We’re one week into the season and, as always, there are many fallacies going around. For instance: the Red Sox suck, the Orioles are amazing and the Rangers are the new murders’ row. But I’ll leave those for discussion amongst analysts, color commentators and my fellow writers. I’m not interested in opening-week fallacies, but rather, the opening week follicles.
One thing that baseball never fails to produce, year in and year out, is a plethora of amazing examples of facial hair possibilities. Revolutions have been started from less than what Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter produced to the adoring baseball public during their respective playing days. Every year, when the summer is really cooking, the facial hair gets a little trim to combat the heat, but on the bookends of the season, the wiry tendrils are waxed, groomed and ready for the Big Show.
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Before we begin, a few quick rules. First, they must be somewhat relevant. Unfortunately, this eliminates Jason Giambi right from the start, who probably would have given Wilson the best competition simply because his hair grows so fast that he can don multiple styles in one day (mustache, fu manchu, goatee — the guy has it all). Two, the more intimidating or distracting the better. When the first thing you notice is a freshly waxed ‘stache rather than a 95 mph fastball, that’s a major bonus. If it scares you to be close to the guy, even better. Third, creativity welcome. Show us something we haven’t seen before, and you’ll be rewarded. If you’re going with something classic, it has to be well done. No “soy sauce” mustaches welcome here.
Okay, now let’s take a look at who could be crowned “best facial hair” in the MLB for 2011 (click the bold words for pictures):
- Fear the Beard (Brian Wilson, Giants): The reigning champ on the field, and off, from 2010. That jet black beard struck out 93 batters last season, but definitely struck fear into many more. More unkempt and unruly than ever, it’s only a matter of time before Wilson’s beard gets its own commercial (remember the Lil’ Penny marketing campaign?) or eats Wilson in his sleep. Either way, as the Giants will find out in 2011, everyone wants to take down the champ. Major bonus points for creativity and intimidation. Can anyone successfully take down the bearded one?
- The Leonidas (Brett Myers, Astros): Not as menacing as Wilson’s beauty, mostly because it’s not dyed jet black, Myers still sports a powerful beard that channels the power of Leonidas, Gerard Butler’s character in the movie “300.” Depending on how long he allows it to grow during the season, Myers could be the scariest looking guy in any MLB clubhouse, which would bode well for Myers, and bad for opposing hitters. Bonus points for intimidation factor.
- The Eternal Shadow (Jose Bautista, Blue Jays): This guy probably shaves before every single game and still he looks like he hasn’t touched a razor in days. With the potential to grow a full, respectable beard by the 9th inning, Bautista’s shadow has to get some consideration. Besides, how many people in baseball are rocking the heavy shadow these days? Props for something different, and for the ability to rock any type of facial hair he wants any day of the week.
- The “What-the-Heck-is-On-Your-Face?” Patch (Bobby Jenks, Red Sox)/My Chin Fell on a Porcupine (Ryan Franklin, Cardinals): I’m not sure this can actually contend, but it’s weird enough to put on the list. Jenks, a large man who sports many tattoos, seems just odd enough to scare the hell out of you, and his goatee makes it that much worse. Definitely not the most impressive hair-grower on the list, but like Wilson, bonus points for willingness to dye the beard (white? really?) and intimidation factor. Franklin, too, gets points for intimidation. Mostly, though, he’s on the list for sheer size. Do you see that goatee? Nobody would be surprised if a family of birds flew out of it in the middle of an inning. Maybe that’s the strategy: When things get dicey, cue the birds.
- The Lumberjack (Jayson Werth, Nationals): Werth is a strong contender in this competition and has the capability of easily taking down the champ. Fans were disappointed when he cut it off last year, but it is back and better than ever. Thick and dense, the hair basically erases the skin on his face. His long, slender facial structure further showcases the amount of hair growing on this magnificent beard, and the long hair and sunglasses add to the intimidation factor. Werth is a wild card because it could vanish at any moment. But for now, embrace the glory of the lumberjack. (I think I speak for everyone when I say please keep it Jayson, Nationals fans need something to cheer about).
- The 70s Cop (Barry Zito, Giants)/Adult Film Star Mustache (Carl Pavano, Twins): Okay, so these guys bring up the back of the pack for lack of creativity; however, they wear it so well, they have to be mentioned. Last year, Pavano threw a curveball at everyone showing up with a devastating mustache that must’ve fooled hitters as much as it did fans, because he cranked out one of his best seasons ever. Zito must have seen what Pavano did and decided to follow suit. While I doubt Zito’s will remain all year, he had his shining moment during his first start this season versus the Dodgers. Nationally televised on ESPN, Zito let the world know, I’m back, and the so is the ‘stache. Unfortunately, his pitching didn’t live up to the hype of the ‘stache.
Who will take the crown in 2011? Comments welcome with any unnamed player who you think can take down the champ.