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Classic player video game ULTIMATE PLAYOFF SHOWDOWN (vol. 2)

Oh yeah, I'm continuing this article series. You don't like it? Go click ads!

Yankees Derek Jeter was safe at home as Twins catcher Joe Mauer dove for the tag in 5th inning action, 8/20/2011.] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune.
There were other pictures (like Killebrew on an All-Star photo with Mantle) featuring players from both teams, but this had the most Visual Drama. (Also, WTF kind of slide is that, Jeter?)
Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune

To recap vol. 1:

A widely-popular (for some people) baseball video game has about 200 historic players you can put on any modern team's "real" roster.

I put most of them on most modern rosters, trimmed those rosters down to 26 guys, and started a 12-team playoff using the current postseason format, with the 12 teams determined/seeded by how the CPU ranked them.

Your Twins, ranked #3 in the AL, defeated #6 Boston and #2 Houston, and are now up against... who else? The Yanquis, of course.

ALCS Game 1: Gerrit Cole and Blylevn. New Yankee Stadium. Among our classic Yankees are some guys who had pretty awful experiences. Mickey Mantle’s dad was an abusive alcoholic. Babe Ruth was sent to reform school at age seven because his parents couldn’t afford to keep him. Lou Gehrig got f*****g ALS.

Oh, and Alex Rodriguez bought the Timberwolves, with the sale going final this year, now that the Wolves are really super-good. So, not ALL the Yankees had terrible life experiences. Unless you count dating Madonna.

(It was thought, by some, that A-Rod bought the Timberwolves in order to move them, since he has no Minnesota ties. This may be true. If so, he’s gonna have to wait awhile, as the TWolves lease at Target Center lasts through 2035, and precedent under a Minnesota court ruling would make that lease a hard one to break.)

So, yeah, let’s beat the Yanquis. Who don’t have A-Rod, he’s not in the game. Their ringers are the sad stories mentioned above, plus Jeter, Posada, Giambi (on the bench), Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and Rivera.

Bert reverts to his spectacular first round form: 8.2 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 11 SO, 1 R. That one run was a nuclear blast from Ruth in the 9th — I kinda knew it was coming, as he’d fouled off the previous pitch at about an infinite exit velocity.

The Yanks’ biggest threat comes in the 4th, down 4-0. No-hit through three innings, they get Jeter to third and Ruth on first with one out; Mantle grounds into a slick 3-6-3 to end it.

The Carew/Julien/Lewis top of the order jumps on Cole early, and the fans (quite believably) boo. They (less believably) don’t boo when the Twins add on in the fourth, courtesy of a stupid attempt at a DP by D.J. LeMaheiu that gets nobody out, then a weak grounder from Morneau that scores two. (Really, not Cole’s fault, those things.)

Buxton pinch-hits for Julien against lefty Carlos Rodon in the seventh, and makes the game a cinch with a two-run dong. (He stays in left, and Killebrew goes to third; I had Lewis DH for this reason.) Really weirdly, the Yankees CPU skipper brings in Rivera to pitch the 9th (down 6-0!) and leaves down 9-0, thanks to a Moneau dinger.

I can’t credit my fingers for blasting Rivera; I simulated the Twins’ at-bats after Bux gave them the 6-0 lead. But I did keep doing the pitching to see if Bert could get a shutout. Not quite! Damn you, John Goodman. (One of my favorite actors, but not in “King Ralph.”)

ALCS Game 2: Whitey Ford and Joe Ryan. “Old” (aka 2008) Yankee Stadium. Polanco and Buxton both get starts here, replacing Julien and Kepler. On the Yanqui side, you have the reunion of Mantle and Ford, who were both in a 1984 TV episode titled “Second Base Steele.” Sample dialogue:

Remington Steele: I may not have played, Ms. Holt, but I am a keen observer of your national past time.

Ralph Kelsey: So, you’ll take the case?

Laura Holt: I’m sure Mr. Steele will play ball, won’t you, sir?

Remington Steele: Certainly. When do we kick off?

1980S TV IDEA OF A FUNNY JOKE, RIGHT THERE

So far, in these playoffs, every classic pitcher I’ve faced has a 99-ish fastball; is that quite realistic? Wasn’t Nolan Ryan considered unusual for having that speed?

