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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/19/23

Yankees impressed by Yamamoto the person; team’s outdated hair policy could complicate free agency; Sheffield sounds off on Hall voting; Red Sox hire Lawson

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2023 World Baseball Classic Pool B: Game 8 Team Japan v. Team Australia Photo by Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Jack Curry via Twitter: The Yankees are going hard after Japanese pitcher and three-time Pacific League MVP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but so are the Mets, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Phillies, and a number of other teams. The competition is fierce, but New York is seen as one of the favorites.

The Yankees have met with the pitcher and his team twice, and according to Curry, they have been impressed by the pitcher (they have scouted him extensively in the past) but also by the person. For someone who could be playing in front of the most demanding fan base in baseball, character is very important. A decision by Yamamoto could be coming in the upcoming days.

New York Times | Scott Miller (subscription required): When the Yankees acquired outfielder Juan Soto, he was cleanly shaved and his hair was short, or at least that’s how he appeared on his introductory press conference via Zoom. Alex Verdugo, on the other hand, had to shave his beard to abide by the team rules.

The Yanks’ long-standing policy banning long hair and beards has been around since 1976, the George Steinbrenner days. Some in the industry think that it could cost the team some really good players depending on the case.

Times change, and beards have been growing in popularity for quite some time now. It’s time for the team to adapt.

“This might be an unpopular take to Yankees fans, but you’d be surprised how much more attractive the Yankees would be if they got rid of that facial hair rule,” former Cameron Maybin wrote on X this month. “You wouldn’t believe how many quality players just think it’s a wack rule to have.”

It’s unlikely it happens, but losing out on a player because of the facial hair policy would be both frustrating and disappointing. | Bill Ladson: Former Yankee Gary Sheffield is entering his tenth and final season of eligibility through the BBWAA. With 509 home runs and 253 stolen bases, not to mention 60.5 bWAR (more than Vladimir Guerrero, Harmon Killebrew, David Ortiz, and Willie Stargell), he has a good case, in theory.

Still, it’s looking unlikely that he gets to the 75 percent he needs to be enshrined.

He is also not thinking about the results, electing to let the situation play itself out. He does believe he should have been elected by now:

“I don’t think about anything to be honest with you,” Sheffield said. “I don’t think about the writers voting me in. I don’t think about the Veterans Committee. I don’t think about anything unless somebody asks me. Now that you have asked me, I don’t look forward to any of it to be honest with you, because … I should have been in [the Hall of Fame].

“Once I didn’t get in the first time, it’s basically whatever is whatever. You mean to tell me that when I played — all the people in the Hall of Fame — I didn’t belong on the field with them? I didn’t belong in that conversation? … Anybody that pitched to me and said, ‘I’m not pitching around you,’ ask them how it worked out. It [didn’t] go well.”

The Athletic | Brendan Kuty (subscription required): Former Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who was fired in the middle of the season amid the team’s offensive struggles, has found another job. The Yanks’ archrivals, the Red Sox, are hiring him as a hitting coordinator. According to Kuty, Lawson will be focusing on working with upper-level minor leaguers.