At first glance, Jacob deGrom‘s haircut would not register on the radar of New York newspapers. But it has. And there’s a good reason for it.
You might recall a tall lefty from the 1970s who pitched for the then-Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, Bill Lee. For a variety of reasons—none of which were ever disclaimed—he picked up the nickname “Mr. Spaceman”. Jacob deGrom could be next in line for the title with his comments claiming his new haircut will increase the speed of his pitches. Who knows, stranger things have happened in baseball.
When you think of players like deGrom, who could ever believe there would come a time in baseball when hairstyles would become a fashion statement, commanding the same font size in print headlines as home runs? And then, when a player opts to cut his locks, a groundswell of public opinion would result in “The Haircut” as the biggest story of the Met’s off-season to date.
Well, “hair” we are and deGrom takes center stage on the back pages of New York newspapers, talk radio, and amongst sportswriters like myself.
We weren't emotionally prepared for this @JdeGrom19.
(via Jose Reyes' Snapchat) pic.twitter.com/jMSgcPR9qr
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 2, 2017
Whether it’s the curls of Francisco Lindor and Jose Reyes or the flowing locks of Noah Syndergaard and deGrom, there isn’t a camera anywhere that hasn’t been drawn to the newest fad in baseball.
For deGrom though, he reached an epiphany of sorts sometime after the season, deciding he needed a little extra zip on his fastball. Or so he claimed when he spoke to the New York Daily News:
“I did some research and I found that shorter hair actually will speed up my delivery and add two more miles to my fastball,”
Which is one step short of Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who once calmly explained to a reporter:
“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”
Which, in turn, leads me to wonder if Jacob deGrom’s “research” included, for instance, In “The Physics Behind Pitches,” Andrew Greismer explains how the “Magnus effect” works causing the illusion of a rising fastball.
My best guess, though, is that deGrom decided to perform an everyday function we all do, which is to get a haircut plain and simple. And anything he attaches to the consequences of his decision, well, good for him.
And if he believes, because the game of baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical as Yogi Berra reminded us, his relieved body weight will now allow him to deliver his pitches at a higher rate of speed, good for the Mets and their fans. Let it be.
The “Haircut” only touches the surface
Jacob deGrom will be 30 before the 2018 season ends. He’s married and not a kid anymore. And his career is at a turning point. Will he be a good pitcher with a solid, but unspectacular career?. Or, will he reach heights that were signaled in 2017 over the next five to seven years?
And if you are deGrom and you’re making “only” $600,000 pitching for the New York Mets, and you (presumably) want a family with your wife Stella, along with all the financial responsibilities entailed in that, then it would follow that your haircut is (hopefully) a statement suggesting you have crossed a bridge, enabling you to emerge in a leadership role the Mets sorely need.
With a new manager, Mickey Calloway, in tow facing a wide learning curve in his first managerial season, help in the form of leadership needs to come from the clubhouse if the Mets are going to turn this thing around.
David Wright would be the natural candidate, as team captain, to exercise that role, but his presence on the team is pretty much day-to-day. Curtis Granderson is gone and that is a key loss the Mets need to make up for in terms of leadership. Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario, though capable, are too young to step into the role. And Matt Harvey has his own career saving issues to deal with right now.
Someone needs to step up, whether he is primed and ready for the job or not, Jacob deGrom inherits the mantle as a team leader and the communication vehicle between his teammates, Calloway, and the front office, A union roll it doesn’t have to be.
But it needs to be someone like deGrom who has a few years under his belt now, understanding the Mets way of doing things. The haircut may or may not have been a symbol of deGrom’s willingness to step up into the role.
But I sure hope it was.