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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Will Jayson Werth keep his beard?

By Dan Steinberg

(By Lynne Sladky - AP)

Once people stopped being stupefied over the terms of Jayson Werth's deal with the Nats, they took a step back and began asking the important questions. Like what about the beard?

"The team policy is, facial hair is OK, but it's got to be groomed," Rizzo told Yahoo!'s!!!'!!'s David Brown this week. "It's got to be nicely...professionally groomed."

That sounds an awful lot like the new Alex Ovechkin, if I'm being honest. Rizzo further told Brown that Werth is "a little bit of a free spirit" and has "a little bit of pizazz to him," but said that ultimately Jim Riggleman is in charge of beard enforcement. I guess this Joe Beimel creation qualified.

And while wondering whether the Nats have ever encountered a similar question in their baseball history, I came across the curious case of Allen "Bullet Ben" Benson. Don't remember him? This excerpt is from "The Washington Senators, 1901-1971," by Tom Deveaux. It starts after the 1934 season, when the Senators finished 34 games out of first.

How bad had things gotten? Bad enough that Allen Benson, a member of the House of David baseball team, was signed by [Clark] Griffith in an effort to boost fan interest in his sagging franchise. The House of David team consisted of good amateur players who toured the country, playing teams of local all-stars wherever they went. Their gimmick, apart from playing good baseball, was that every member of the club wore a long beard.

Griffith thought that might work well at Griffith Stadium, and Benson, known as "Bullet Ben," attracted a large Sunday crowd on August 19, 1934. He was battered about by the league-leading Tigers, but apparently not so badly that Griffith wouldn't give him another shot. Slated to next appear against the St. Louis Browns, Benson begged the owner to let him shave his beard so that he wouldn't feel like he was making such a spectacle of himself. Griffith insisted that if the beard went, Bullet Ben would have to go too. So the pitcher relented and was trounced by the Browns as well.

That was the end of Benson's major-league career. Wow.

Still. I say Werth should keep the dang thing. This was what The Post ran when Benson was signed. Nice work, 1934 caption writers.

By Dan Steinberg  | December 7, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Next: Nats launch first Werth pun campaign


"The team policy is, facial hair is OK, but it's got to be groomed," Rizzo told Yahoo!'s!!!'!!'s David Brown this week. "It's got to be nicely...professionally groomed."

Apparently someone forgot to tell Collin Balester, he of the nasty unkempt porn star 'stache. Or maybe that's why he got sent down last season, and not the lousy pitching.

And what of Dunn's propensity to shave only once a week or so? Is that why they let him walk?

OTOH, Manny Acta did lay down the law on Dmitri Young and made him cut back the 'fro. No doubt that's what put them over the top in 2008!

Posted by: FeelWood | December 7, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else think that Werth looks alot like "Edge" of professional wrestling fame?

Posted by: VegasJim | December 7, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Not sure about Werth and "Edge," but based on that picture we now know what Fidel Castro did before the Cuban revolution.

Posted by: truke | December 7, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

sportswriting used to be much clever back in the day. lol. i love that quip.

Posted by: destewar | December 7, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Who the heck cares if he has a beard like Santa if he plays like a superstar? Not me, that's for sure.... What a stupid rule to have.

Posted by: LaureninGlenBurnie | December 7, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

This is his signature look and I am just fine with it. Sampson had his hair cut and look what happened with him.

Posted by: jrussell1 | December 7, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised. A season or two ago two guys were sitting in left field with their shirts off and were told to put them on.

Posted by: boyn4884 | December 7, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"Who the heck cares if he has a beard like Santa if he plays like a superstar? Not me, that's for sure.... What a stupid rule to have.

"Posted by: LaureninGlenBurnie"

I agree with this as a general matter, but on the other hand, I also see a distinction between a player who signs as a free agent and a player who is acquired in a trade. If you sign as a free agent, the onus is on you to find out what the team's grooming rules are and the like. Don't like the rules? Don't sign with that team. In other words, you could have avoided the rules, but you chose to sign there. But where a team acquires a player via a trade and then says he needs to change the way he grooms himself to comply with a rule (e.g., when Manny Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles NL franchise), as a general rule I don't see any reason why the player should feel any obligation to comply since it was the TEAM that wanted HIM and went out and acquired him despite knowing of how he grooms himself. Put differently--most players don't have no-trade clauses and thus have no control over where they might be sent. If a player is involuntarily traded to another team that then wants him to change the way he grooms himself, I think he'd be quite justified in saying "go pound sand." (A player who waives a no-trade clause is in a different situation that's closer to the free agent, though, because he has some level of control.)

I think it's kind of a stupid issue, though, and I see no problem with the way he looks now. I won't grow my hair that way, nor let my facial hair grow that long, because (a) I find it uncomfortable and, more importantly, (b) my wife hates it when I don't shave. But if someone else wants to do it, why should I care?

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 7, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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