In August of 2007, Gino Castignoli, a Red Sox fan disguised as a construction worker (okay, he is an actual construction worker that happens to be a Sox fan), assisted in the development of the new Yankee Stadium. Though Castignoli, a Bronx resident that grew up idolizing Jim Rice, only worked on the new Stadium for a day, he hoped to issue a longstanding impact on the Yankees organization by burying a David Ortiz jersey beneath the ballpark, under a few pounds of cold concrete. Castignoli noted afterward that, through his burying of the Ortiz jersey, he had hoped to install a “jinx” upon the Yankees. The Yankees found out about the act, of course, and ultimately uncovered the jersey in an embarrassing display of superstitious paranoia. It was later auctioned off to benefit the Jimmy Fund.
Interestingly, since Castignoli’s act of baseball vandalism, the Yankees have not exactly been a cursed franchise. Though they failed to make the postseason in 2008, the year the supposed “curse” was discovered, a year later, in the first season at the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees went on to win the American League East, and the World Series. They did so, in part, because of their ability to beat the Red Sox the winter prior, stealing first baseman, Mark Teixeira, from John Henry’s aged claws in the eleventh hour of the bidding process. Not much of a curse there, huh?
In addition to that, though, the Red Sox Castignoli chose to channel his curse through, David Ortiz, has entered one of the worst performative declines we have seen from an elite hitter in recent memory. In 2008, the season the curse was discovered, Ortiz ultimately batted .264/.369/.507 with 23 home runs and 89 RBI. While not a bad year, by any means, it was his worst in Boston, as he also missed about two full months (June and July) recovering from a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. In 2009, about a year removed from the wrist problem that plagued him a season earlier, Ortiz went on to hit a miserable .238/.332/.462. Of course, in July of last year, Big Papi was also cited, along with Manny Ramirez, as one of the players in the now infamous “doping list,” a record of baseball players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Ortiz subsequently addressed the story with a veiled apology.
This season, following last year’s offensive no-show and a damning PED report, Ortiz has been dogged by reporters who wonder if his career is over. He currently owns a .136/.208/.227 average over just six games, which is hardly anything definitive, but, after a plodding 2009, it is enough to cause concern in a city like Boston. Meanwhile, the normally cool Ortiz is seemingly starting to crack a bit under the weight of a publicized, sharp offensive downturn.
Looking back on it now, given the way the game has unfolded since 2008, I wonder if Gino Castignoli regrets his decision to try and vex the Yankees. To the dismay of Red Sox Nation, it seems like this curse has all but backfired.
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