Is the ‘MLB The Show’ Curse Real?

Find out if the "MLB The Show" curse is fact or fiction

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “MLB The Show” Curse, the notion that the player featured on the cover of the popular video game will have a down year on the field the season the game comes out. But is this curse real?

Just last month, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was named the poster boy for 2024, despite several fans claiming he was undeserving of the honor following a down year by his standards in 2023. That being said, Guerrero is one of the most marketable players in the majors, winning last year’s Home Run Derby and sharing a household name with his Hall of Fame father.

Will Vladdy’s appearance on the cover of “The Show” be a forecast of what we should expect for his performance on the field this year? Or has the “MLB The Show” curse been just noise? Let’s dive into the history of the award.

Starting with “The Show’s” inception in 2006, I have listed who was featured on each cover and if I deem them as “cursed.”


2006: David Ortiz


“MLB The Show” was released on PlayStation 2 in 2006 with Big Papi as the inaugural face of the game. At the time, Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox were one year removed from reversing their own curse and winning the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Picking Ortiz for the cover came as no surprise, as the slugger led the league in RBI while delivering a .300/.397/.604 slash line in 2005.

Was “The Show” cursed from the start? Absolutely not. Ortiz went on to have one of his best seasons in 2006, leading the league in homers (54), RBIs (137), walks (119), and total bases (355).

Cursed? No.


2007: David Wright


At just 23 years of age, David Wright secured cover boy duties in 2007 following an impressive .311/.381/.531 slash line. It would be the start of a five-year streak that saw Wright earn a spot on the National League All-Star team.

However, Similar to Ortiz, Wright also had the best year of his career following his “MLB The Show” cover stint, finishing a career-best 4th in NL All-Star voting.

Cursed? No.


2008: Ryan Howard


When I think of mid-2000s baseball, I think of Ryan Howard, so it comes as no surprise to see him on the cover of “The Show” in 2008. Howard averaged almost 50 homers a year from 2006-09, finishing in the top five in NL MVP voting all four years. The Big Piece had several years to pick from for his cover selection. No curse to be found here.

Cursed? No.


2009: Dustin Pedroia


Starting his career with an AL Rookie of the Year award and World Series championship, followed by an AL MVP award, the career of Dustin Pedroia could not have started off much hotter. Although not the flashy power hitter like Howard before him, Pedroia led the AL in runs (118), hits (213), and doubles (54) in 2008, alongside an impressive .326/.376/.493 slash line. Pedroia continued his All-Star seasons in 2009 and 2010, canceling out any idea of an “MLB The Show” curse.

Cursed? No.


2010 & 2011: Joe Mauer


2024 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Joe Mauer managed to secure two covers of The Show at the turn of the new decade. This is also where we begin to see some resemblance of a curse, but not exactly. Mauer’s 2009 season was unmatched. He earned a .365 batting average, which is the fifth-highest mark this century. He also had career highs in homers (28), hits (191), and RBIs (96).

His 2010 cover award was well deserved. However, after being named cover boy for the second straight year, Mauer played in just 82 games in 2011 due to a leg injury, hit just three home runs, and batted below .300 for the first time in three years. Perhaps the Baseball Gods punished him for not sharing the cover of “The Show.”

Cursed? Yes.


2012: Adrián González


Adrián González earned the cover after his debut season with the Red Sox was a success, with a .338/.410/.548 slash line and securing both an All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger award. Gonzalez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers towards the end of the 2012 season but was still able to secure just under a .300 average (.299) even though his overall stats took a hit across the board. He was able to return to All-Star form in 2015 and had a few solid years left in the tank before he retired in 2018. For these reasons, I can’t slap the curse tag on A-Gon.

Cursed? No.


2013: Andrew McCutchen


We have finally reached a player who is still in the league. Andrew McCutchen effectively reversed whatever “MLB The Show” curse was brewing by earning the NL MVP award in 2013 with a .317/.404/.508 slash line. Cutch went on to place top five in NL MVP voting the following two years, earning All-Star selections and Silver Sluggers along the way.

Cursed? No.


2014: Miguel Cabrera


Miguel Cabrera was the best hitter on the planet from 2011-15, averaging hitting .335 and 32 homers in that span. You could argue that Miggy was snubbed by McCutchen for the 2013 cover, as the former earned MLB’s first Triple Crown since 1967 in 2012. And while it was almost inevitable that Cabrera would regress following his 2012 season, he followed it up with a second MVP award while earning a league-leading slash line of .348/.442/.636. Nothing came close to cursing Cabrera during that span.

Cursed? No.


2015: Yasiel Puig


This is where “The Show” curse starts to kick in a little harder. Similar to Pedroia, Yasiel Puig had a hot start to his career, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, followed by his first All-Star selection in 2014. However, after being crowned the cover boy of “The Show,” Puig was bit by the injury bug and played only 79 games in 2015 due to lingering hamstring injuries. He was also never able to get his average north of the .300 mark as he did in his rookie year, and there were no more All-Star selections to be found. He exited the league in 2019.

