Author Archive

Simulate Your Own Nervous Breakdown

Roy Halladay, IRL.

Jon Robinson at ESPN has published a piece on the upcoming video game “MLB 2K11.” An incorporated interview introduces readers to Sean Bailey, MLB 2K11 game designer, and Roy Halladay, MLB 2K11 hood ornament.*

You have to be impressed by the marketing push 2K Sports has been mounting in advance of this game’s release. Consider for example the MLB 2K11 Wikipedia page, which in addition to being pretty much a 2K Sports press release, appears to actually be cut and pasted from a 2K Sports press release. Seriously. It’s written in the first person.

The above ESPN article does reveal one cool tidbit about the game though: improved pitcher worriedness animations.

“Now if you’re throwing a no-hitter, the pitcher is walking around the mound and he’s not looking at or talking to anyone. He just wants the ball back really fast. But if he’s struggling, he will walk around the back of the mound, and you can see the stress build up throughout the game. And these little things, while they don’t change the gameplay, they are the types of things that once they’re tuned right, they make the whole experience feel more real.”

Into the heads of pitchers is EXACTLY where these games need to go.

Here’s why. Baseball, by its questionably thought-out but now accepted rules, puts pitchers, who are normally crazy people, in charge of the game. As a result, baseball is at its best when the heat rises in the mound’s psychological crucible. Think of the moments: Jack Morris, powering through that Game 7, or Roy Halladay, somehow holding focus through a playoff no-hitter. But — Roger Clemens, throwing a bat at little Mikey Piazza, or Pedro Martinez, bodily evaporating on that same mound three years later in the ALCS. It’s like the Roman Colosseum, but the Christians are SPs and LOOGYs, and the lions are ball fours and Texas leaguers.

2K Sports should put more of that in the game.

* ACTUALLY, Mr. Halladay seems to have done a lot of work with the developers.

Mets Owners Facing Big, Big Lawsuit

Sad Mr. Met is sadly a useful graphic to have around.

The situation with the Mets is starting to look grim.

According to a lawsuit unsealed on Friday, the trustee representing the victims of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme is suing Mets owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon for one billion dollars. Being sued for $1 billion is almost always a bad thing. Where does this big, bad, billion-dollar number come from? Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Official: Tim Lincecum Hella Cool

This happened.

There are lists that all of us carry, in our hearts if not our heads, like our personal pantheons of favorite offspring or worst U.S. states or flat-out awesomest baseball players. Most times, there’s no need to spell them out.

But GQ, the magazine, is different from you and me. It’s a magazine, and it needs to publish stuff, so it publishes lists, like the February issue’s 25 Coolest Athletes of All Time. Tim Lincecum is on the list, and I am running — not walking — to say I’m on board with that. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy 50th, Strat-O-Matic

Strat-O-Matic Founder’s Edition box. Drool.

Thanks to this article in USA Today, I recently learned that 2011 is the 50th anniversary of Strat-O-Matic baseball. I also learned that Hal Richman, inventor of the game, located his motivation in a traumatic childhood:

“At the age of 6, I was told I would never make the majors. I couldn’t even make my high school basketball team that was winless. I loved sports, but I wasn’t that good. So I made my own game.”

Who tells a 6 year old they’ll never make the majors? Yikes.

Also, if you’re in New York on February 12th and have the time/inclination/self-assuredness to do so, you can celebrate Strat-O-Matic’s half-century of blissful distraction at a free party in midtown. It looks like you do need to register if you plan to attend. Wielder of 1,000 velvet pens Doug Glanville will be there!

Available for special preorder and pickup at the anniversary event is something called “Strat-O-Matic Baseball Founder’s Edition:”

“Strat-O-Matic Baseball Founder’s Edition is an exact replica of the first ever published, original Strat-O-Matic Baseball game that was originally produced in 1961. It contains all 80 player cards from the 1960 season, game parts and identically designed game box.”

I have never played Strat-O-Matic, but I’ve long wanted to. This Founder’s Edition set might be the perfect place to start.

Mariners Stress Eating

Not just pizza. “Apizza.”

Be honest — you probably don’t think of Seattle sports fans as “fortunate human beings.” Well, maybe that changes today, when you learn about the revamped food offerings at Safeco Field.

Read the rest of this entry »

Akron Makes, The World Takes

Some say the Red Sox had the biggest offseason in baseball. I say: Maybe. If you define “baseball” as “the Major Leagues” and “biggest offseason” as “biggest offseason on-field personnel improvement.” Loose those artificial constraints, however, and what flaps forth? but the majestic snow white ibis that has been the ballpark concessions-related offseason of the AA Akron Aeros.

What happened is that, at some point this December, the Aeros announced a new food option for 2011 home games: the “Three Dog Night.” This is a kielbasa with a bratwurst inside it. And there’s also a hot dog inside the bratwurst. Picture, courtesy of Ben’s Biz Blog:

In-progress and complete.

The Three Dog Night got press attention. In response the Aeros swore to keep debuting crazy foods every month until Opening Day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baseball Caps and Other Global Disasters

Commemorate the occasion.