Whitey Ford is more believable; he’s 89-90. But the Twins don’t make good contact off him. Their first run is a bloop Polanco single which plates Carew (who stole second), and that’s not until the sixth inning. Later, Carew would score again on a wild pitch from Clay Remington Sherlock Holmes.

Ryan goes even “Furthur” than his last game; 6.0 IP, 3 H, 6 SO, 0 BB, 0 R. New York almost gets a run on a Jeter flyout to center, but Torii nails Posada at the plate. Mauer can be heard after the tag saying “I would have scored there, lazy Posada.” (Not really, or if he does, it’s inaudible.)

Thielbar, Jax and Duran do the pen duties, Caleb for five outs. The others should be fresh for the middle three games in Minnesota, and only one starter will be either Paddack or Ober. I like these odds.

The NL teams remaining, BTW, are Philadelphia and Chicago. So the Twins are guaranteed a polite, sober, friendly crowd no matter what away games they play.

Alex Kirilloff, Willi Castro, and Ryan Jeffers have almost finished reading the complete works of Shakespeare, aloud.

ALCS Game 3: López and Nestor Cortes. Target Field. It is now, presumably, about 40 degrees in Minneapolis, thereby not cold enough for weird sports fans to paint their bare chests in team colors. (I wonder if EA Sports puts that nipply detail in Madden for Arrowhead Stadium or Lambeau?)

What did I say about liking the odds? I don’t, anymore. The Yanquis get López’s pitch count up to 92 in five innings (7 H, 8 SO, 1 BB, 2 R) and that means using a lot of bullpenners. Brock Stewart and Jovani Moran are fine, but Jax, USAF, watches several balls as off they go into the wild blue yonder, with a solo Mantle dong to tie it and sac fly from Posada to give NY the lead. Duran cleans up his mess. Bad Captain Jax! Fie on you! It’s not my fingers’ fault!

My actual non-simmed game play against Very Nice Human I Respect In Life But Hate The Twins Facing In Baseball, Rivera, is feeble. Three infield pop-ups. The Twins did have a chance at tying it against Gossage earlier, but hit baseballs to the wrong spots, the ones fielders were at.

I had to use Nathan to keep it a one-run deficit in the 9th, so that means only Thielbar and Varland will be fresh for the next game. That’s not what you want.

I had a tough time against Cortes’s slider, and kept pulling it foul. Byron and Harmon both get dingers off it that are also pulled, yet stayed fair. Barely.

Side question: WHY did Populous/HOK design left field to have a big sandstone wall which almost reaches the foul pole, but has that annoying narrow gap between the wall and the pole? Why not just extend the wall a little bit so that any ball hitting the wall is foul, and put the pole on top of the wall? Would it have compromised structural integrity? Would there have been a disaster involving the Budweiser Roof Deck collapsing, and humans drinking terrible beer falling to their doom? Why are foul poles in fair territory anyways? Do we just like the “clang” sound? (I’ll admit, it was very cool when Jim Thome clanged one off the RF flagpole in 2010.)

ALDS Game 4: Paddack and Cole. Those “Twin Cities” uniforms that look like Saints ones. I’m planning on bringing in Ober if Paddack gets into trouble, leaving Bert, Ryan and López available for games 5-7.

It works! Kinda! Paddack goes 4 innings, and just gives up a solo homer to Gehrig. He’s hit pretty hard, though; he benefits from some lucky BAbipping and a spectacular catch by Hunter. Also, Gehrig gets caught stealing by Mauer. (A weird CPU decision, as Gehrig did have 102 steals in his career... and was caught 102 times.)

The Twins tee off on Cole again, with two homers by Lewis (he’s ON FIRE!) and one by Carew (who had 10 fewer homers than Gehrig had steals). A Mauer sac fly makes it 5-1 in the fifth.

Then the nervous part starts. Ober walks Mantle and Judge makes it haunt with a dong. Bailey’s scuffling, and I’m short on relievers. Use Varland? Against the Yanquis? I have to bring in a tired Jax to face a bunch of righties.

And, does Capt. Jax come through! He gets five guys with a “gassed” energy bar. Thielbar goes until he gives up a one-out single to Ruth in the 9th.

