Getting a Hair-Cutch

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It was brief, but Andrew McCutchen’s time with the Yankees had an impact on me. In the moment, it was easy to appreciate the .251/.421/.471/.892 (145 OPS+) batting line. But both then and going forward, it was easy to appreciated Cutch as a person and a player. All around, he’s a funny, charming guy and a great ambassador for the game of baseball. So when he speaks, we ought to listen. In an article published yesterday, Cutch spoke, specifically about the Yankees’ hair length and facial hair policy. And all I can say is that he’s right.

While the policy may do a good job of saving players from their own bad hair and facial hair choices, it’s antiquated and stodgy at best and suppressive and racist at worst.

We live and baseball exists in a much different time than when the policy was implemented in 1973. Baseball, as many have said many times, needs to be better at letting individual players and personalities shine through; this policy runs contrary to that idea. As the biggest name and biggest brand in baseball, the Yankees need to catch up with the times and the other team.

While the Yankees hold a special place in our hearts and heads because we’re fans, on a bigger level, they aren’t any more or less special than any other team. Like the other 29, they’re a team trying to win and a business trying to make money. They aren’t priests or monks and Yankee Stadium isn’t a church or a monastery. They are not a city on a hill or a shining beacon or some morally superior club because their players look a certain way; they’re just a baseball team.

Sure, as a business, they can set rules, including a policy like this, but that doesn’t mean they should (other businesses shouldn’t either, generally speaking). Baseball isn’t like the office or wherever that we go into (or used to!) every day; it’s an entertainment product and not letting the stars of said product express themselves to the fullest isn’t necessary.

In the era of “Let the Kids Play” and players using their voices for bigger causes, of the need to market the stars, the Yankees’ policy is lagging behind. They need to get with the times.

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12 Comments

  1. Chris

    Man, leave it to Matt to take an issue that I agree with and make me disagree with him. There is nothing close to racist about that policy but nowadays some people will do anything they can to inject race into any argument. For the record, I think the rules should be relaxed and I love Cutch. I know Matt is just expressing his opinion but yeesh… That’s some poor analysis.

  2. Ed Harley

    The hair policy issue has nothing to do with race. Nothing at all. It’s universally enforced by all players and coaches. Stop with the BS trying to bring race into it.

    George implemented the policy when he bought the team because it was very important to him.

    The Steinbrenner Family hasn’t changed it as a tribute to their father and the legacy he left in the Bronx. It was really important to him, so it’s important to the family that it remains in place.

    The franchise won 7 rings during his tenure as owner. He invested $10M in 1973 into a franchise that’s now worth $5B (BOS & LAD are 2nd and 3rd, both worth $3.4B).

    The Yanks are more special than every other MLB franchise. That’s what George believed and he ran that way. His corporate hair policy was part of that.

    If players don’t like the policy, they are free to play ball elsewhere.

  3. Coronaveddardus

    No he’s not, Matt.I don’t want my ballplayers looking like a bunch of homeless cavemen. This ain’t the 1960’s. What I love about the policy that George put in place is that it makes our organization look like professionals. It’s about the ballclub and not any one individual. Cutch wasn’t even here very long and wasn’t a true Yankee. If Judge came out and said this it would carry more water but Judge knows what the Yankees are all about. Nobody chooses not to come to a club because they have to shave. And grow up, Cutch. Many of us have to shave every day to go into work and we don’t get paid millions to do it.

  4. They should relax the hair policy for this season.

  5. Dani

    All I have to say is that I like the hair policy. The Yankees try to be different and hey, why not. I like the “clean” look. Also, I don’t wanna see bums like Blackmon or Brian Wilson in a Yankee uniform 😀

  6. Mike P

    I agree with this strongly, especially since it’s the kind of thing that can (and possibly does) hurt a team. I wouldn’t be shocked if a few times, legitimately useful free agents who enjoy having a beard or long hair chose some other team over the Yankees. Foundational players, probably not, but solid middle relievers/low batting order guys, definitely. It gains the team absolutely nothing, while having definite potential costs.

    And just because the notable examples are white guys doesn’t disprove the point that the policy is potentially racist – just like Cutch, a dreadlocked player who felt strongly about his hair (or kept their hair for religious reasons) would have been singled out by this policy. It was not designed to keep certain racial groups down, but the outcome still does have racial implications.

  7. Jim g

    I’m usually calm but your racist at worst comment has pushed me off the edge. What white guys dont have beards? Have you seen the San Francisco team? We have enough real problems without trying to twist everything into a racial issue. Just know that when you start making racial issues where there are none YOU are making things worse

  8. Brad T

    Disagree strongly with this post. If your personality and ability to express yourself is limited by this policy, then it’s probably the individual’s fault, not the policy.

    Baseball is part of the entertainment business, but the Yankees shouldn’t be criticized for presenting a professional, yet still entertaining product. The Yankees of the past several year, especially the young homegrown players, have had no problem expressing electric personalities without scraggly facial hair or long hair.

    As for calling this policy suppressive and racist, that is irresponsible. The policy is enforced unilaterally throughout the system regardless of race. In fact, many of the notable instances that I can think of – Lou Pinella, Don Mattingly, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Clint Frazier – are mainly white players.

    I love Cutch and really enjoyed his short time here, but this isn’t a great take by him, and an even worse one by the author of this post.

  9. mikenyc2007

    Respectfully disagree – the Yankees are different, are marketed differently, that marketing has worked and this its entrenched, its represented to be a part of their corporate culture, and this has created an undeniable aura about them which transcends the whims of the moment – and the success of the team.

    There is a reason why they also don’t have names on their uniform, and haven’t changed their uniforms (ok a tiny bit, but undetectable to 99% of the fans) in almost 100 years…. and it remains the most popular (and recognizable) uniform in sports..

    If the players don’t like it, they wont sign with the Yankees… and the market will cause a correction and the Yanks will have to change or miss out on talent – or overpay, which ultimately hurts the enterprise value of the team.

    A billion dollar corporation doesn’t have to bend to momentary employee wishes- especially since the skill set of that employee is replaceable and itself has a time-line.

    If Cutch doesn’t like it, or anyone else doesn’t like it, they could refuse the trade, or sit out, or negotiate a clause in their contract accordingly. Or get paid millions of dollars to play baseball, and grow a beard when you retire like Letterman.

    We can’t on one hand ask for players to be paid their “market value” as if they are irreplaceable in a capitalist system, and yet then pretend they are powerless when limiting their job choices because they want to grow a beard or have dreads.

    • The Original Drew

      The players are absolutely not irreplaceable. Replace every MLB player with a AA or AAA caliber player and the product will suffer. Yes minor league baseball is popular, but nobody is paying thousands of dollars to attend a game like in MLB ballparks, never mind the TV deals, luxury boxes, streaming rights etc.

  10. The Original Drew

    I don’t feel that strongly either way. I can see the argument that along with the no name on the back of the jersey that it makes it about the team rather than the individual. I am also for letting a beard and longer hair (like Frazier and Cole had) be okay too as long as it’s neat.

    I don’t ever want the Yankees to end up looking like the 2003 Red Sox.

  11. Jim K

    Good article. Love Cutch and really appreciate that he continues to support important charities here in Pittsburgh.

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