Palash Ghosh of the International Business Times has a question for the world: Why does everyone wear baseball caps?

This seems like kind of a low-stakes query. I mean, hats are pretty harmless. Everyone might just stop wearing baseball caps tomorrow! That would solve the problem, whatever the problem is. Right?

“What began as a harmless and humble exercise in showing support for one’s favorite local baseball club has mushroomed into something so gargantuan and irreversible [emphasis added] that I fear baseball caps will never vanish from the sartorial landscape.”


While Mr. Ghosh’s tone is a little grumpier* than I can defend, I do sympathize with his perplexity. I wear baseball caps when I need protection from the sun. But lots of people (ok, dudes) wear caps EVERYWHERE. Like sit-down restaurant, wedding reception, college seminar everywhere.

*Maybe ironically?

In fact, The Main Reason I Like Baseball is that when I go to baseball games, everyone has a good reason to be wearing a baseball cap, so I don’t get all apoplectic over people inappropriately wearing baseball caps. Which happens without exception everywhere else I go.

But back to Mr. Ghosh, who’s the really crochety one — his article speculates a little on why there’s this excess of caps. It seems multinational corporate marketing machines and the inexorable disintegration of modern society are somehow implicated. In conclusion: This baseball cap thing is gargantuan. And irreversible.

The Giants Want to Share

A man who demands the spotlight.

Inexplicably, the San Francisco Giants have agreed to be the subject of a behind-the-scenes reality series that will air on Showtime next year. I feel bad for Giants fans. (Haven’t been able to say that for a few months!)

Life as a Major League Baseball team is pretty simple. The goal is to win the World Series. You face many challenges along the way, including keeping your clubhouse focused and productive. This is no small task — baseball players are famously delicate, like souffles or those flowers that start rotting if they’re two degrees warmer than they’re supposed to be.

Turning your season into a reality series seems like a distraction with no baseball benefit. Matt Cain seems to hope it’ll make him more famous:

“I think it will be great publicity for the team and the guys on the team… I think it could be a really good thing for San Francisco. Everybody knows the West Coast doesn’t get as much publicity as East Coast teams.”

West Coast teams obviously get less coverage nationally. For West Coast players, that likely means fewer endorsement offers and less leverage in free agency. So, with this show deal, the players get some fame, and the team and the players presumably get money. Giants fans get not much.

Showtime channel-receiving American households are about to learn a lot more about the Giants. We’ll see if they make San Francisco proud.

Sunday Night Baseball and Self Esteem

Saul Steinberg’s classic New Yorker cover.

Yesterday ESPN announced 11 games in their 2011 “Sunday Night Baseball” schedule, including all games through May. You can check the schedule out on Fanhouse.

Mariners fans have noticed that the Mariners aren’t on this list. Likewise frustrated are Angels fans and the entire AL Central.

On the other hand, the Phillies (two games in May), Yankees (two games against the Red Sox, plus one against the Rangers), Mets (two games), and Red Sox (two tilts with the Yankees, plus two more games) are pretty well represented.

Hang on… New York, Philadelphia, Boston… two are former US capitals… also, two are kinds of sushi rolls… also, they’re the three MLB cities geographically closest to Bristol, Connecticut, where ESPN is headquartered… also, Boston’s Secretary of State was named Philadelphia, and Philadelphia’s Secretary of State was named Boston… WAIT. This might sound crazy, but: could ESPN have an East Coast bias??!?

Ok, so ESPN favors certain East Coast teams. But I doubt it’s an East Coast bias so much as a money bias. Here’s another way of thinking about it: in my opinion, Sunday Night Baseball’s main value add is allowing people who moved away from where they grew up to see their hometown teams. From this (limited) perspective, should Sunday Night Baseball maybe focus on the cities that generate the most domestic emigrant fans? And who would ever move away from San Diego or Chicago? Those are great cities!

Maybe we could develop some kind of inverse Sunday Night Baseball/quality of life index. Just something to comfort the people who are hurt that ESPN is ignoring them. I worry about those people.

Make a Million Bucks, The Hard Way

This specific pile of money could be yours.

Remember how last year the company that made the baseball video game “MLB 2K10” gave $1,000,000 to the first guy to pitch a perfecto in the game? And how this generated publicity?

Well I guess it generated >=$1M worth of publicity, because 2K Sports is running basically the same promotion for this year’s “MLB 2K11.”

I might just feel this way because I’m the restless, maverick, pioneer-vagabond-trailblazer type, but wouldn’t it be cooler if the $1M accomplishment were switched up for 2011?

There must be hundreds of tough goals besides “perfect game” that could decide which unhealthily dedicated gamer gets a huge nonsensical windfall. For example, 2K Sports could give $1M to the first person to:

• Hit an inside-the-park home run with Pablo Sandoval
• Win the NL East in season mode using not-the-Phillies
• Pitch a perfect game with virtual Jim Joyce as part of the umpiring crew (snap!)
• Prevent Adrian Gonzalez from doubling off the virtual Green Monster for a whole game (good freahkin’ luck! Go Sox!)