The answer came to the pitching staff on June 30th after a rough loss to the Giants. Chris Carpenter had just thrown his worst game of the season and Mark DeRosa had to leave the game with a torn tendon in his wrist.
The team was in definite need of a little pick-me-up. So, the starting pitchers got together after the game and decided to lighten the mood by adding a little splash of hair to their upper lips.
Growing out mustaches gave the guys an opportunity to forgo shaving, bond with teammates, and just goof around. For some, like Joel Piñeiro, it seemed to take mere minutes to grow a bushy beauty. While others, like Brad Thompson, still can’t seem to produce much more than peach fuzz.
Yet regardless of the ‘stache size, it would appear that this pact paid off. After the Cardinals embraced the mustache as a motivational tool, they pulled off five wins in their next six games.
Of course, there is the temptation to believe that those wins had nothing to do with a few fuzzy upper lips. But I believe this ‘stache bash is more than just a silly superstition; it’s a performance enhancer. It’s a lot easier to do well and enjoy the game when you’re having fun. Sure, skills and practice play an important role in a team’s success, but if the players are tense or upset their game will suffer.
Finding a way to have fun should be as basic a requirement as practice. The pitching staff adopted this idea and successfully lightened the mood simply by growing out mustaches. The face fuzz was just silly enough to give the guys a reason to relax and laugh.
Comparing the more boyish mustaches (poor, baby-face Thompson) to the thicker, more prominent nose sweaters has provided entertainment and enjoyment to the team and fans alike.
The success of the mustache phenomenon has to make you wonder when we’ll see other teams growing out mullets, or attempting to bring back the jerry curl. I believe the real lesson here is that any team struggling with stress and injuries can solve its problems by staying loose, playful and a little hairy.