The best player in baseball is a 29 year old slugger patrolling left field for the Jefferson City Ragtime Nine. In seven glorious seasons he’s racked up Herculean statistics:
In 2013 he hit .338 and blasted a gaudy 62 homers and stole 73 bases. It’s the best season in league history. He was 26 years old. He’s won three MVP awards, is a five time All Star. He’s won two Gold Gloves. He is the absolute heart and soul of the Ragtime Nine, who have never felt the taste of second place in the National League Central, which is arguably the toughest division in the league. And yes, we wear the bow tie. You can do that sort of thing when you win.
His name is Kent Stover, and one month into the 2016 campaign he’s leading the charge yet again, hitting .400 and leading the NL in homers (8) and is third in stolen bases (13).
Yet chinks are showing in the armor of the Jefferson City Juggernaut. The team is aging. The fans, after seeing the playoffs every year have only one World Series title to show for it. The team is vastly over budget and many feel this season is the very last chance this core group has a legit chance to win it all.
Such is the drama in an Out of the Park Baseball fictional online league…
I have played the role of commissioner/owner of an Out of the Park Baseball online league since 2009 – though a couple of versions of the game; we port over the season each time a new version comes out. In fact, it’s the only way I play OOTP. Solo leagues just don’t do much for me anymore and if the league ever dissolved, my time with OOTP likely would, too. This is actually the second time I have commissioned a league – I did the same back with the classic OOTP 6 version from a few years ago.
It’s hard running these leagues. Well, not “hard” as much as it is tough to keep everyone together, find replacements as owners leave (and they always do), and keep running simulations every weekday. It takes up a huge chunk of time when you play commish.
But it’s worth it.
My father plays in the league, former GameShark writer Troy Goodfellow plays in it (his College Park Riots might be the worst team since the Seattle Pilots), Todd used to play in it until he quit in a huff (yes, a huff) in fact a lot of close friends play in the league—these are people I have known for years and years – especially my dad.
In all I run a 30 team fictional league – that’s fake players, fake teams, nothing “real” at al which is in my opinion by far the best way to enjoy a sports game.
When you start using real people you have an idea in your head (accurate or not) of how that player SHOULD play. Albert Pujols should be able to do *this* or Peyton Manning should be able to do *that*, but with a fictional league you don’t go into it with any preconceived notion of player ability. You see ratings, sure, but if it’s a fictional player you chalk it up to an off year – if a real player has an off year people are much quicker to assume the game engine is broken.
Plus, I enjoy creating my own personal sense of history and with a league like this, spanning several seasons with fictitious players.
It takes patience, though. One of the downsides in a fictional league is that you literally start from scratch. Who are these players? These teams? It’s all foreign.
However, after seven seasons we all know the league. Teams have developed strong rivalries; players jump ship via free agency to play against former teams – after you have spent the time to build that foundation there’s nothing quite like it.
When you combine that with the data dump that is baseball you have the makings of a great, great game. And while OOTP has its issues, it’s been a real cathartic experience playing in the league – when I’m stressed I can load it up and just look at stats, tweak my rotation, alter my lineup for the upcoming week’s sim. Of course it helps that I have been fortunate enough to win a lot of games.
But like I said…this season that could all change.
The past sim saw my 29 year old closer blow his arm out, again, shelving him for 9 months, effectively ending his run with Jefferson City. He’s a FA (free agent) next year and I can’t sign a guy coming off TWO elbow surgeries in a span of four years. Plus I am way over budget. My right fielder, an Australian named Russell Chivers, a potential Hall of Fame candidate, is now 36. He still has a decent bat but his ability in right field is about on par with Babe Ruth – after he’d been dead for 10 years. My #1 starter is a 34 year old ace that I have had since the league started (again seven seasons ago). We have a fair number of young players too, but the true core of this team is aging – fast. My farm system is fair, but keeping the team alive and replacing players with veterans has cost me a lot of young talent — talent that is now playing well …on other teams.
The 2016 campaign just started – we’re a mere 23 games into the season, sitting at 13-10, and already 3 games out of first. Uncharted territory.
Winning another division title is not going to be easy.
You can view the league here and I’ll be offering season updates as the weeks roll by.