In a baseball video game I’ve praised many times BUT NEVER GOTTEN A FREE COPY FOR MY EFFORTS, there are various historical players available. And you can put them on any team’s roster you want to.
So I did, and decided to have an All-Time Playoff Smackdown. All-Time being relative; there’s only a small number of historical greats to choose from. No Big Ed Delhanty, and no Ted Williams. Maybe the game company couldn’t get frozen head likeness rights.
There’s some players who have multiple versions of themselves. There’s Twins Torii Hunter, and Angels Torii Hunter. Red Sox Ruth, a great pitcher who can hit, and Yankees Ruth, a great hitter who doesn’t pitch anymore.
Usually, I only put one version of those players on the team they’re most famously associated with. I did help out some teams who are missing their greatest stars by giving them one version of a doubled-up legend.
Since the game has several Negro League players, I debated replacing all the A’s with a Negro Leagues superteam, because f**k John Fisher, but decided not to. I plan to reach the World Series here, and I don’t want to get there rooting against legends who got screwed by racism.
For the most part, I didn’t tweak any assigned player skill atrributes, yet there were some glaring goofs. Blylevn’s top pitch was NOT a slider; I made it a 12-6 curve. Killebrew was rated worse at hitting lefties than righties, that’s wrong. And Carew, who stole home multiple times, was rated poorly on stealing!
The Twins already ranked #7 overall with the additions of Blylevn, Carew, Hunter, Killebrew, Mauer, Morneau, and Joe Nathan (those are all the classic Twins available, except Chili Davis, and I put him elsewhere). Thereforethus, I let the Nationals have Walter Johnson. It didn’t boost them up to the top 12. (Because their current roster isn’t the best.)
Yes, I’m using the Manfred 12-team playoff format; it’s the only playoff format the game lets you use. So here’s the AL teams by seeding/rank: NY, HOU, MIN, TEX, BAL, BOS. The NL teams are ATL, PHI, LA, CHC, CIN, SF.
I’m using the unis and stadiums that fit the starting pitcher. It’s the historical uni that pitcher wore, in the home stadium he would have pitched in (or a close equivalent). The DH goes back to NL only; unfortunately, there’s no option to turn it off altogether when facing old-timey pitchers.
Wildcard Round, Game 1: Red Sox at Twins, Pedro Martinez and Bert. Metrodome.
This game featured the first tough roster call. Morneau’s obviously at first and Royce Lewis at third, so Killebrew is in left. Hunter in center. So, Kepler or Buxton in right? I went with Kepler, Buxton as a speed threat sub.
Martinez is tough as hell and frustrating to hit. Keep in mind, this pitching staff has Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, and young Ruth, but Pedro is still the ace. I screw up judging every pitch he throws, and I become annoyed. Yet even when Bert (me) misses with his curveballs, they can’t hit ‘em.
In a 0-0 7th-inning tie, Mauer knocks in the first run and advances Killebrew to third with no outs. A Hunter flyout wasn’t deep enough to send him. But it would have been deep enough to send Buxton, if he’d been the pinch-runner. That would have been the smart move. I blame Baldelli. Or Gardy.
1-0 in the ninth, do you close with Duran or Joe Nathan? It’s the Metrodome, so Nathan for sure. David Ortiz reminds me why the Twins wisely lost him for nothing by striking out to end the game. Nathan, sadly, does not blow his lips like an annoyed horse.
Game 2: Target Field. Lefty Grove and Pablo López. Current Twins unis and goofy old-timey Sox ones. Hey, the starting pitcher gets to choose, and Lefty would want it this way.
Did Grove throw 100? He does here, and mixes in a sloooow forkball, so he’s perfect through three innings.
Carew leads off the fourth with what should be a single, but the dips**t CF dives for it and it rolls to the wall for a triple. Polanco sac flies him home. That dips**t CF? Johnny Damon. This makes me happy.
López ends up with the better outing; 6.1 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 SO. Theilbar faces six Sox (they’re very lefty-heavy) and sets down five of them. Duran gets the rest.
Ortiz goes 0-4 with two Ks and two dribbled grounders to the pitcher. Release that bum!
In the wildcard round (all non-Twins games are simulated), Texas, the Dodgers, and the Reds are eliminated. I would have re-simulated it until the Dodgers beat the Giants to keep Koufax in the playoffs, but Koufax isn’t one of the classic players available. So, it’s on to...
ALDS Game 1: Bert and 1970s Astros ace J.R. RIchard. The Astrodome isn’t in the game as a historic stadium, so I’m going with Toronto’s SkyDome. It’s either that or Tropicana Field, which has a pool of manta rays in the outfield. SkyDome has the Canadian national anthem, so I pick that to piss off all the Texans in the CPU world.
Bert is... more hittable this time. After Mauer drives in two runs in the fourth, Bert promptly gives up two homers. One more by Yordan Alvarez in the 6th to make it 4-2. The Twins claw back on a Correa dinger and Harmon RBI to tie it... then Bert’s fourth and fifth moonshots make it 7-4.
