Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Different Kind of Jinx

Photo by David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

Matt Harvey was on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.  As anyone who knows anyone about sports, this "honor" is usually associated with a jinx, conveniently known as the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.  If you are unfamiliar with this jinx, here are a few examples.

In 1978, Pete Rose appeared on the cover of the magazine.  That week saw the end of his National League-record 44-game hitting streak.  In 1987, Cory Snyder and Joe Carter of the Cleveland Indians graced the cover along with a large Indians logo and the headline, "Indian Uprising".  The team then went on to finish the year with a major league-worst 61-101 record.  More recently, in 2010, Stephen Strasburg was featured on the cover just two months before he was forced to miss the rest of the season and most of the 2011 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  And who can forget Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers appearing on the cover of the October 24, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated, just a few days before he misplayed David Freese's potential World Series-ending fly ball into a game-tying, two-run triple?

The jinx isn't limited to baseball, as football players, race car drivers, boxers, and countless other athletes have succumbed to the power of the periodical's curse.

Rarely has anyone been able to escape it.  It has also been said that its power is greater than the John Madden video game curse and even the notorious Joey Jinx, which has struck the Mets not once, but on numerous occasions.

That brings us to Matt Harvey, who is this week's Sports Illustrated cover model.  In his first start since gracing the magazine's cover, Harvey appeared unfazed by the jinx.  Not only did he get credit for his first win since April 19, but he also drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the seventh inning.  Clearly, Matt Harvey has developed some kind of immunity toward the fabled curse.  But in developing that immunity, he seems to have deflected the jinx to all those around him.

Harvey has started nine games for the Mets in 2013, with the team winning seven of those nine starts.  But the Mets have gone on to lose all nine games immediately following his starts.  It's almost as bad in the second game following a Harvey start.  The Mets have won just three of those games this year.  That means the Mets are a combined 3-14 in the two games immediately following a game in which Matt Harvey took the mound.  (Tomorrow's affair will be the second game after Harvey's ninth start and is obviously not yet included in the aforementioned 3-14 record, although it wouldn't be much of a surprise if that number became 3-15 within the next 24 hours.)

The jinx isn't only limited to this season.  In fact, it began with Harvey's first start in the majors last July.  Harvey made ten starts for the Mets at the end of the 2012 campaign.  In the ten games immediately following a Matt Harvey start, the Mets went 3-7.  Let's do a little simple math now, shall we?

Matt Harvey has started 19 games for the Mets in his career.  The Mets have won ten of those 19 games, including seven of nine this year.  New York has also played 19 games after a start by Harvey.  The team has lost 16 of those 19 games.  That's 10-9 (starts by Harvey) vs. 3-16 (starts by the next schlemiel).

Is it possible that Sports Illustrated had this issue planned long before Matt Harvey's major league debut last year and it didn't see the light of day until this past week?  Are they aware Matt Harvey is immune to the cover jinx but is able to deflect the bad mojo associated with it to his fellow starters?

We may have discovered a new strand of the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse, one that doesn't affect the athlete on the cover, but spreads to those around him.  Clearly, Matt Harvey is not down with the SICC-ness.  It's just his fellow moundsmen who continue to be down in the loss column.

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