Tuesday, August 10, 2004

30 minutes I'll never get back

I had the great displeasure of watching the Red Sox get smoked by the Devil Rays last night on ESPN2. Adding insult to injury was having to listen to the chicanery of Jeff Brantley and Steve Phillips.

The nadir of the whole debacle (discounting Curt Schilling doing his best Tim Wakefield impression) was when Brantley, Phillips and Dave O'Brien spent a good inning discussing the ramifications of the Red Sox sporting long hair, beards, goatee's and overall gruffy appearances and attributing that (at least in part) to their mediocre play.

To hear them tell it, the reason the Red Sox are struggling is due solely to their inability to make proper use of a razor. Apparently, crappy fielding, pitching and untimely hitting have nothing to do with it. And to reinforce their point, they mention the venerable Yankees and the "Steinbrenner Rules" that strictly forbid facial hair of any kind -- which of course is directly responsible for all the World Championships.

In fact, at one point Brantley made the following keen observation (paraphrased):

"If the Red Sox reeled off three championships then I don't think it matters what they look like, but as soon as they go in the tank then they should get the hair cut short, shave the beards and get rid of the facial hair."
Here's the thing, I agree that you can't have 25 guys show up for work looking like roadies for Metallica, but at some point you've got to be realistic. First of all, I think Johnny Damon would be just as goofy without a beard and a mullet as he is now. Unless his arm-strength will dramatically improve, I don't care what he looks like. And by no stretch of the imagination is it the case that the Red Sox are 10-odd games back of the Yankees because of their hairdos.

And before you implement a dress code for adults, maybe the first order of business should be getting a manager that the players respect. And that's not to say the players don't respect Francona, but if they don't, you can shave every player bald and it won't change one thing in terms of wins and losses.

Prior to their World Series runs starting in the mid-90's the Yankees had a losing record for six of the previous eight seasons -- and Steinbrenner was the owner with the same dopey rules.

Of course I don't think anyone is arguing that facial hair is the underlying reason the Red Sox struggle with consistency (at least I don't think Brantley is advocating that line of reasoning), but I'm not sure it's even on the top-10 list of things Theo needs to address.

Steve Phillips, who used to be the GM for the Mets also contributed this nugget when explaining why during the 1970's things were different (at least in terms of facial hair being more acceptable -- again I'm paraphrasing):

"The '70s were different because players like Goose Gossage had the long moustache and the gruff look because it looked intimidating -- not because he looked like he didn't care about his appearance."
It's comments like this that cause me to knock over furniture as I go for the 'mute' button on the remote. That said, Phillips' baseball smarts has given me an idea (and hopefully Theo had the same thought) on how the Red Sox can get on a roll.

If the problem is that the long hair and beards make the Red Sox look unkempt, and this is somehow correlated to their level of effort, then I think I've got the solution: Ties. That's right, neckties. And let me be clear -- I don't mean players wearing a suit and tie to the game and then changing into their uniforms. I mean players wearing their game uniform with a necktie -- during the game (I can already see Manny in a bow tie in left field). Maybe if the Red Sox players start dressing for the job they want instead of the job they have, we can make some headway in terms of getting to the postseason. I mean, there are plenty of business-types who have facial hair and are still taken seriously because they "dress for success." So maybe we should be less concerned with hair and more concerned with accessories (I'm actually surprised Brantley didn't suggest it first).

Back on earth I just have one final question. Is anyone certain the Johnny Before is actually an improvement over Johnny After?