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The Evolution of John Axford's mustache

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You can tell this is a serious post because he's not smiling in these pictures.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Oakland A's signed reliever John Axford to a two-year contract. Axford has his strengths and flaws as a pitcher, and you can read about those here. But that's not what we're here to talk about today. This post is about Axford's mustache, and the various forms it has taken over the years. Follow me on a photographic journey.

March 10, 2010

Axford 01

Photo credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images (cropped from original)

Just shy of his 27th birthday, Axford prepares for his rookie season with the Milwaukee Brewers. By this point he had grown up in Canada, pitched for Notre Dame, undergone Tommy John in college, graduated with a degree, been drafted twice but never signed, done a stint in the Yankees' system as an amateur free agent, and then caught on with the Brewers and finally made his MLB debut in 2009.

But if you'd told me he was a 23-year-old fresh out of college in this pic, I'd have believed you. The adventure begins.

February 24, 2011

Axford 02

Photo credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

After saving 24 games as a rookie, a little bit of attitude starts to sprout on his face as he enters his sophomore season.

July 20, 2011

Axford 03

Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In this photo, he is in the middle of earning his 26th save in 28 attempts, and he'll go on to lead the league with 46 that year. As the saves pile up, the mustache grows.

February 26, 2012

Axford 04

Photo credit: Rich Pilling/Getty Images (cropped from original)

He ended up receiving votes for both Cy Young and MVP after that enormous 2011 campaign. He entered 2012 as an elite closer, and he grew the shaggy hair and complicated mustache to prove it.

May 27, 2012

Axford 05

Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What happened?? This is Axford doing his best impression of catcher Bryan Anderson. The mustache is gone, shifting the eyes to his flowing mane of hair.

September 10, 2012

Axford 06

Photo credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Starting fresh. In July 2012, Axford chopped it all off and made a donation to Locks of Love (or at least, that's the implication I'm getting from the Instagram post that I've linked there). Given that he had lost his job as the closer a couple weeks prior, perhaps a new 'do was a good strategy. He quickly regained the 9th inning and went 18-for-20 in saves in the final two months.

February 17, 2013

Axford 07

Photo credit: Rich Pilling/Getty Images (cropped from original)

The mustache had lost its luster the previous season, so this time he tries a full beard instead. He loses his closer job almost immediately and doesn't earn a single save the entire season. D'oh.

October 27, 2013

Axford 08

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The beard hasn't changed much, but other stuff has. For starters, he's on the Cardinals now, after a late-August trade. Furthermore, he's pitching in the World Series in this pic, where he ended up making two scoreless appearances and striking out 5 of the 8 batters he faced. But mostly, the socks. Respect the socks.

February 24, 2014

Axford 09

Photo credit: Rob Tringali/Getty Images (cropped from original)

Okay, the beard didn't work. Back to just a mustache. This time, he goes for the horseshoe, more awesomely known as the asskicker. Some people mistakenly refer to this as a Fu Manchu, but there are very real differences. The Fu Manchu doesn't connect above the mouth like the asskicker does, and it also hangs down past the jawline like a pair of tendrils. The asskicker is just a regular mustache that keeps extending down until it gets to your chin, like the circle beard but without the goatee part. The most famous example of this is certainly Hulk Hogan, though Luis Tiant and Goose Gossage also had prominent ones (Goose's was bushier than most).

It is not a coincidence that this is the pic that looks most like a mugshot. That is the power of the asskicker. It might be the perfect mustache for a closer.

September 13, 2014

Axford 10

Photo credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images (cropped from original)

Welp. The asskicker mustache didn't work, as he lost the closer role in May and was ultimately claimed by the Pirates on waivers. I think that when a player gets claimed by the Pirates, the transaction logs should say that his old team got pillaged. Arrrr. Anyway, after several weeks at sea with Pittsburgh, the full beard made a comeback. But as with the Brewers in 2013, he recorded zero saves with the beard for the Pirates.

August 5, 2015

Axford 11

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images (cropped from original)

Now in the mountainy wilderness of Colorado, the man with "Ax" in his name finally sprouts the beard of a lumberjack. He'd gone full beard before, but this profile shot shows how much longer it became in Colorado. Did the thin air accelerate the hair's growth? I mean, probably not, I don't think that's how beards work. This is almost a year after the last picture, so he probably just didn't shave for a while. What a weird question for you to ask. Anyway, he finally broke the Curse of the Full Beard and saved 25 games for the Rockies.

April 2016?

The last time Axford was on one of Rollie Fingers' old teams, he waxed up the handlebars. Will he do it again? We can only hope. (Note: After a bit of research, I believe this pic is from May 22, 2010, which means this came early in his rookie year. Why did he ever get rid of it??)

This has been a documentation of the evolution of John Axford's mustache during his MLB career, because it's Sunday and the next A's game won't be played for another three and a half months. I, for one, am terribly excited to see what whiskers he chooses to sport next season.