TORONTO -- There are a great number of factors in play as Dallas Keuchel considers which contender to spend the next few months with, but one key decision has been made for months. Should the Yankees step to the plate with the best offer, he'll shave his trademark beard, no
TORONTO -- There are a great number of factors in play as Dallas Keuchel considers which contender to spend the next few months with, but one key decision has been made for months. Should the Yankees step to the plate with the best offer, he'll shave his trademark beard, no questions asked.
The image of Keuchel and his bushy black beard falling off the Yankee Stadium mound in the 2015 American League Wild Card game still conjures unpleasant memories for avid Yankees fans, but with starting pitching in short supply for the first-place Bombers, Keuchel's addition would add valuable stability.
"I think it'd be great," said the Yankees' CC Sabathia. "Any time you can add a guy like that to your rotation, it's just going to make you that much better. Obviously with the team we have, getting him would be awesome."
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand has reported that the Yankees and Braves are believed to be the favorites to sign Keuchel, who won the 2015 American League Cy Young Award while with Houston. Keuchel was 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts for the Astros last year.
In an interview this past November with FOX Business, Keuchel stated that he would have no issue finding a razor if the Yankees present the winning offer -- a stance that has not changed during his longer-than-expected free agency, a source told MLB.com.
"For the right opportunity, I would happily shave this beard off," Keuchel said then. "It's all about winning, and I've made that very clear from Day 1 of my career starting to this position right now."
The Yankees are the only Major League franchise to expressly prohibit players from wearing any facial hair other than mustaches, and scalp hair also may not be grown below the collar.
The policy was instituted shortly after a group led by George M. Steinbrenner purchased the team prior to the 1973 season. A graduate of Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., Steinbrenner believed that his players should adhere to similarly strict grooming standards.
As legend has it, Steinbrenner watched his players step to the first-base line on Opening Day of that first season, jotting down uniform numbers of players that he believed needed a haircut. The list was presented to manager Ralph Houk after the game; though Steinbrenner had yet to learn his players' names, those instructed to find a barber included Sparky Lyle, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Fritz Peterson and Roy White.
In 1978, Steinbrenner explained the policy to The New York Times: "I have nothing against long hair per se, but I’m trying to instill a certain sense of order and discipline in the ballclub because I think discipline is important in an athlete."
More than four decades later, and nearly nine years after Steinbrenner's passing, the policy remains intact. Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal, one of The Boss' daughters and a Yankees general partner, counts among her many responsibilities to see that the current players groom themselves in a manner that her father would have deemed acceptable.
On numerous occasions during any given season, a message will be relayed to the clubhouse that it is time for a specific player or players to clean up; Sabathia has joked that he likes to let his scruff grow as much as possible, and said recently on his "R2C2" podcast that Andy Pettitte has offered tips on skirting the policy.
Five o'clock shadow may slip by once in a while, especially if results on the field are positive. Steinbrenner himself once relaxed the policy to allow pitcher Jack McDowell to sport a goatee that he believed helped him pitch better, but Steinbrenner later reinstituted his '73 mandate. A beard of the magnitude of Keuchel's, however, will likely never be seen in pinstripes.
As Reggie Jackson said in 2017: "I feel the whole organization has a feeling about continuing -- if I can say this with respect -- the way the old guard wanted it. And so the way the sheriff wanted it is how we want to continue to do things."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.