Put me in Coach.. I’m ready to play, today..

The folks over at OOTP managed to finagle me a key for Out of the Park Baseball 18, which officially comes out next week on Steam and through eLicense, and despite the fact that there’s still snow and ice on the ground, it feels warmer. Let’s play two (seasons).


Just looking over the list of new features, and I think I said this before, but.. every year I say “this has to be the “ultimate” version. I mean, what else can they add to make the baseball universe more real?”. Last year it was the adding of comprehensive minor league history in the game, so not only could you play Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Johnny Bench and Ted Williams and try to recreate their history, but there was one hundred thousand minor league players throughout history that in many cases, went through the “woulda coulda shoulda”, that they were just ONE big break away from playing in the big leagues. Guys like Joe Bauman, who in 1954 hit 72 home runs in the low minors, a record that lasted until 2001, when Barry Bonds hit hit 73. Some of them may just get their big break in your universe.

So, what new frontiers are there for Out of the Park Baseball? Well, for starters, they’ve managed to connect another part of baseball history, in adding the Negro Leagues. Before Jackie Robinson broke the color line when he signed in 1946 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, many of the best players of the era never got a chance to show their skills in Major League Baseball because of the color of their skin.  Players like Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige played all or most of their careers in the Negro Leagues. With the addition of the leagues to the game (It will be shipping with three of the seven major Negro Leagues, and more will be coming post release), you can play out a more realistic history, and even see what would have happened if the color barrier for players had fallen in the 1930’s or earlier. They also have Challenge Mode, where you can take a team through a challenge and rank yourself against other players, similar to the modes set up in Football Manager.

And speaking of FM, one of the things that interests me from a fantasy baseball standpoint is OOTP adding FM style promotion and relegation to the game. In modern baseball, roughly half the teams are pretty much out of it halfway through the year, and while people will still watch their local teams if they’re a dedicated fan, a lot of the games don’t really have much meaning in August or September. With performance based promotion and relegation, top teams will have it all to play for at the end of the season, while lower teams will be desperately trying to scurry away from that trapdoor. Imagine if the Minnesota Twins (59-103 last year) had to play the next year in AAA baseball. It’s a powerful disincentive to avoid tanking.  It also provides an interesting side efffect to long term decisions.. do you trade that stud in your minors for a more immediate player who can move your team up a level (with the extra money etcetera), and what happens when a top team bottoms out? The game ships with a quickstart 4 league setup (24 teams in each league, where the top two teams from each league go up a level, and the bottom two teams go down a level), but you can set it up however you wish.

So, despite the fact the temperature outside won’t get above freezing today, and I had to spend fifteen minutes chasing a dog through ice-packed snow, I feel the warm summer breeze on a late July sultry evening already. I’m trying out the new OOTP, and baseball is here. I’ll have a fuller review up before the game goes live, but right now, I gotta see what I can do to improve my team….