The past, present, and future of baseball hair

Presented by

Baseball hair is the most important hair in all of mens’ professional sports. Sure, hockey players have lettuce. NBA players rock mohawks (lookin’ at you, Jeremy Lin) and top knots (hi, Iman Shumpert and Steven Adams). Lacrosse players grow sick flow. Roger Federer wears his perfect headband. NLF players fit whatever they can underneath their helmets, perhaps for extra padding.

But all of these follicles pale (bleach? sorry) in comparison to the glory that is baseball hair. Hear me out: Baseball is a sport that’s slow to change, quick to be "back-in-my-day"-ed, and not super conducive to individual expression a lot of the time. Some teams — hello, New York Yankees, how are you? — even have policies that say (I’m paraphrasing, here), "we don’t do fun hair around, here so cut off your gosh darn pony tail before the season starts, numb-nuts!" And by all of that, I really mean: Clint Frazier cut off his glorious, curly red hair hair during spring training this year.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Since baseball hair generally isn’t supposed to be so wild and weird, it’s such a delight when it is. Remember the Red Sox team in 2004? Those wily dirt dogs who finally won it all for a city that had waited a lifetime (I'm from Boston, let me have this)? The hair on those guys — from Johnny Damon’s luscious locks...

Photo by J Rogash/Getty Images the 'do that flopped around outside of Pedro Martinez’s hat when he pitched...

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

...became a symbol of the scrappy, come-from-behind team that managed to beat a clean-shaven group of Yankees.

Hair has always been important for the individual, too, of course. The annals of baseball history are filled with stunning examples of hairy glory. Take John Kruk, who rocked as good a good-ass mullet as you’re ever going to see:

Or Rod Beck, who made the horseshoe mustache look red carpet ready:

Or Mark McGwire and whatever this questionable chin-strap situation is:

Or Randy Johnson’s cascading curls:

Or Dmitri Young’s perfect hair-to-hat ratio:

Or Jeff Samardzija, who was ahead of his time with the shoulder-length bob that was all the rage for women in 2016:

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Players today are also letting their hair down. Here’s Hanley Ramirez...

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

... and Jesus Jason Werth...

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

... and Noah Syndergaard ...

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

... or — I know you were all waiting for this, so let’s just get it over with — Bryce Harper ...

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

They all make their hair a part of their personas, and they stand out in a sea of close crops because of it.

Which brings us to the only truly important question when it comes to what we talk about when we talk about the future of baseball: What will the future of baseball hair look like?

There are so many options, all of them glorious, if the league will allow it. I could see a world in which Syndergaard and Werth gain more followers in the "Jesus and his disciples, if Jesus and his disciples were ringers" camp. That pre-Raphaelite flow is as much at home on the ceiling (which is also the roof) of the Sistine Chapel as it is National’s Park, and it would be a blessing on all of us if the 40-days-in-the-desert trend continued to grow. Maybe, if we’re lucky, more players will follow Ramirez’s lead, too, and let their hair cascade all the way down their backs.

On the other hand, I could see some players going in the overly-groomed direction, like Harper. Perhaps more will lean into the slicked-back pompadour look, a style that resembles a cross between a mushroom and a banker inspired by Christian Bale's character in American Psycho.

Regardless of how it manifests itself, baseball hair will probably continue to trend towards interesting (and hopefully the Yankees will get over themselves). Rob Manfred recently said that he’s going to allow the unwritten rules of the game to evolve, which means (ostensibly) easing up on bat flips and allowing players to express more emotion. In a perfect world, this will pertain to players' appearances, too.

If that's the case, I'm hopeful that the World Baseball Classic hinted at the future looks of baseball men more than anything we've seen in the major leagues. Puerto Rico took things to the next level when the players all bleached their hair. It began, of course, with Carlos Beltran, who's been a hair innovator for some time. Remember last season, when he drew his hairline onto his head with magic marker? He's a perpetual risk-taker who continued to experiment when he stripped his beard and hair of all of its color. His teammates followed suit, as did his entire home island. That's right, Puerto Rico ran out of hair dye when people began copying their beloved players.

We need more of that. Javy Baez has said that he's going to keep his cut and his blonde accents for the foreseeable future, and on the Pardon My Take podcast, Anthony Rizzo recently announced he'd frosted his tips, too. I had yet to see photo evidence of this, and couldn't find any pictures on the good ol' internet. But then I tweeted "pic or it didn't happen" at Rizzo, and proof was delivered.

Rizzo looks great. So great, in fact, that I think he should've taken things a step further and added some blue accents. They'd go nicely with his Cubs uniform. Unfortunately, the Cubs first baseman shaved his head for coach Joe Maddon's charity, so the look was short lived. But still. It's progress.

In addition to more color and risk taking, we need more retro-chic this season. Let's bring back mullets and weird facial hair. There's nothing funnier/more visually pleasing than the look John Kruk used to rock, or that dope mustache Rod Beck kept on his face. Mullets are also a great PR move; Mike Gundy recently proved how much attention the hairstyle can generate and how excited everyone gets when a beautiful party-in-the-back struts onto a field. Moving forward, we can definitely make these looks feel very "now," while giving a nice nod to "then." Baseball is, after all, about history.

But whatever the future looks like, I think we can all agree that, if we keep trending in the correctly funky direction, it's going to be bright. It's 2017. Let’s let our freak flags — and our hair — fly free.