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Fun-loving Yanks look like Rays of '08

Nick Swisher sports a faux-hawk.

A faux-hawk? On a New York Yankee?

A.J. Burnett is expert at the shaving cream pie in the face trick.

Tomfoolery? At Yankee Stadium?

What happened to the team that wore their pinstripes like a bank president? The buttoned-down corporate types who smiled only after winning the World Series? Who treated the game like a business?

“This is a loose team,” said Yankees outfielder Eric Hinske, who sported a Mohawk when he was last seen around Tropicana Field.

Hinske was back Monday with his new team, which led the division with the best record in the American League. He knows a few things about shaving cream pies to the face, having witnessed a few last season while helping the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series. Hinske said he sees some similarities between his new team and his old.

“We’re having fun,” he said. “You always have fun when you’re winning.”

Fun? Faux-hawks? Shaving cream pies? Kind of reminds you of another team, doesn’t it?

“The 1927 Yankees?” Rays manager Joe Maddon asked. “Maybe they put Barbasol in the towel.”

Ah, no. A bit later. Like last year’s Rays, who had fun, shaved their heads into Mohawks (faux-hawks for some) and celebrated walk-off wins with shaving cream pies to the face.

“Listen,” Maddon said, “it’s a baseball game. It’s good to have fun, and when you’re having fun, you normally play better.”

Oh, there is plenty of old-school in the Yankees. There’s Jeter and Posada and Rivera and A-Rod. But Swisher, the outfielder/first baseman, smuggled a little levity into the clubhouse when he signed last offseason. So did Burnett, who looks like he belongs on the set of L.A. Ink. That’s another thing, tattoos. When did that become part of the pinstriped tradition?

The knock on recent Yankee teams is that they seemed too uptight, suffocated, perhaps, by their own reputation.

Not this bunch. Maybe it was the move to the new stadium. Maybe they don’t feel threatened by the past since none of the ghosts who made their reputation played at the new address. Or, maybe all that money they spent last winter is finally paying off.

Being locked out of the playoffs last year by the upstart Rays certainly got their attention. They went out and spent a fortune on first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitchers CC Sabathia and Burnett.

That part of the Yankees won’t go away. But the team that’s making a run at the division title appears to be having fun, sort of like the team that won the AL East in 2008.

Who knew the Rays could be trendsetters?

What’s next? Catwalks in the Bronx?

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