’s his problem. Yes, it’s a corporate stance. But aren’t the Yankees a business? And I don’t know about you, but if I directly disobey a rule set forth by my superiors I risk termination.

Call it antiquated, but is nothing in baseball sacred anymore? I’m not blind that the game has changed mostly for the better in the last 20 years, but after a while, this whole ‘Make Baseball Fun Again’ thing has to draw a line in the sand.

Must a professional sports franchise that desires to stay true to a core belief be challenged every time they acquire a new player with long hair? So what Brian Wilson wouldn’t come to the Yanks in 2013 because he didn’t want to shave that monstrosity of a beard. The Yankees don’t need players that don’t “get it.”

Now we come to super prospect, Clint Frazier. Frazier has known from the outset of his arrival to Spring Training, that before he stepped on the field with actual big leaguers, he’d to have to look like one from the shoulders up.

On Thursday, at the Yankees’ Spring Training site, Frazier said all the right things to NJ Advance Media about the loss of his flowing red locks.

"“When it comes down to it, it’s worth it to wear the uniform,” Frazier said. “If I’ve got to cut a couple inches to put this uniform on every day, I’m more than willing to do it.”"

That’s the attitude players should have that want to play for the New York Yankees. Not because the Yankees demand it, but because wearing the navy blue pinstripes is an honor. The greats that came before are the reason why the interlocking NY is iconic, not a ban on turning a mustache into a Fu Manchu. It hasn’t been the easiest journey since 2009, but at least this club still has integrity, and winning baseball isn’t too far behind.

Next: Yankees Taking Right Approach With Girardi

I’m sure the organization could care less what its players do with their looks during the offseason. And obviously so, as CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, and Dellin Betances all steered clear of the barber’s chair this winter. But I hope the organization never changes its policy. It’s one of the few standards still in place that The Boss himself instituted.