This leaves Duran, also used last night, to face Mantle and Judge. With a guy on first, and a two-run lead. What’s worse, Judge singles. This brings up new Yankee Juan Soto (who only had 35 dingers and a .930 OPS last year). But Soto GIDPs! Victory is ours! The “we won” music plays!

(It’s U2’s “Beautiful Day” for wins at Target Field, BTW. You can put music cues in this game. And that’s what the Twins’ music director in Target Field’s first season used. The guy was eventually replaced, but he introduced me to The Baseball Project, for which I’ll always be grateful.)

I really did not want a tied series. Now, the Twins just need to win one of three. Yeah, the bullpen is even more toast, now. But we only need one win. It’s possible, right?

ALCS Game 5: Bert and Domingo German (his first appearance in the whole playoffs so far). Metrodome. 1987 unis. But the 1970s “TC” hats, not the 1987 “M” ones (whose only virtue is looking like the astrological symbol for Scorpio, which is my birthday).

Bert threw 120ish pitches last time, so he’s not completely rested yet. Jeter leads the game off with a double. He’s still on second with two outs, when Blylevn bounces a curveball in the dirt. Mauer nails Jeter trying to reach third. Threat ovah, baby.

After that, the Highlanders don’t get much going on Bert. He has five strikeouts his first time through the order (Mantle does foul a long ball off the milk carton.)

Blylevn is less strikey-outy after that, with only two more in four more innings. But the defense comes through, Mauer involved again. Judge is on first when Soto knocks one off the left-field stretchy-fence, and we’re scoring it 7-6-2 as Correa makes the perfect throw to barely get Judge at home.

Meanwhile, the Twins have a helluva time getting anything off German at all. On their second trip through, they start hitting him pretty hard, but not quite hard enough, or in rockets right at guys. Their first run comes with two outs in the 4th, when German plunks Lewis, Morneau singles him to second, and Killebrew loops a duck fart to bring him home. Then Mauer belts a liner 100 MPH... right to second. 1-0. Where it stays for awhile.

Remember that All-Star game where Hunter robbed Barry Bonds of a home run? Mantle’s ghost does. He climbs up that fabric wall in center to steal one from Torii. Still 1-0. (Out of a 1-100 scale, the game has Mantle at an 86 defense rating, so he’s darn good.)

With a one-run lead in the eighth, is Brock Stewart your first choice? No, obviously not, but it’s him, Moran, Varland, and Nathan available. Everyone else is used up. I’ll need Varland if the game goes into extras, and Nathan can’t pitch two innings, he’s not 100%.

Stewart it is. And he gets through it. A leadoff single to Posada followed by two harmless flies. The computer says “Manager’s Tip: Pitcher Getting Tired.” (And I thought I was the manager!) Jeter smashes one to short, Correa backhands it, and guns it to first for the out.

Ninth inning. Still 1-0. Do I replace Killebrew in left? I do, with Buxton, trusting Nathan to shut things down.

So of course, it doesn’t work. After groundouts from Gehrig and Ruth, Mantle gets an infield hit. Then f*****g steals second. And Judge cracks a single to deep center. Hunter’s throw is just late. Tie game. The bullpen is gassed. And Killebrew’s out of the lineup.

Isn’t it ironic, the Yanquis bring in lefty Carlos Rodon to face Julien leading off. I could have moved Killebrew to third for my defensive sub. Polanco provides the PH and is out on a lazy fly.

But Lewis singles! And he’s in motion on a Morneau single, so that’s runners on first and third! Buxton’s now batting in Harmon’s spot, and he’s the hardest Twin to double up!

He hits a very shallow fly to Mantle. Lewis tags up and goes. Mantle’s throw is perfect... and a split-second late! The Twins are headed to the World Series!

(And really, New York CPU manager, you should have gone with Rivera.)

Series MVP? Bert’s 15.2 innings with one run scored were huge, but I have to say Lewis for winning Game 5 with singles and speed. Because Twins fans can’t have nice things, he’ll certainly have his career derailed by injuries or a neverending sophomore slump or catching aftosa from a swamp gator. In this game, right now, he’s king of the world.

On to the World Series! And another 2000+ words, unless I get bored by this! We'll see!