Out of the Park Baseball: A Review of an Out of this World Baseball Simulation

At Diamond Hoggers, we hope to attract only the most hardcore baseball fans as readers. Let’s face it, if you don’t have bleacher bum in your blood, if you don’t love the smell of pine tar or wouldn’t go see two last place teams play in the dog days of August while sitting in the nosebleeds of the park; you probably don’t stick around here long. My one-liners aren’t that good.

This post will be fore the die-hard fans. If you think you’re that, read onward.

I saw Deadspin’s review of Out of the Park Baseball yesterday. I admit that prior to reading that post I didn’t give much consideration e-mails that I got from guys promoting and talking about the game. After I read the review of what OOTP actually was, I decided that yesterday was the day it was going to enter my life for better or worse.

I went home last night and I downloaded OOTP 13. I can say a few things with much confidence after doing this:

  • It’s probably a good thing I did not discover OOTP when I was in my adolescent, high-school, or college years. I would have not have been an athlete. I would not have met any women. I probably wouldn’t have any friends. The game has a pain-staking resemblance to Hardball 5, which in my opinion was the first true baseball simulation on the market. Hardball was on the PC, and I spent hours back in the computer room at my parents house building what I considered to be ‘dream teams’. I skipped homecoming dances. I told my friends that I had things to do while skipping backyard baseball games. I played hardball into the wee hours of the moonlight. This game is Hardball on steroids.
  • My marriage might not survive it. If my wife was pissed because I didn’t do enough laundry, bed-making, and household chores before, she’s really going to be pissed now. As she walked through the door last night I got the mid-June news that Drew Storen was out 13-14 months. I didn’t hear a word she said. “What?”. She replied for what she said was the third time she had asked me to go in the guest room and make the bed. It’s my last chance. Yeah, whatever honey. Drew Storen is out for more than a year but I’ll get right on it.
  • I don’t know whether to take my time with this game or speed up. All I know is that somehow I found my way to it and I can’t get enough of it. It is the baseball lover’s simulation. It is our Star Trek.

When you begin your quest of OOTP, you’ve got the option of full control of any Major League Baseball franchise. And when I say ‘control’, understand that this game is all about it. It’s about immersion and the sense of being in a league that is existing and every-changing around you. It’s everything that Madden lacks and everything that MLB the Show has gotten so close to uncovering with pixelated characters playing out the drama scenes.

I decided to become the General Manager of the Washington Nationals. I love their farm system and prospects, along with the mix of veterans they offer. Plus they come equipped with the two young crown jewels in all of baseball, so that helps. We’ve covered it all a few times before. I decide I want to leave on the option that I can get fired as GM if I’m not doing a good enough job.

I throw up on twitter that I’m going to give OOTP a try. Within minutes I get a response from someone who has tried it.

Just what I’m looking for. One of my complaints about a simulation is that it ends after a given amount of time. If I want to play 100 seasons, I should be able to. If I want to go through 200 years of baseball, when they’re wearing robots as necklaces, I want the option to do so. Who are you (Madden developers, cough) to tell me that I have to shut down my franchise after 30 years?

I get things set up, and I call up the 19-year old kid from my AAA team in Syracuse. There’s everything you would want on every player. You’re not going to have time to read it and digest it all, so pick a few guys on your team that you want to know about and get into their profile. Learn what the scout says about them. Harper for instance has developed nice stats but my scout says his ceiling is out of this world. Also in this player profile all stats are kept lifetime, including what he does against every pitcher in the simulation. Wow. It’s just like Baseball-Reference if you’ve spent any decent amount of time there (I have).

I am still skeptical about how cool this really is. It certainly seems cool, but it’s not a joystick skill game. It’s not a ‘the more I play it the better I get game’. After talking myself out of calling up Anthony Rendon, I simulate the opener and lose it at Wrigley. The next day, a win and back to 1-1 on the season. I start tinkering lineups a little and once they’re to my liking I sim through about 10 days of games. I’m around 13-6, and I’m in first place in the division ahead of the Braves.

All the while I’m getting e-mails that I choose to sometimes read in a timely fashion, other times I check it a week later like important people do. I rarely respond. Being a millionaire with lots of executive power is great.

Suddenly I get one that I know matters. It’s from the Nationals owner, aka my boss Ted Lerner. He says that he’s determined the organization’s goal at the Major League level this season is to finish .500, kapeesh? Sounds real good Ted, but we’ve got our sites set on a higher prize than .500, so go play some golf and let your GM handle the heat in the kitchen.

Things are going smoothly. Every time Bryce Harper hits a bomb, I check out the detailed game log and see how far it went. He hits a few that are 400-plus. The game always tells whether it was a deep blast, a line drive and to what field it went. One is of the 431-foot variety and it was a 2-out, 2-run shot off Huston Street that tied the game against San Diego and sent the game into extra innings. My fellas prevailed in 13 and kept a stranglehold on first-place. I am pleased and suddenly I imagine me sneaking down into the clubhouse for just a few beers with the fellas to celebrate the big win. I hope they act like I’m one of the boys. I hope they know they can be themselves. I hope that….. my dog needs to pee and my wife asks me to take him outside. I save the game and decide I’ll continue later on my quest for a pennant. It is around this time that Stephen Strasburg gets hurt and will make the first of two DL-stints in the season. This one is for 3 to 4 weeks.

I’m a little frustrated. I feel like it’s unfair. Everything was going so well. I think about what I would do to counteract this if I were indeed Mike Rizzo, Nats GM.

Aftermy wife goes to bed, I decide I’m going to throw in some wintergreen Copenhagen and I’m going to battle my way out of this. I get Walt Jocketty on the horn and I ask him his thoughts on trading Homer Bailey. I’ve always liked Homer Bailey. He needs a change of scenery and who the Hell could succeed in that big ass park in Cincinnati anyways. Since ‘Jock’ and I are old pals, he takes a few middling prospects for Bailey. I’m shocked, and immediately insert him into my starting rotation.

