CLEARWATER, Fla. — Prodded by his manager, a Hall of Famer and, perhaps more significantly, an organizational veteran or two, Clint Frazier decided the hair must go.
The 22-year-old outfielder was the headliner for the Yankees last July when they acquired four prospects from the Indians for Andrew Miller. He stood out from the time he joined the Yankees not only because of bat speed that general manager Brian Cashman called “legendary” but also because of a big personality and his thick, flowing locks of red hair.
Frazier didn’t quite flaunt the club’s rigid and long-standing policy regarding hair, established by George Steinbrenner after he bought the club in 1973, but he certainly pushed the envelope. The policy essentially says no sideburns, no hair below the lip and hair cut above the shoulders.
And at about 7:15 Friday morning, Frazier’s hair hit the cutting room floor.
“After thinking to myself and talking to a few people, I finally came to the agreement that it’s time to look like everybody else around here,” said Frazier, his hair buzzed on his neck and on the sides, with a bit of a mop still left on top that will be completely covered by a cap. “I had a talk with Joe [Girardi] yesterday and we both agreed it was time for it to be cut. It started to become a distraction, and I just want to play. That’s what I’m here to do.”
As is usually the case with such things, however, there is more to the story.
Some who have been with the organization longer than Frazier, players and non-players alike, were rubbed the wrong way when he arrived for camp with a mane that barely adhered to the policy. He wore the hair in a dense bun upon showing up at the stadium in the morning and released it after getting in uniform, with the long crimson curls sprouting from underneath his cap in a wavy thicket as he headed outside for workouts or games.
Perhaps taking note of the minor-leaguer’s perceived indifference to the policy, CC Sabathia — who has been known to wear a beard in the offseason — took the mound Tuesday with a neatly trimmed yet clearly visible beard. It was, as one clubhouse insider put it, as if he were “daring” someone in the organization to challenge him after not saying anything to Frazier.
“I don’t know,” Sabathia said Tuesday with a laugh when asked if he needed to get a shave.
Would he let it grow until he was told he should shave?
“Yeah, I guess so,” he said.
Lo and behold, Sabathia arrived in the clubhouse Friday morning without his beard. The freshly shorn Frazier came in soon after.
“I think this is a great step in the right direction that he’s doing, and I think he deserves credit for it,” Reggie Jackson said.
Still, it being the Yankees, some performance art accompanied it all.
Frazier walked in the clubhouse at about 9:30 a.m. and asked reporters to give him some space while he changed. Soon, he walked into a hallway outside the clubhouse to have a private conversation with Jackson, though very much in full view, and even within earshot, of some reporters.
Frazier returned and delivered his remarks flawlessly, including “I like my hair but I love playing for his organization more,” sure to pass spec with club hierarchy.
Exactly two minutes into the group interview, Jackson strolled by.
“Cage,” Jackson interjected. “You’ve got to be in the cage. Wrap it up.”
Dutifully, and missing only the lunch pail and hard hat as props, Frazier departed for the batting cage moments later.
While Frazier’s hair technically passed muster, there clearly was enough feeling in the organization that it had become an unwelcome issue.
“I think it has value because it’s a tradition,” Girardi said of the hair policy. “It’s a tradition by a man [George Steinbrenner] that meant so much to this organization. And if it’s important to him and it’s important to his family, then it needs to be respected by all of us.”