The Yankees’ policy on personal appearance has long been worthy of mockery, and mockery it has received, for decades, going back to Don Mattingly’s appearance on The Simpsons, when Montgomery Burns kept telling the first baseman to cut his sideburns.
Finally, it’s clear that the policy isn’t just detrimental to players’ ability to express themselves, but to the Yankees as a team.
On Tuesday, a fan tweeted images of what Marcus Stroman, a free agent who comes from Long Island and grew up idolizing Derek Jeter, would look like in pinstripes. With one GIF, the right-hander made it clear that he will not be on his way to the Bronx.
Following a reaction from 2021 Mets rotation-mate Taijuan Walker, Stroman clarified his reasoning: he’s not going to change his appearance and give up his dreads to appease the ghost of George Steinbrenner.
There’s a bit more to Stroman’s aversion to signing with the Yankees than his hair, or his durags and tattoos, the latter of which in particular would not actually be an issue. It goes back to 2019, when the Yankees did not trade for Stroman and general manager Brian Cashman’s explanation was a direct insult.
“We were interested in Stroman, but we didn’t think he would be a difference-maker,” Cashman said then. “We felt he would be in our bullpen in the postseason.”
Well, the 2019 Yankees wound up getting bounced by the Astros in the ALCS, a series in which New York’s starters provided barely any length, reliever Chad Green wound up starting the decisive Game 6, and erstwhile starter J.A. Happ wound up in the bullpen, throwing only 2.2 innings and taking the Game 2 loss.
Stroman has not forgotten any of that, and Cashman’s arrogance connects directly to the appearance policy in an important way: the Yankees think that they can do things differently because they’re special, because they’re 27-time world champions, because, well, they’re the Yankees.
Times have changed, the Yankees have not changed with them, and now they’re out on one of the top free agents on the market this winter because of it.