It’s not exactly the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. It’s hardly the Madden cover curse, either, but someone may want to pull Odubel Herrera to the side at the 2016 MLB All-Star Game (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on FOX) and tell him gently: Phillies All-Stars might be … cursed.
Major League Baseball still guarantees an All-Star nod for at least representative of every team, and while Herrera certainly deserves the All-Star recognition — his batting average is hovering just below .300 after a recent slump, but he boasts a .378 on-base percentage and .806 OPS, is in the top 10 in the National League in hits and is playing solid centerfield night in and night out — his bid was helped by the team’s recent slide. Relievers Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris could have been selected, but it’s hard to pick a back-end bullpen guy on a team that was 10 games under .500 at the time the selections were made. Maikel Franco has been on a tear, but his hot streak began after the teams were selected.
As Herrera represents the Phillies in San Diego, it’s a fair question to ask if the second-year player is the future of the Phillies, or if he’ll meet the same post All-Star fate as some of the team’s more recent representatives. Are Phillies All-Stars actually cursed? (Probably not, but decide after you read each case.)
In 2015, the Phillies were represented at the All-Star Game by Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon didn’t play in the game and pitched just five more times for the Phillies before being traded on July 28, 2015, in the division, to the Washington Nationals. Based on his numbers — and, again, a dearth of qualified candidates for the mandatory spot — Papelbon was an understandable choice for the All-Star Game. But, man, was he a jerk, and clearly he had begun to talk his way out of town; the poorest representation of Philly if there ever was one.
So it was a blessing, perhaps, more than a curse that Papelbon was gone right after the All-Star Game. But there’s no debating 2014, or 2013, when it comes to an All-Star curse.
In 2014, the Phillies were represented by Chase Utley, who was voted in as the starting second baseman for the National League. Utley had good numbers in the first half that year, hitting .293 with an OPS of .794 in 91 games that included 88 starts. He had just eight homers at the break in ’14, but did have 35 extra base hits in 355 at bats, buoyed by 24 doubles.
After the break, Utley’s season went in the tank. He hit just .235 down the stretch, with an OPS of .674 over his last 64 games, 60 starts. He had just 18 extra base hits, including only three homers, in his 234 post All-Star at-bats. And in 2015, he got worse.
Utley only played in 73 games for the Phillies in 2015 before being traded to the Dodgers in late August. He hit .217 for the Phillies with a .617 OPS, the worst of his career.
Perhaps a malcontented reliever and infielder past his prime do not a curse make. But in 2013, there is no doubt the Phillies All-Stars were marked for future doom.
Domonic Brown made the 2013 All-Star team after a steaming-hot first half where the outfielder could not stop hitting home runs. Brown had 23 dingers in his first 95 games that season, with a first-half OPS of .856 and 67 runs batted in. After the break, Brown’s batting average stayed right at .270, but his production dropped. He hit just four homers in his last 44 games, part of a disappointing nine extra base hits. He drove in just 16 runs in his final 156 plate appearances of 2013.
In 2014, Brown followed up his All-Star season by hitting .235 with an OPS of .634 and just 10 homers in 512 plate appearances. A year later, he played in only 64 games for the Phillies, hitting .228 and slugging .349, before being released after the season.
The other All-Star that year was Cliff Lee. OK, yeah, holds up: Cursed.
Lee actually had good second-half numbers in 2013, posting a sub 3.00 ERA and upping his strikeouts per nine to more than 10 per game. But 2014 was a disaster for Lee, as he made just 13 starts before getting hurt and never pitching again in a Major League game.
It’s hard to think of anyone more cursed in Phillies history than post All-Star Cliff Lee.
In 2012, the Phillies had three All-Stars. Cole Hamels actually got better in the second half of 2012 and while 2013 was statistically the worst of his career, his numbers were still good compared to the rest of the league. Hamels was really good in 2014, too, despite not making the All-Star Game. He was traded in 2015, ending his Phillies tenure with a no-hitter. Certainly no post All-Star curse for him.
Papelbon was an All-Star in his first year with the Phillies that season, and while his “cursed” outcome took a few years to manifest fully, things really deteriorated in his second season. He blew seven games in 2013, after blowing two down the stretch in 2012, and turned on the city almost as fast as the city turned on him.
And then there was Carlos Ruiz.
Chooch hit .325 with a ridiculous OPS of .935 in 2012, his only season as an All-Star. Following the 2012 season, Ruiz was suspended by MLB for 25 games for taking a banned substance after testing positive for Adderall without obtaining an exemption.
When Chooch returned to the lineup in 2013, he was not the same player, hitting 57 points worse while his slugging percentage dipped 172 points. His OPS plummeted to .688 that year. In 2014 he hit just .252 and last season it got even worse, dipping to .211 at the plate with an OPS of .575. And you can’t blame the Adderall, because in 2014, Ruiz was able to obtain that exemption. Maybe it was the All-Star curse.
In 2011 the Phillies had five All-Stars, including Hamels, Lee, Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino. Polanco and Victorino were both gone during or after the following season, while the three aces had solid seasons in 2011, leading the Phils to 102 wins. Halladay finished second in Cy Young voting in 2011, the year after winning the award (in an All-Star season). So curses be damned.
Halladay was never the same after 2011. In May, 2012 he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that overshadowed the entire season for the Phillies. Halladay was somehow able to start 25 games in 2012, but was clearly not the same pitcher anymore. He made just 13 starts in 2013 before hanging up his spikes for good, having pitched through shoulder problems and what turned out to be a broken back for too long.
The Phillies have had 190 All-Stars in their history, so no, not every player has been hexed. And even the ones who have struggled or were shipped out after making the All-Star game may not have been cursed. Ryan Howard’s batting averaged dropped 50 points in the second half of 2010, his last All-Star appearance, but the torn Achilles that ostensibly ruined his career didn’t happen until the end of the 2011 season.
Aaron Rowand wasn’t cursed after he made the 2007 All-Star team. He just left town, the year before the Phillies won the World Series. The same went for Billy Wagner after his lone Phillies All-Star nod (the leaving, not the World Series). And Bobby Abreu was sent packing the year after his final All-Star game as well.
Brad Lidge wasn’t cursed after the 2008 All-Star game, even though everyone thought he might be after his performance in the midsummer classic that year. Instead, Lidge was perfect the rest of the 2008 season. No, it was the World Series celebratory pile-on that cursed him.
If and when Herrera gets in the 2016 All-Star Game on Tuesday, he should consider the appearance a great honor. Let’s just hope he keeps his head on a swivel when he gets back, because you never know if — let’s face it, when — the curse might hit.