“All the men in my family were bearded, and most of the women as well”—W.C. Fields
As we enter the All-Star break and gaze at the American League East standings, one thing sticks out prominently—the Boston Red Sox occupy first place by 2.5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. Most baseball prognosticators opined that Boston simply had far too many question marks heading into the 2013 season to be much of a factor. As a matter of fact, many sportswriters and broadcasters selected the Red Sox to finish last in the A.L. East this year, dead last.
And while Boston has never had the type of strict facial hair rule that hangs over the franchise known as the Evil Empire, a glance into the dugout during any televised Red Sox game this season, leaves one coming away with this undeniable conclusion: That bunch of Red Sox that have posted a 58-39 first half record, certainly is a scruffy collection.
At times looking like a casting call for “Duck Dynasty” and at other times resembling a reunion tour of Z.Z. Top, opponents have come to understand this about the 2013 edition of the Red Sox: Fear the Beard.
Of Boston’s current 25-man Major League roster, no less than 20 of Boston’s players presently sport some type of facial hair: ranging from the pointed goatee on the chin of The Flyin’ Hawaiin, to the full throttle mess on the face of Jonny Gomes.
Only Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Brock Holt, Jose Iglesias, and John Lackey show up cleanly shorn for each day at the ball park. Jacoby Ellsbury got off to a start so slow this year, he made Mike Napoli look like a league leader in stolen bases, until, until early June. That’s when Ellsbury began toying with a four-day stubble resembling Yassar Arafat on a bad day. Then he started cooking with gas and has been on fire ever since.
With his little gnome-like head and diminutive stature, one has to look hard to find some eyes and a nose beneath the mess on Dustin Pedroia’s face—and he’s having a near team MVP type season thus far.
David Ortiz sports his neatly trimmed “Wolverine” type lamb chops and has been named this week as the American League All Star team’s DH for seemingly the 237th time.
Jarrod Saltalamachia gets a little extra cushion under his catcher’s mask with a healthy dose of facial hair and versatile Mike Carp brings his full-faced beard with him wherever he goes, be it left field or first base.
The hairy situation has even rubbed off on the bullpen, where only Andrew Bailey shows up late, usually in the 8th or 9th inning, sans face fuzz. The trend of facial hair even extends to Boston’s two Asian relievers, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, called on to put out fires with plenty of facial hair options.
Until he went down to season-ending foot surgery, lanky Andrew Miller’s scruff was almost as good as his southpaw strikeout stuff.
The statistics from the first half bears things out for Boston. The Red Sox are currently 14 games better than last year’s record at the All-Star break. So let’s give credit where credit is due. Let’s hear it for the Bearded Wonders of Beantown. Knowing the history of the competitive A.L. East, nailing down a playoff berth will once again be, dare I say it, a close shave.