While there has never been a salary cap in baseball, I’m beginning to suspect that in the mid- to late-1970s, as a reaction to the dominance of the early 1970s Oakland A’s, American League owners instituted a secret Mustache Cap that restricted the amount of total facial hair each team was allowed to carry on its roster. Consider:
1. After winning three World Series titles in a row, the roster of the overwhelmingly hirsute A’s was almost completely dismantled within a couple years, as if some secret and severe penalties for over-mustaching had been levied.
2. When Charlie Finley tried to hasten the dismemberment of his A’s dynasty by selling two of his stars to the Boston Red Sox, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn disallowed the transaction, citing the damage it would do to competitive balance; however, I believe this justification was a screen to cover the real reason: Rudi and (especially) Fingers would have put the Red Sox, already fairly well-mustached, far over their facial hair allowance. Supporting this point is the fact that Rudi later came to the Red Sox anyway, sporting his modest gun-shop-cashier ’stache, while Fingers, the facial-hair-cap-wrecking A-Rod of the Mustache Years, had to spend some years with the smooth-cheeked Padres of Enzo Hernandez and Randy Jones until the apparent lifting of the Mustache Cap in the early 1980s allowed him to join the malodorous unshaven rabble known as the Milwaukee Brewers.
3. The California Angels and Boston Red Sox constantly shuttled similarly-mustached guys back and forth, as if the deals depended on the equal exchange of facial hair. The unremarkable mustaches of guys such as Jerry Remy and Joe Rudi came east, and the unremarkable mustaches of guys such as Dick Drago and Rick Burleson went west. Even when cleancut guys such as Denny Doyle passed between the two teams the transaction seemed to come with hidden “facial hair to be named later” clauses that impacted (and explained the seeming imbalance of) later trades whose principles, such as cleancut Butch Hobson and walrus-faced Carney Lansford, did not balance out on the facial hair ledger.
I’m not quite sure how Rick Miller fits into all this, but when I was a kid he seemed to drift back and forth between the Angels and Red Sox like a Mustache Years version of a Cheshire cat. Because he was obscure to me in each place for different reasons (on the Angels because they were so far away and on the Red Sox because he was always buried on the outfield depth chart), I was never completely sure which of the two teams he was on at any given moment, and so there always seemed at least a shred of him in both places, a brown medium-sized mustache hanging in the clubhouse air, waiting for the rest of him to appear and collect a pinch hit or make a diving grab in the outfield just when you thought for sure he was on the other side of the continent.
Anyway, Game 1 is still a few hours away (6:30 P.M. ET, TBS; Gameday info to come if I can figure it out; update: I can’t figure out how quite to link to that Gameday box, but you can go to the MLB.com scoreboard and click on the Gameday option above the Red Sox-Angels line score), but I thought I’d open up the conversation about all things Red Sox and Angels a little early. I can’t help it. I’m excited, and worried, and also excited, plus a little worried. Will the Red Sox be all right without My Favorite Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, to turn to in times of trouble? Why if there is no knuckleballer would we need Mirabelli and Cash? Will the Red Sox be bedeviled and undone by the speed and daring of the Angels on the basepaths? Will John Lackey’s lack of success at Fenway find its regression to the statistical mean at the worst possible time with him twirling a stunning shadow-aided three-hitter? And, most importantly, should I start growing a Rick Miller playoff mustache?