Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cutch's Cut

I knew the day was coming; but for real I was hoping it wouldn't come for a couple more years or so. I knew it was coming because he said it was coming, hinting in the past that he wasn't going to keep his dreads forever. But even the advance warning wasn't enough to lessen the disappointment I had when I found out the day indeed has come. Watching baseball won't be as much fun for me in 2015, and my guess is that never again will it be as enjoyable as it has been watching telecasts of Pittsburgh Pirates games these last 6 years.

It is with deep sadness and regret that I have to announce that the house has lost one of its most prestigious residents, as earlier this week - Wednesday, March 25, to be exact - Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen cut off the dreads he had been growing for the last 8 years and that he has had for every game in the first 6 seasons of his sensational MLB career. With the college basketball season reaching its climax, I have been paying little attention to baseball this month. But there it was, hitting me like a ton of bricks and impossible to ignore, in the bottom right corner of the last page of Thursday's Chicago Tribune sports section -  literally the very last thing in the section - a paragraph reporting that Cutch's dreads were gone and would be auctioned off for charity.

I've been taking the news better than I thought I would, but wow, this really hurts. When spring training begins each season, I hold my breath while I check to see if the players who had dreads the previous season still have them; so when McCutchen showed up with his dreads still intact a few weeks ago, I was very relieved because I thought they were safe for another season. These photos (below, from Mar. 10 on left and Mar. 12 on right) were an indication that they were going to be as spectacular as ever in 2015.

Unfortunately Andrew had other ideas. He wouldn't confess to a specific reason for losing the dreads, but he did say, "I've had (dreadlocks) for such a long time now, and they were starting to get a bit long." A bit long? No kidding. They were closing in on Manny Ramirez's former dreads for the longest ever for a baseball player. And it's not easy to play baseball with dreads that long. If you look closely in the left photo above, you can see a couple of locks located under McCutchen's chin. It's kind of problematic having to worry about your dreads hitting you in the face every time you swing the bat hard. That might be the real reason Andrew cut them off, even if he won't say so.

Of course, Andrew's dreads were much shorter when he first started with the Pirates. I still remember how excited I was when I saw him step up to the plate for the first time on the afternoon of June 4, 2009 - which I luckily was able to see on live TV just before I had to go to work. Here was an actual American baseball player with dreads who was expected to be really good. There hadn't been any of those up to that point. He singled on that at bat for his 1st career hit and moments later scored his 1st career run, along with Nyjer Morgan (the two celebrate after scoring in photo below), on a single by Andy LaRoche. After going 2 for 4, with 3 runs, 1 RBI, and 1 stolen base in his debut, Cutch had this to say about being promoted to the major leagues: "I just came up here because I believe I earned it. They know what game I can play, so I basically just want to play my game and stay within myself. I know if I do that, I'll have success.
He sure got that right. Talk about success. I had no idea he was going to be this successful - so successful that he has finished 3rd, 1st, and 3rd in the voting for the NL MVP award the last 3 years. After his first 6 seasons he has a .299 career batting average and a .385 career on-base average, doing more than his fair share to help the Pirates end a long stretch of futility and become a team good enough to have made the playoffs the last 2 seasons. And as Andrew's success has increased over that time, so has my excitement. I mean, I used to never watch the Pirates; but ever since Cutch arrived, they have become my first choice whenever I turn on the TV to watch baseball.

But what I like even more about McCutchen than how much fun it's been watching him play is how well he has carried the torch for dreadlocks in general and dreadlocks in MLB in particular - something he seemed proud to do. In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's article on Cutch's haircut they printed a quote from 2012 where he says, "The perception of dreadlocks is pretty bad, but I just wanted to wear them to show you don't have to be a bad person to wear them. It's OK to have it." With Andrew being one of the best players in the game on the field and always a class act off the field, dreadlocks could not have had a better ambassador. And although he didn't exactly begin a craze of dreads in MLB, I'd bet at least a couple of players were inspired to start growing dreads after seeing his. Thank you, Andrew.

I know I'm making this sound like a eulogy, but the fact is that Cutch is 28 years old and figures to have many more great seasons ahead of him. I'm still going to be a big fan (at least until he ends up with the Yankees, that is - hey, the Yankees, maybe that's why he cut off the dreads, lol) even if I don't tune in to watch him as diligently as in the past.
.... and after: Andrew McCutchen on Mar. 26
Before: Andrew McCutchen on Mar. 25 .....

On the first link below is the article on Cutch's cut from, which includes an interview of McCutchen and also a video of portions of the actual haircut. The second link is to a Washington Post article that includes the same video, in which the author describes the haircut as a massacre. And on the bottom is a link to a KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh) article that includes tweets from some concerned fans.

So, who will carry the torch for dreads in MLB going forward? Of course, Johnny Cueto continues to do his best. It looks like he's planning to (somehow) pitch another season for the Reds with his long dreads even longer than ever. Cameron Maybin (photo on right from Mar.11) seems willing. In their 3rd year his dreads are coming along very nicely. Let's just hope he can have an injury-free season for a change and be on the field much more often than he's been the last two seasons. With Edwin Jackson and Rickie Weeks also cutting off their dreads during the offseason, Maybin sadly is currently the only American player with dreads in MLB. The other four are Dominican - Cueto, Hanley Ramirez, Ervin Santana, and Rangers reliever Roman Mendez, who pitched well as a rookie last season after making his debut in July.

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