MLB The Show 24 is set to be released next month, with Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. chosen as the cover athlete. David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., and recently, Shohei Ohtani are just some of the greats to be featured on the annual release. Among them have been a pair of Philadelphia Phillies legends as well — namely, Ryan Howard and Bryce Harper.
The "Madden" curse has been well documented in popular culture, but there have been similar phenomena across different sports and leagues. A player has a breakout year, becomes a household name, and gets chosen as the face of a video game franchise ahead of the follow-up season. Unfortunately, too often, we see this player get injured, see a drop off in performance, or just flat-out fail to live up to the hype.
MLB The Show has seen a few of its cover stars experience ill-fated cover years, perhaps most notably Yasiel Puig. The right fielder graced the cover in 2015, a year in which he would hit career lows in all major stats and suffer from injuries and disciplinary issues that eventually led to his exit from the league altogether by age 29.
So how did the Phillies sluggers do in their cover years?
Ryan Howard was the face of the game in 2008, which turned out to be a decent year for the Philadelphia Phillies.
While Howard did strike out 199 times, bringing his batting average down to .251, he also clubbed 48 homers and drove in 146 runs on the way to helping the Phillies win their second World Series ever and first since 1980. Overall, it's fair to say that the curse, if there is one, was non-existent here.
Bryce Harper's cover year was a little less cut and dried. 2019 was the year Harper came to Philly, and the folks at San Diego Studios who produce The Show decided to capitalize on the attention he received during free agency and make him the cover star. Statistically speaking, it was a solid year, if not maybe a little quiet by Harper's Hall of Fame-worthy standards.
He introduced himself well to the Philadelphia faithful with his first hit and was the first Phillie since Howard to hit 100 RBI in a season.
However, the Phillies missed out on the postseason for the eighth season running, so while the season was not a success in terms of results, you can hardly say that constitutes a curse. Especially considering how his career in Philadelphia has gone since then.