Why leave him in so long? This time, I blame Tom Kelly. His ghost was pushing me to push Bert, Jack Morris-style. It didn’t work.
Think the Twins have a chance down 3 against Billy Wagner? Why would you think that? Your brain is broken. If you now think “Closing Time” is a good song, get an MRI immediately.
One thing I noticed in the wildcard round is there’s too many bench players. When your everyday lineup has five all-time Twins hitters plus Correa and Royce Lewis, you’re not going to do a lot of subbing. Willi Castro’s on the bench as a pinch-runner/defender, and Ryan Jeffers as backup catcher. Julien/Polanco and Buxton/Kepler are the platoons.
Alex Kirilloff is the final bench guy, but I think he’ll get bored down there in the dugout. Joining him doing crosswords will be Bailey Ober and Louis Varland, unless some game goes to a bazillion extra innings.
ALDS Game 2: López and Verlander. Minute Maid Park (it’ll always be Enron Field to me). Kepler gets the start over Buxton to break up the RH Hunter/Buxton/Correa trio batting 7-9. Yes, this is a lineup where Correa bats ninth. Playing with ringers is fun.
If HOF Blylevn got pounded yesterday, it’s future HOF Verlander’s turn today. And a future HOF’s former roommate Morneau provides the pounding; 3-4 with two dongs. (HOF Craig Biggio scores the only Astros run, off Varland; I forgot that young Biggio could really run fast.)
López is even better than last time: 6.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 8 S0. If there’s a Game 5, he’d be on regular rest. It might be him over Bert, as sacrilegious as that sounds.
ALDS Game 3: Chris Paddack and Roy Oswalt. Target Field. A lot of winter coats and wool caps. The game designers understand what temperature it is in Minneapolis in October; what they don’t realize is that we wear our fall coats then, we don’t wear the winter ones until later.
Not much to say about this game, except Oswalt is great and Paddack isn’t. On one swing, Harmon’s broken bat shard goes farther than the baseball does. Mauer absolutely loses a bat into the netting. The Twins have all of four hits until a garbage time 9th inning pointless rally.
Paddack is alright the first two innings, then gets blooped and blasted in the third/fourth. Ober comes in and is just blooped. The runs still count.
I’ll mention here that my controller is five years old, and the springs are a little broken inside. So getting the controller to work takes very subtle finger digiting. This was difficult as hell when I first shattered my arm in five places back in August. Now, thanks to Medicaid-funded therapy, it’s only moderately difficult. And I can open some jars.
One of the surgeons (there was a wrist guy, and a shoulder guy, I got TWO surgeons), told me “this is actually one case where we encourage kids to play video games, because it helps regain hand muscle movement.” An excuse to play a baseball video game? It’s therapeutic? YESSSS
So part of Paddack being lousy is attributable to my wonky digits. But also part of it is that he’s Not. Great. Which is why he started this game; I wanted a better option if Game 4 was do-or-die.
ALDS Game 4: Joe Ryan and Richard again, on short rest. Unfortunately, Ryan’s Grateful Dead shirts aren’t available.
I think he must have had one under his jersey, because Ryan was Truckin’ in this game. Remember how, in the real recent Game 4, Ryan was given one turn through the lineup, then yanked? Well, facing his first nine batters here, Ryan gets five strikeouts and four easy groundouts. He’s staying in. He finishes at 5.2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 SO.
Have a day, Harmon. 3-5 with a homer, 4 RBI (his 10th of the playoffs). Morneau doesn’t homer, but drives in his 11th. Richard gives up five runs overall.
It gets a little dicey in the seventh, after Brock Stewart hits a guy, Caleb Theilbar walks one and allows an infield hit, and this loads the bases with one out. A grand slam would tie it... but, we do have Joe Nathan. Nobody scores. The Twins maul Houston’s bullpen, and the final’s 11-1.
It’s back to Houston for Game 5: López and Verlander. López’s little energy bar thingy isn’t at 100%, but he’s killing it, and after a rest day everyone’s available in the bullpen. Besides, New York eliminated Baltimore, and I want a HOFer to open at Yankee Stadium.
To the Astros’ credit, they make López work hard. He’s gassed after 80 pitches in 4.2 innings, giving up a solo homer and several warning track flies. He leaves the last 13 outs for the bullpen...
...with the Twins up 9-1. Probably the Twins’ real-life rookies haven’t seen Verlander much, but I’ve been pushing buttons against him (in this game) since 2010, and unless he changes hands or goes submarine I’m very used to his style. He leaves after going down 5-0 in the fifth, and “relief pitcher” José Urquidy doesn’t get out of the inning.
Two homers in this game for Lewis, one each for Morneau and Kepler. Those guys are your First 7 Games mashing stars, while Hunter, Mauer and Correa have been spotty (except on defense, of course). Methinks they will be less spotty as we go. SSS and all that.
This article’s long enough! On to virtual New York, which is like real New York except you can have Babe Ruth without horses pooping next to Model Ts.
Until next time...