Things slide along nicely into late June and the team is just a game or two out of first-place all the while. Bryce Harper is really tearing up the league. I mandate that he slides into the three spot in the lineup and have Ryan Zimmerman hit fourth. These guys are excelling, and scoring a ton of runs. Ian Desmond is the anchor that is holding us down. Somehow, I’ve lost track and he’s hitting just .170, riding the damn interstate. It’s time to do something with him. I like him a lot, and as the season progresses I refuse to trade him despite about a dozen offers from rival GM’s. But I can’t play him anymore. He’s hurting us. He’s hurting me.

I peruse the trading block and start thinking about shortstops. I see that there are a few teams looking to ‘win now’ and a few in ‘rebuilding mode’. I know what I’m looking to do. I get the Phillies GM Rueben Amaro on the horn and ask what it would take to get Jimmy Rollins. I don’t like doing business within the division, but I want to dress Jimmy up in Nationals garb. Amaro tells me he’ll get back to me, and I throw in $100,000 cash considerations to sweeten his appetite to deal.

Around the time that he gets back to me, we’re needing to leap frog two teams. The Marlins have climbed back in things heavily on the bat of one Giancarlo Stanton. Amaro says he’ll do the deal, but only if I include Ross Detwiler. Rats. I didn’t want to do that, but I know that I’ll roll the dice because I like to gamble. I send the cash, four other nice players, and Detwiler to Philadephia and I get back the aging shortstop. Boston must have heard we were looking to deal, because suddenly they want to send me Carl Crawford.

Now wait a second, why would you want to do that, Boston? I look at Crawford’s stats. Everything checks out okay. They must know something we don’t, but you know what? Sign the guy up. I make the trade with Boston for surprisingly little at the Major league level and begin to wonder have I mortgaged my future to win right now. I realize that I better win right now, and suddenly the game has got me by the nads. I want to win, badly. I need to go to bed but with my dog’s head asleep now in my lap, it’s just me and the rest of the National league in a good old fashioned baseball race.

The Zimmerman’s (Ryan and Jordan) emerge as All-Stars, along with Wilson Ramos who has shown good power in the lower half of the order. I go on an 8-1 run with my newly infused players at the top of the lineup, and I get a message that says the fan base has been energized by my acquisitions. Life is good. Strasburg is back healthy. I’m coasting in first. Bryce Harper catches fire, and goes on a power surge. He hits his third and fourth long balls of the year off Brandon Beachy. I sweep Atlanta. I’m not sure I’ll ever lose again. I am the smartest GM; no wait, I am the smartest man alive. And I’ve done it all before the midnight Sportscenter even airs.

Trouble hits. In fact that would turn out to be the high point of the season, because the Baseball Gods that I so very much believe in began to pick off members of my squad one by one. I’d already told you about Storen. He might never be the same again. Strasburg goes down again for a month. Then Craig Stammen frays his ulnar collateral ligament! He’s out eight months. The trade deadline has passed. There’s no help on the way. I am feeling helpless as I start to fall down in the standings. There’s nothing I can do but run out there the guys I have in my clubhouse, like lambs to slaughter.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper is raking. He’s developed some insane power in the three spot and leads the team in home runs and RBI. He’s hitting between .292 and .298 depending upon how many hits he gets each night. He’s on pace for 29 long ones and 82 RBI. What a warrior. I notice that Edwin Jackson, Gio Gonzalez, and my bread and butter Zimmerman are throwing an alarming amount of innings and pitches. Bailey too, when he’s good enough to go that long. I need to have a talking to with Davey Johnson about doing that, as soon as I figure out how to do that.

Just then is when the shit hits the fan. Gio Gonzalez is hurt, and there won’t be any news on it for a few days. A few long days pass, seeming all the longer (it was like 30 seconds honestly) because each day’s result was a loss. Gio is out 14 months. Even though Strasburg is about to come back off the DL, I know that the ride may be over. I’m just hoping for a .500 finish and to avoid any rough conversations with Mr. Lerner, my boss at year’s end.

Bryce Harper just keeps mashing. I might ruin a pitching staff, and deplete a farm system, but I know a hitter when I see one. In fact, all of my draft picks are getting favorable treatment. I’m letting them sink or swim in AA and my first-round pick is actually getting a cup of coffee with the big league club. He’s a big 6 foot 5 first baseman, and I have been playing him some in left field. He’s raking at a .400 clip when he too goes down for several weeks.

The damning blow comes a few days into September. Bryce Harper gets injured, and he’s out 4 to 5 weeks. That’s the season unless we make the NLCS, and we’re 5 and 1/2 games out. Everything fades and we finish out the season playing out the string, throwing Tom Gorzellany every fifth day. I even called up Zach Duke to pitch.

The season ends with the Cardinals defeating the Rangers in six games to win the title. We win on the last day of the season in early October and call it a year. I was happy about that. It was important to me that we go out on a high note.

Some interesting notes that I saw:

-Billy Butler won the batting title.

-Stanton hit 44 HR to lead MLB. Miguel Cabrera had around 38 to lead the AL.

-Harper finished with 26, 78, and .294 but didn’t win the NL Rookie of the Year. That’s because with more pedestrian numbers, Yonder Alonso won it.

I’ll be firing it up for season two sometime soon. I have an off-season I need to get through and on some Saturday when I’ve got nothing better to do (like every Saturday) I’ll get to the arbitration hearings and such and deal with things that need dealt with.

This game is absolutely awesome, and if you’re a die hard baseball fan that likes economics, management, and wants the closest thing to actually sitting in the GM’s seat, you should give it a try.