Shane Victorino's disastrous 2014 and 2015 are my fault. Probably. Really, it depends on just how superstitious you are. Generally, I'm not one to let superstition run any aspect of my life, but then there are times where I've been forced to recognize an awesome and terrible power I hold: If I purchase a player's shirt, that player is then doomed.
You might think I'm exaggerating, but longtime readers will remember that there is something to this. Oh, it didn't used to be this way -- in my teenage and college years, the player shirts I purchased belonged to young up-and-comers who made good on their promise, like Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Zack Greinke, and Adam Dunn. Things went downhill, though, starting with a Padres' shirsey purchased before the 2010 season.
Kyle Blanks. Poor, poor Kyle Blanks. He came on strong at the end of 2009 and looked like a future force in the Padres' lineup, until he was hurt -- always hurt -- and never as good again as he showed himself capable of being. Soon after, I considered a Ryan Kalish shirsey purchase, and the thought was enough to doom him to a similar fate. In 2012, I picked up a Daniel Bard shirt. At this point in the season, Bard was still showing promise as a starter. Weeks later, he was in the minors, then forgot completely how to throw strikes, and has still never recovered from it.
Photo credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Daniel Bard is why I didn't buy a Will Middlebrooks shirt when he got his actual number from the Red Sox. It was too late, though: my desire for a shirt that I refused to buy was apparently all that was needed to doom poor WMB to a career of disappointment and constant shuffling between the majors and minors.
It should be noted that this is only a name slash t-shirt-related phenomenon: things go well when I get new hats. The only Red Sox hats I've purchased in the last decade-plus were bought prior to the 2004, 2007, and 2013 seasons. (Okay, yes, I also bought one in 2012, but let's be real: that entire season is Bobby Valentine's fault, and no amount of positive hat mojo was going to stop him from ruining it.) Shirts, though, I've had to swear off of them, for the sake of the players. I've even extended this to other sports, with my New England Revolution and United States National Team soccer kits simply team jerseys, rather than for a specific player.
After the 2013 World Series, though, I wanted to try one last time to see if I could get away with owning a shirt with a player's name on it. Just not their actual name: I needed to know if there was a workaround, if this stretch of awful luck was for a very specific kind of merchandise.
Wearable Shanf pic.twitter.com/16mPbrNRnn— Marc Normandin (@Marc_Normandin) November 7, 2013
Thanks to MLB allowing you to put custom names on team shirts, I could make a Victorino shirt that wasn't really a Victorino shirt. Or so I thought, anyway: Victorino played in 122 games .294/.351/.451 and was Boston's most valuable player in the World Series championship season of 2013, and after the purchase of the custom shirt, played in just 63 games batting .258/.312/.346. Given my history, I can't help but feel this is all my fault. I'm sorry, Shanf: you never should have been a twisted experiment of mine. You were worth so much more than that.
Victorino was banged up in 2013, sure, but he played through almost all of it, and played fantastically, even adjusting to bat exclusively from the right side in the second half -- a move that helped propel the Red Sox to the top of the league and through the playoffs. Afterward, though, his injuries were too much to overcome, with even back surgery coming into play. He's had flashes of his old self, especially on defense, but he's just not the same anymore.
And now, Shanf has been traded to the Angels so the Red Sox can give more at-bats to the likes of Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr., players who have the potential to be in Boston's outfield for years to come. Victorino was an impending free agent on a losing team, and deserved another chance to be on a winner even in his lessened state. The Sox have now given him that chance.
As I helped get him into this mess, I feel it's only right I do what I can to get him out of it. I donated that Daniel Bard shirt after the 2012 season -- it wasn't worn much, and someone out there could use an inexpensive Red Sox shirt -- but simply removing it from my possession didn't help matters one bit. If anything, Bard was even more lost going forward. So, knowing that simply getting it away from me isn't enough, the only way to free Victorino from this spell that binds him is with cleansing fire.
Goodbye, Shanf. I hope it's not too late for you.