Thursday, July 20, 2006
Christmas in July: ARod is cursed
As if the booing, the flopping in the playoffs, the shirtless activity in Central Park weren’t enough. Now the Yankee’s third-baseman is facing the curse.
I was almost giddy when I learned this week that Hallmark has selected ARod to be this year’s baseball player ornament.
First, it was $15 that I didn’t have to spend, because there’s now way I’m going to put a Yankee on my Christmas tree.
But the other reality is that the vast majority of the players tapped by Hallmark for ornaments in its “Day at the Ballpark” series have suffered mightily.
I have about 25 baseball ornaments. Long-time readers know what that’s code for. Truth is my baseball ornaments were taking over the family Christmas tree. One year my wife decided to get them out of sight by buying me a small artificial tree for the baseball room in the basement.
And at first it was pretty cool that Hallmark made reasonably realistic-looking ornaments of players that are about the size of the old Starting Lineup figures.
Then I started seeing a disturbing trend. Here are the players and the events that followed, most of them bad. I think there's a curse. Decide for yourself.
1996: Nolan Ryan
The series started out with Ryan, a safe, reasonable choice. But there was an obvious faux pas. The ornament depicted The Express as a Ranger, where he is best remembered for giving Robin Ventura noogies, instead of with the Mets, where he won his only championship.
1997: Hank Aaron
Also safe. Who wouldn’t want Hammering Hank ushering in the holidays? I hang this one front and center on my tree.
1998: Cal Ripken Jr.
And here’s where the curse kicks in. The Iron Man, of course, set the consecutive games record several years before this ornament was released. The next season? Ripken goes from playing in 161 games in 1998 to just 86 in 1999.
1999: Ken Griffey Jr.
It was hard not to love Junior in his Mariners days. Sadly, two months after Christmas, Junior browbeat the M’s into shipping him to the Cincinnati Reds.
2000: Ken Griffey Jr.
After the whole trade debacle, Hallmark asked for a mulligan and issued another Griffey ornament. It was actually the same pose, but with a new paint job. A bad one, in fact. It showed a solid red jersey with only a sleeve patch to indicate it was in fact a Reds uniform. And, of course, Junior has never been the same.
2000 Mark McGwire
This was he first two-ornament year. Hey, why mess with one player’s career when you can trash two? McGwire was hurt for much of 2000, but still hit .305 with 32 jacks and was rewarded with an ornament. The next season a broken-down Mac gimped with a .187 stick and 29 homers and four years later showed up before Congress all weepy and looking like a deflated balloon from the Macy’s parade.
2001 Mickey Mantle
After the double jinx of 2000, Hallmark played it safe by picking a player whose career couldn’t possibly be hurt. Heck, they picked a player who’s life couldn’t be ravaged by the curse – one who was dead for six years. Not that it appears on my tree.
2001 Sammy Sosa
Sammy hit 64 homers in 2001, and then showed up on Christmas trees. He had one more decent season before going from King of the Windy City to corking bats, ticking off teammates and getting run out of town. Next thing you know, Sammy, who seemed to speak English well enough in his assorted television ads, needed a translator to say practically nothing when hauled before Congress.
2002 George Brett
Brett, a clean-cut and respected guy, was already in the Hall of Fame when Hallmark decided to test the curse and make him an ornament. Truth be told, a guy like Brett was needed to off-set the horrible karma from the other guy selected for that year.
2002 Derek F. Jeter
Derek “Bleeping” Jeter. Why would somebody want this over-rated slacker on their Christmas tree? Hello? The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. How am I supposed to be wishing people peace on Earth and goodwill toward man with Mister Freaking Yankee dangling from an evergreen branch? Bad move. I refused to buy this one. I don’t put Yankees on my tree. On the plus side, Jeter has been cursed and the Yankees have not won a World Series since Hallmark cast him in plastic.
2003 Ted Williams
After the whole Jeter fiasco, Hallmark must have decided that it needed to salvage the whole line of ornaments. And why not the Splendid Splinter? He was one of the best players of all time, though a little crusty in his later years. And he had died the year before, so there was nothing embarrassing that could happen. Except, of course, when it was revealed that his goofy son talked Dad into lopping off his head and freezing his body after death, and having the rest of the family going to court to reclaim the body.
2003 Jason Giambi
Oh, if that wasn’t enough, the second guy selected was soon to be linked to a steroid scandal. Did Hallmark learn from Jeter? Apparently not. Look, when you dance with the Yankees, bad things are going to happen.
2004 Willie Mays
Ahhh. Here we go. The Say Hey Kid. No ‘roids, no goofy family members. It’s all good. Except, of course, that the former Met is for some reason depicted as playing for some other team.
2004 Barry Bonds
Well, Barry’s life pretty much went to hell after Hallmark dropped this baby. He barely played the season after the ornament was released, and we all know what’s happened since. Hmmm. With Bonds, Sosa, Giambi and McGwire, you could have a little theme tree working.
2005 Albert Pujols
I thought Hallmark was starting to learn from its past mistakes, and picked a squeaky clean player from a great baseball city. And Albert looked like he was going to survive until going down earlier this season for three weeks. He’s bouncing back nicely, a valiant effort to break the curse.
2006 Alex Rodriguez
Needless to say, I won’t be buying this one. But I wasn’t sad to see him selected knowing the carnage that is to follow. It was kind of like, well, a Christmas present in July.
Now if we can only stop Hallmark from discovering David Wright, we'll be in good shape.