Giambi once laid claim to a phrase, "Hit like All-Stars, party like rock stars and hammer like porn stars." Damon laid claim to describing his team as "a bunch of idiots," even naming his autobiography Idiot. Johnson laid claim to his own nickname "The Big Unit," easily the most unsavory nickname in all of professional sports.
Giambi arrived in New York and was told to cut his hair and shave his goatee. Damon arrived in New York and was told not to grow his beard back nor have long hair. Johnson arrived in New York was ordered to cut the mullet off and trim back his goatee. After all, they were now Yankees, and Yankees had a professional image to live up to. This was the franchise of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and Jeter, and no one could be a Yankee looking like they did.
So all three complied, and all three massively underperformed in pinstripes drawing the ire of the New York faithful and the Big Apple media. Randy Johnson departed the Yankees, and went back to Phoenix where he grew out his mullet, and helped Arizona win the NL West last year. Damon has been moved out of center field entirely due to his defensive liabilites. And, of course as previously noted, Giambi has struggled mightily in his 5+ years as a New York Yankee.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, have reeled off two World Series titles in four years with a menagerie of ballplayers that pretty much look however they want. Damon infamously wore his beard and long hair in center field. The recently departed Manny Ramirez wore flowing dreadlocks in left field looking like a power-hitting Bob Marley. Kevin Millar had a hair style that changed daily. Kevin Youklis shaved his dome and grew an unkempt goatee that only Randy Johnson and ZZ Top would dig. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, looks like a Yankee: A clean-cut kid from the Houston suburbs, the antithesis of all of the loonies he shared a locker room w/. The Red Sox have been one of sports' most successful franchises of this decade, and the Yankees certainly started out that way, but haven't had anywhere near the level of success that the Red Sox have enjoyed, especially over the last five years.
It's certainly true there are other factors in play. The Yankees over the last five years have certainly valued the superstar more so than they should. The Yankees also have not recognized that the idea of a great baseball team is to have 25 guys working towards a singular, collective goal, and not just a bunch of Alpha Dogs duking it out amongst each other for statisical supremacy. It's also true that they signed a collection of ballplayers that were past their prime, but were still big-name draws for the media attention. One could even argue that Randy Johnson was like this, and only reverted back to his superstar form once he got back to a very weak division.
However, I think it would unjust not to suggest that the Yankees are also playing by a set of rather anachronistic rules. It may be the franchise of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and Jeter, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we live in the era of any of those ballplayers, with the exception of Jeter, obviously. We live in an era, not just for athletes but people in general, where the idea of a great team still holds form, but so does the idea of individuality. We live, and will continue to live, with MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. The idea that we can function as a unique individual apart from a cohesive school, job, team or fraternity is intrinsic to modern-day life. Corporate America is considerably more lenient about hiring people with tattoos. In fact, I've had two bosses in the last two years with visible tattoos, and ironically, they are both friends of mine on Facebook as well. Neither individual has had any issue with adapting to a corporate environment despite the obvious tell-tales signs of non-conformity.
The Yankees are not only getting beaten routinely by their chief rival, amongst others, but the Yankee way may be a thing of the past as well. The Yankees are asking people to conform to a rigid, autonomous style of business rather than the business working with their employees to provide a work environment that suits the collective needs of both parties. Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Randy Johnson were all brilliantly talented baseball players before coming to New York. Johnson regained his old form once he left the pinstripes behind; Damon hasn't regained his old form from his days w/ the Red Sox; Giambi recaptured a brief bit of lost glory when he regrew some of his old facial hair. It's a shame that the Yankee way will never let Damon and Giambi go back in time to when they were still very successful ballplayers, and allow them that degree of comfort they had with their former employers. But it's also the players fault for accepting the money and an environment that wasn't going to suit their own personal tastes.
Maybe the Red Sox can resign them on the cheap, and see what happens when they let them grow their hair back.