There are a lot of angles to cover when you devote an entire day of articles to one person. You’ve got your analytics and your scouting, your infographics and your macro view of micro aspects. Those are all great and good and necessary. What is none of those things is what you’re about to consume. It’s just a classic coming-of-age story.
This is the story of Clayton Kershaw running a two-plus year experiment on his face while we all just pretended not to notice. Well, one man is through pretending. Wake up, sheeple. It's time to pay attention.
The beginning is probably the best place to start. Far as I can tell, this is late 2011/early 2012, when he started growing the beard in earnest.*
(Photo from MLBlogs)
Look at that nice, (relatively) clean-shaven smi- wait. What does his nametag say?
Rather than figure out what in the hell this means, let’s just make it his new nickname**. Anyway, there’s some stubble there, but nothing legitimately noticeable. Now flash ahead to Photo Day 2012:
(Photo via talk-sports.net)
It’s relatively clean, if a little wiry. I don’t think it’s a particularly good look, knowing smile aside. It seems to be only partially maintained with some growth up onto the cheek. I’m not sure Clayton knows what this is supposed to be—more than anything it resembles the kindergarten class project, where various seeds are germinated in wet paper towels—which makes it hard for us to have any idea. If you had to bet, you'd bet that this was a lazy-weekend lark that would quickly be discarded.
[SMASH CUT TO MID 2012]
(Photo via talk-sports.net)
There’s a lot to digest here, but what we’re seeing is maturity. Okay, the glove hat says otherwise, but, oh, the facial hair. It’s filled in. It seems to be groomed a little more tightly. Straight lines. There does seem to be a No-Growth Zone (medical term) on the front-chin area, but there’s not much he can do with that. No sense in holding it against him. I am tempted to label this as the best moment in Kershaw’s beard history.
[DISSOLVE TO LATE SEPTEMBER 2012]
This is what’s called “backsliding,” people. The previous picture held so much promise, dedication to the craft. This is sloppy. It’s an unkempt chinstrap thing with some neck hair. The cheeks look clean, but that only raises more questions! If it were pure sloth, I’d understand the overall lack of grooming, but the notion that thought and effort went into this is troubling, to say the least.
[JUMP CUT TO OPENING DAY 2013]
It’s a little tough to tell because of the shade, but it looks like we’ve hit the reset button a bit. We’re closer to Peak Beard, with a closer crop but better coverage than the unruly chinstrap above.
[CONTRAST CUT TO SEPTEMBER 2013]
If you didn’t know how old Clayton Kershaw was and could only judge by his beard/hair, you’d probably guess upper 40s, grocery store clerk, behind on his mortgage, and desperate. Then one day while he's eating his lunch standing up by the grocery store's loading dock, he notices an armored truck. Same truck he sees every day. Same schedule, on the dot, 10:50 a.m., driver working alone, a handgun snapped snug on his left hip. The driver lugs two cases from the truck and disappears inside the store for two minutes and 15 seconds. Two minutes, 15 seconds that the truck is unattended. Every day. Every single day, same routine. No cameras in this part of the lot. No witnesses. And grocery-clerk Kershaw gets to thinking, because desperation always does.
[STAR WIPE TO OPENING DAY 2014 – AUSTRALIA]
My god the offseas- oh that’s a pixelized Scott Van Slyke. Nevermind.
MY GOD THE OFFSEASON GROWTH. There’s a lot of progress here, and despite my personal preference for a close-cropped beard, I think we can all agree things have filled in nicely. Even in the cheek area, which at one point looked like a follicular wasteland. Forces retrospective reassessments of some of his earlier beards—like Photo Day 2012—which we had assumed were merely untended natural growth. Now that we know that his upper cheek does, indeed, grow human hair, we can assert that he had been shaving. True artistry is often the ability to make the intentional look natural. Knowing what we do now, that would describe Photo Day 2012, except that it's not art but a beard.
[STAR WIPE TO TRADE DEADLINE 2014]
More of the same beard-wise, but it looks like Brandon League is infecting Kershaw both in terms of hair and mouth-breathing.
What the f*** is this.
[STAR WIPE TO THE HORRIBLE, NO-GOOD, GOD FORSAKEN GAME 5 OF THE NLDS]
The last time most of us saw Kershaw, this was happening. Now, I’m not going to say that the twin seventh-inning breakdowns suffered by Kershaw against the Cardinals in the NLDS are because of the monstrosity on his face, but I’m not not going to not deny it, either.
It’s certainly fuller, which was a good thing back on Opening Day but a bad thing now. It’s not well manicured in the slightest and the weird pseudo-stache isn’t helping things either. There’s potential here—the fuller beard in the neck is a fine look, but the overgrowth on the cheek is just hideous. His cheek growth looks like a filthy prisoner held in a 17th century dungeon, clawing desperately as he tries to climb a wall to freedom. I’d advocate for a trimming back of the cheek hair that’s creeping up above his lower lip.
[MARCH 5TH, 2015, LITERALLY YESTERDAY (as I write this)]
I don’t know, you guys. I really don’t. I think I like it? It’s a little more under control than the untamed mass gathered on Kershaw’s face last October. It’s also filled in a bit more, which is helping a lot. He’s moved on from the pseudo-stache to something a little more substantial, and it’s done wonders for the overall look. It also helps that he’s dialed everything back a bit. Overall, it looks like somebody who replaced his lawn with gravel. Worse than a real lawn, but better than a half-dead, unkempt wasteland of a foreclosed property. This is a good start to the 2015 season, with the only concern being that he’ll let it go and we’ll see late-2014 beard sooner/more often.
To answer the question you asked yourself before clicking on the link to this article: there was no point.
*He did attempt some unfortunate chinstrap styles earlier in his career.
**Alert the Weed Mouse.
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