Spreadsheet Baseball

A look at the OOTP Las Vegas 51s, the AAA farm team of the Blue Jays. June 2, 2012.

During the week, I gained a new addiction, and it is called Out Of The Park Baseball. More specifically, the 13th version of OOTP, as fans refer to it as.

This is not your father’s baseball video game, nor is it a PS3 or X-Box 360 game decided by good reflexes. Nor is it a game based on superior graphics. It is, basically, an interactive spreadsheet of baseball.

What can you do with it? It’d probably be better to describe what you can NOT do with it. You can pilot any or even all of the 30 MLB teams, or even pilot a minor league team, one of my favorite things to do.

The possible things to do doesn’t end there. It only begins there. You can pick any historical season and use that as a starting point. For instance, you could start with the New York Yankees in 1920 and pilot the guy who changed baseball forever in Babe Ruth. You could hold drafts and allow, say, Lou Gehrig, to wind up playing for another team, or not draft at all.

The OOTP staff always comes up with a new twist each version, and this year wasn’t any different. They came up with a feature called random debut. The program takes the 18,000 MLB players and randomizes when they begin. Carlos Pena could wind up playing in the early 20th century. Ty Cobb could play in the 1990’s. Anything was possible.

So the last few days, I’ve put OOTP 13 to the test. I became the GM of the New York Highlanders in a random debut universe. The Highlanders would eventually became the Yankees. My duties were simple: handling the draft, and occasionally looking for players that could be traded for, and letting the computer do to the rest.

Alex Cole in real life with the Cleveland Indians.

I stumbled upon a player named Alex Cole, who was a journeyman lead-off man for several teams in the 1990’s. He had blazing speed who could hit .300 or in that neighborhood, but that’s about all he could do. In the game I had starting in the 1900’s, he was with the New York Giants. Trading for him was my top priority.

Only one problem: the early 20th century had pitchers that could be very dominant, who could go 15 innings a start or so with ease if a game went extra innings. Relief pitchers were very rarely used, and were a waste if they randomly debut in this era. And so, the highly sought after Alex Cole stole about 40 bases for me, but only hit .255, nor did he improve the Highlanders win total with some poor defense, and in the dead ball era, even GOOD defensive players were bad. I was so miffed that I traded Cole away after one season.

But that’s the random nature of OOTP 13 for you. You can buy a MLB video game for $60 and get one season with fancy graphics, or get 141 seasons for $40 and get a lot more possibilities. For me, it was an easy choice.

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