“Nerd Baseball”: My Review of Out of the Park Baseball ’14

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My wife has long referred to my Out of the Park Baseball simulation gaming as my “Nerd Game”. That didn’t stop me from picking up a copy of OOTP 14 and building some of the best imaginary teams that life has to offer……wait a second.

The best part about OOTP is not actually in taking over a monster team and winning a title. It’s in building something. My favorite thing to do is take over a rebuild job, have it fall apart (it assuredly will), and then rebuild it again only to finally reach the top of the mountain.

In OOTP, you’re going to have teams that win 117 games and are perfect on paper. Then you lose in an NLDS to a Phillies team that had 87 regular season wins. You’ll encounter tough decisions that real life General Managers and Ownership Groups face every day in real life: do I keep Andrew McCutchen around by way of extension for another four or five years, or do I insert the 5-tool stud signed from Caracas named Sergio ‘Honest John’ Ybarra and let McCutchen go to another team because Ybarra is a cheaper, better option for the long-term health of my team.

Since I’m the sentimental type, I stuck with Cutch. I wanted to see him along the names of the other greats in Pirates statistical history like Willie Stargell and the great Roberto Clemente. If you have the time for it, this game tracks each franchise’s historical leaders in basically every category. As time goes on, you’ll see some kid you signed as a 16-year old out of a third world country become one of the greats of your franchise, if you’re lucky.

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The highest score I’ve ever achieved in a season’s work (I simulate every game – there’s no other way) was when I posted a season score of 135 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I won the World Series this year with the Buccos despite having a payroll that was a fraction of the size of the rest of the field. It’s just like real life.

On my Pirates team that won the series, things had to fall carefully into place. If I had a big injury to the rotation or to one of my stud players, there just wasn’t the quality depth there to absorb any big injuries. You get your one crack at a big-time free agent with an organization like the Pirates in OOTP, so you better hope it works out when you sign Clayton Kershaw to that nine-year deal in Free Agency. In my case, it did. As I mentioned I won the World Series and swept the loaded Detroit Tigers in the 2015 World Series. I won something I’ve never seen before, they call it “The Moneyball Award”.

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In another OOTP Franchise of mine, I have the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a four year span I’ve won 103, 99, 99, and 117 games with them. And my goodness it is sweet to be one of these teams in OOTP. It’s almost too easy. Except when it isn’t.

You’ve got the luxury to re-sign anyone you want and the tough decisions are few and far between. You’ll never lose any big-named star if you don’t want to (I assume as long as my teams keep winning) and any youngster that turns into a star will be rewarded with a big, fat contract that no one can match. The best part about being a big-market monster is you can prepare quality depth. I go out every year and bolster the bullpen by signing closer-types to $9 million dollar deals and then make them middle-relievers. I don’t give a shit that Papelbon or Huston Street want to close. Shut your mouth, take your dough, and give me the holds I pay you for in those late innings.

I also have a starting outfield of Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper. All three of them are signed to long-term contracts. Harper gets hurt every single year in every single franchise I start. So I went out and obtained two 4-star guys to be the bench outfielders, and they get a fair amount of playing time when Stanton or Harper go down with an injury (Puig is nearing ‘Iron Man’ status and never misses any time).

Each year with the Dodgers, any international free agent who enters the free agency pool I have first pickings of. See a 6 foot 7 pitcher you like that has good upside? I don’t give a shit that he’s 16. Outbid the Twins and give that kid a $10 million dollar bonus just because I like his nickname and his latin heritage. If it doesn’t work out, fuck it. I’m the Dodgers. I can buy my way out of anything.

In all those years of winning though; I only won a single Championship and only made the World Series that year. Every other year has ended in disappointment.

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The greatest disappointment was losing in the NLDS to the lowly Phillies, led by Dominic Brown and some catcher named Sebastian Valle. I was up on the Phillies two games to nothing, all I had to do was take one more game. This Dodgers team of 2017 was by far the finest I’ve ever built. I had a season winning percentage of .722 while the Phillies were a lowly .519 for the year. It didn’t matter because Tim Collins shut my high-paid bats down in a one-game take all game five in Los Angeles. I went home to rebuild the rotation, with an itchy trigger finger ready to send the overpaid likes of Zach Greinke and Taijuan Walker elsewhere.

I’ll be back – I’ve got a staff of Kershaw and four other of the top young arms in baseball. It’s going to be like if Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, and Jason Isringhausen had not blown out their arms for the Mets back in the 90’s. Mark my words, we will be back.

Along the path to glory and struggles, you’ll see some neat storylines develop. Legends like Albert Pujols chasing down milestones, guys like Mike Trout turn into players who make new records, and expansion teams like the Columbus (Ohio) Rockies turn into a league powerhouse. This game is good for at least one team owner to die per year and usually the more-lenient son takes over with a more laissez-faire approach then dad had. Guys you cut loose years before will come back to beat you in pivotal games – so make sure you don’t do business with a division rival.

There’s too much to OOTP to simply put in one post to review. There’s something for every die-hard baseball fan to enjoy, and the most enjoyment comes from the game’s small intricacies. If you love prospect management, you’ll love this game’s building of the various team farm systems and the league prospect ranking features. The teams you go up against are very smart, year after year. They field a lineup that is competitive and makes sense.

Every once in a while, you’ll build something really special. And you’ll win a year ahead of schedule. All of the things will line up just perfectly for you. Kind of like it did for my 2015 Pirates.

 

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