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Former Chicago White Sox Outfielder/First Baseman Nick Swisher was acquired by the New York Yankees today in a trade that sent utility infielder Wilson Betemit and two minor-league prospects to the North side.
While such an obscure trade wouldn’t ordinarily cross our radar, the departure of Swisher–an entertaining, enjoyable goofball who truly loves the game of baseball–to the vortex of somberness that is the New York Yankees organization is a major disappointment for any fan of the game. Swisher may be approaching his 28th birthday on paper, but in spirit he’s a rowdy pre-pubescent kid who approaches his day job the way R. Kelly approaches junior high schools (had to get an R. Kelly crack in there somewhere).
The former Oakland Athletic turned Chicago White Sock has been known for his clubhouse antics, free-flowing hairdo, and unique facial hair designs in his five-year Major League career. In addition to his off the field behavior, Swisher has earned praise on the field for his all-out hustle and patient, studious approach at the plate. A former first-round draft pick of the A’s, Swisher is a guy who has dedicated himself to the fight against cancer in his spare time. He’s been known to shed his trademark locks every few months for Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, an organization that takes hair and turns it into free wigs for cancer patients.
With the shift to the Bronx, all of Swisher’s habitual goofiness is at risk of extinction. If the medieval grooming rules barring facial hair (beyond mustaches) and imposing a maximum length on tresses of the cranial variety don’t subdue the affable lefty, then maybe the funeral-like solemnity surrounding the ballclub will. This is the very same organization that destroyed the career of a once-entertaining Jeff Weaver and removed the raucousness from a pre-Arm and Hammer-endorsing Jason Giambi. This is Steve the Pirate at the end of Dodgeball, cleaned up, mature, and very, very ordinary.
Hopefully the Yankees allow their new acquisition to be an exception to the rule. Let him keep growing his hair for a good cause. Let him carve artwork into his beard. Let him inject some life into a clubhouse of stiffs. Baseball is a game that is losing fans on a daily basis, and having trouble gaining new ones. The Yankees, for all their marketing success, are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Baseball needs more players like Nick Swisher, and the Yankees could use an attitude like his to spread some cheer throughout the team.