Absurd old-school baseball traditionalism strikes again.
According to the AP, Marlins manager Don Mattingly has banned his players from wearing facial hair because, I don’t know, maybe beards get in the way of your swing or something?
Mattingly’s decree is absurd for a whole host of reasons. For one thing, facial-hair bans are an outdated relic of an era when baseball players were expected to be gentlemen and when facial hair was a symbol of poor hygiene and rebelliousness. Back in the “Ball Four” days, having long hair or a scraggly beard meant you were a hippie or Commie or something. In 2016, we should be beyond thinking self-expression is bad and everyone must fit in and conform at all costs.
For another thing, there’s less than no evidence having facial hair makes you bad at baseball. In fact, if anything, there’s reason to believe a fuzzy face makes you GOOD at baseball. Consider last year’s best players:
What's the point? Both Cy Youngs, both MVPs, NL ROY, and NL MOY had facial hair last season https://t.co/CIQkAADIH0
— Cooper (@RushingBaseball) February 21, 2016
That’s right. Jake Arrieta and Dallas Kuechel are actively adored for their beards, while Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant and Joe Maddon all rock various degrees of scruff with stylish aplomb. And you know, it worked out OK for them.
Another reason this policy is silly: It unnecessarily alienates the players, who are grown men and probably resent being told how to wear their hair. Mattingly never enforced this kind of ban with the Dodgers but has apparently decided the Marlins require military-level discipline.
”Initially not too many guys were happy about it,” said reliever Mike Dunn, who shaved off his goatee before reporting to spring training. ”You can fight it, or you don’t. Obviously I shaved, so it’s OK.”
Mattingly said he didn’t care whether players were allowed to have beards, goatees or mustaches, but supported the new rule.
”Guys will whine,” Mattingly said Sunday. ”Some guys like it, some guys won’t. As long as we’re consistent, I think it’s not that big of a deal.”
Mattingly is basically saying, You know, guys will whine, but I don’t really care because I’m in charge and can impose all the silly rules I want to.
And perhaps the biggest reason Mattingly’s crusade against facial hair is absurd? Mattingly himself was once the poster-child of players fighting back against policies governing player appearance. The former MVP first baseman wore a mustache throughout most of his 14-year MLB career and in 1991 famously balked when the Yankees asked him to cut his hair, until the Yankees benched him as punishment.
Mattingly, in fact, was once the subject of a Simpson’s episode, in which team owner Mr. Burns asked him to shave his sideburns even though he didn’t have sideburns (The episode was produced before the 1991 incident but aired months after the story hit headlines, leading fans to assume incorrectly that The Simpsons had ripped the story from the real-life situation).
According to the AP, Mattingly said that in 1991 he was rebelling against what he viewed as inconsistent application of the hygiene rules, not the rules themselves. Still, a man remembered for fighting back against management edicts on how players wear their hair is now instituting edicts on how players wear their hair.
But Mattingly is the boss, which means Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez better keep a razor on hand.