Cover Boy

Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 10:05 AM EST

Contributed by: Jordan

As noted on an earlier thread and as book devotees already know, the 2003 Baseball Prospectus features Blue Jays DH Josh Phelps on the cover. This is quite an honour -- unlike fantasy magazines and mainstream baseball preview editions, which choose the cover subject most likely to attract newsstand attention (e.g., Sammy Sosa graces the Sporting News fantasy issue cover) -- BP has traditionally chosen young sabrmetric heroes, players who deliver verifiable offensive value to their teams. Whether this is good for the players themselves might be a different story.

Last year, the cover featured Reds slugger Adam Dunn, who had a terrific start but slumped badly in the second half. In 2000, Astros outfielder Richard Hidalgo graced the front page before going on to a massively disappointing season. I don't have the editions before that, but judging from the blurry covers on the booklist, character guy Gary Sheffield seems to have led off in 2000, while the '99 and '98 covers obscured the faces of the players. It isn't quite the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx, but I now get a touch of the queasies when I see a player I really like receive a high profile, in the Prospectus or elsewhere.

The ancient Greeks understood how hubris precedes a fall, or maybe they simply foresaw the nature of fads, how something is cool up until the moment when someone points out how cool it is. Either way, I think they'd appreciate how so many professional athletes, once given an up-close-and-personal, budding-superstar profile article, suddenly go into the tank. Want proof? Go back to your 2002 baseball preview issue of whatever magazine you bought and identify the players who got those in-depth profiles or were otherwise singled out for attention. I'll wager that well over half of them suffered through injuries or otherwise failed to reach expectations. Weird. Eerie. Disturbing.

Nonetheless, congratulations to Josh, and don't think too much about it.