Some baseball players were just meant to look like filthy degenerates. Kevin Youkilis is one of them.

Can you even recall that there was a time when Kevin Youkilis looked like… this? The photo above? Clean shaven and remarkably non-menacing? When he was set to take on the bulk of first base duties, I foolishly doubted him, claiming Youk wouldn’t be an intimidating presence at the plate if he strapped fifty tons of dynamite to his chest and held the trigger in his hand.

But then came the beard. And everything changed.

Last night, he hit yet another home run–his 24th of the season. He’s hitting .320 and continues to be an offensive monster, and I mean that in the kindest possible way. His fielding has also been stellar–since opening day 2007, the guy’s made only 4 errors at first base. Conversely, during the same time period, Julio Lugo has 35 errors at short.

I’m not sure if we can technically chalk up all this awesome to the beard alone. But it bears noting that without the beard, Youk looked about as threatening as a frat boy stumbling down Comm Ave. With the beard, he’s a slightly unhinged character from a Vietnam film. A deranged hillbilly with a horrible secret out in the shed. The kind of face you’d expect to see on America’s Most Wanted, as the announcer says, “It was around exit 53 that the women encountered… The Misfit.”

And I have no doubt that the dirty bastard will help carry us to the playoffs.