Look, I don’t ask a lot of the Red Sox players. Suffering through the Chico Walker, Nate Minchey and Dante Bichette eras has helped me understand that sometimes just showing up at the park with your pants on is enough.

That said, I really, really, really hope that there never comes a moment in the 2009 Sox season when Kevin Youkilis picks up a razor and thinks, “Maybe it’s time to let the beard go.”

I’ve got nothing against the guy in the photo at the bottom of this post. But for the Sox to succeed in the 2009 season, as I see it, we need Youk at full beard. I don’t know if Bearded Youk’s numbers versus Shaved Youk’s numbers bear this out–and, frankly, I’m far too lazy to figure it out–but going strictly on appearances, as superficial and inconsequential as it may sound, I’m gonna say Bearded Youk kicks Shaved Youk’s ass.

Last year, we lost Manny, one of the truly intimidating bats in our line-up. A guy who scared pitchers, whether or not they wanted to admit it. This year, we have Papi, a monolith of intimidation in his own right. Beyond that… well, we have scrappy and crafty. But where’s the fear?

I’ll tell you where it is. It’s in Youk’s beard. Along with traces of red meat, cheap beer and, I’m guessing, human flesh. Because Bearded Youk looks flat-out crazy. Like a deranged hillbilly who somehow wandered onto the field. Like a guy who has to leave practice early to shoot a scene in the latest Guy Ritchie film. Like a guy who hangs in shopping mall parking lots with a fake arm-in-a-sling, asking college chicks if they can help him get a sofa into a van. Like a guy who brags that he can eat his weight in hot wings, whiskey and cement.

And that’s the guy we need in our line-up. That’s the edge.

Shaved Youk? With all due respect, that’s the guy who serves you tacos at the airport. Not the guy I want up in the top of the ninth down two runs with bases loaded in the Bronx.

Sure, it’s just beard. Means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Nowhere near as important as health, mental balance and attitude. But perhaps that’s just what he wants us to think.

I’ll just leave it at this: When the game’s on the line, who do you want to see at the plate? This guy…

… or this guy?

I thought so.