Cursed? Yes.


2016: Josh Donaldson


It comes as no surprise to see Josh Donaldson on the cover of the 2016 edition. He was a key cog in the lethal Toronto Blue Jays lineup in 2015 that led the league with 891 runs scored, 127 more than the second-place New York Yankees. The then-29-year-old Donaldson led the league in runs (122), and RBIs (123) while helping Toronto reach the AL Championship Series. Donaldson not surprisingly regressed in 2016, however, he still earned an All-Star start and a Silver Slugger, making it impossible to label this as a curse.

Cursed? No.


2017: Ken Griffey Jr.


Although a bit confused at this selection, I am not opposed to one of my favorite players of all time earning the cover in 2017, despite having retired in 2010. The selection was made after Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, earning a record-breaking 99.32% of the votes. This edition of “The Show” featured Griffey’s iconic swing, and him wearing his signature backwards hat that he wore during Home Run Derby. 2017 could have been a good choice for Mike Trout, who was coming off his second AL MVP and who doesn’t have a cover on his decorated resume, but I am not opposed to The Kid reminding us that he was one of the greats.

Cursed? No.


2018: Aaron Judge


It took one full season for Aaron Judge to grace the cover of “MLB The Show.” In his rookie year, the Yankees slugger led the league in homers (52), runs (128), and walks (127), while hitting for an impressive .284 batting average. His stats in 2019 took a dip across the board, but the expectations he set after his rookie year were in no way sustainable. He also had one of the best seasons of all time just five years later. It’s impossible to think this man is cursed.

Cursed? No.


2019: Bryce Harper


As one of the most recognizable faces in the game, it seemed inevitable that Bryce Harper would find himself on the cover at some point. Harper improved upon his 2018 numbers in 2019 in just about every category besides walks, even though he still boasted a whopping 99 of them in the latter. The only curse that Harper sports at the moment lies in his inability to win a World Series ring (so far). And ironically the Washington Nationals won the title in 2019, their first year without Harper.

Cursed? No.


2020: Javier Báez


Unfortunately for Javier Báez, his career has been on the decline ever since he appeared on the cover. In the shortened season of 2020 following his honor, he hit for a paltry .203 average and followed that up in 2021 with a league-worst 184 strikeouts. His stint with Detroit the past couple of years has largely been a disappointment, finishing as one of the worst hitters in the league in 2023. Whether it was “The Show” cover, or the six-year, $140 million contract he signed, something has cursed the career of Baez.

Cursed? Yes.


2021: Fernando Tatis Jr.


Fernando Tatis Jr. had the best season of his young career in 2021, leading the National League in homers (42) while delivering an impressive .282/.362/.611 slash line. Even though he performed well the year he earned the cover, Tatis is often the talking point for people who argue that the “MLB The Show” curse is real because his entire 2022 season was washed out due to injury and PED suspension. While he was definitely cursed in the short term, I see some big seasons on the horizon for the 25-year-old.

Cursed? Yes.


2022: Shohei Ohtani


Was Shohei Ohtani deserving of the AL MVP award in 2022? That is not up for me to decide. But if we are defining Ohtani’s 2022 season as cursed because he was second to Judge in AL MVP voting instead of winning it himself, then yes, he is cursed. However, I will not be using that criteria. Now in the National League, Ohtani and his $700 million contract are always going to be a top candidate for an MVP, Cy Young, or both.

Cursed? No.


2023: Jazz Chisholm Jr.


Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a fun and highly marketable player, making him a great candidate for the cover of “The Show.” His 2022 season earned him his first All-Star selection despite a .254/.325/.535 slash line across just 60 games. Although not named an All-Star in 2023, his numbers didn’t really budge from his previous season, making it hard to classify him as being cursed.

Cursed? No.


2024: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.


And that brings us to this year’s cover boy for “MLB The Show.” Coming off of his worst season in three years, it’s likely that the three-time All-Star and former AL Rookie of the Year will bounce back and prove that he doesn’t belong alongside Mauer, Puig, Baez, and Tatis as those deemed cursed.

Cursed? We shall see.


So is the “MLB The Show” curse real? I would say no. Based on my analysis I have labeled four out of the 17 players as cursed, and even that comes down to different interpretations. Four out of 17 would be a .235 average, in other words, the frequency of “The Show” cover boys being cursed would rank 117th out of 133rd qualified hitters last year, on par with MJ Melendez.

Even though “The Show” curse is fiction, it is still something fun to talk about that will inevitably come up again if there is ever another high-profile example. Is the cover award equivalent to a second MVP award? No. “MLB The Show” is just a fun video game and should be treated as such.

Hunter Langille

A lifelong Red Sox fan, I was born and raised in Massachusetts but now reside in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have a background in daily fantasy baseball and I also create content for the Sorare fantasy baseball game on my Substack and YouTube channel!

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