If there’s one sport out there accessible to the gaming crowd, I believe it’s baseball. Baseball has everything gamers want; insane eccentricities, naturally occurring pauses, one-on-one interaction, big stars, and more. To that end, if there are any gamers out there trying to get into baseball and wondering which team to support, I’ve created a handy guide for such an endeavour. Being a gamer and a baseball fan myself, I’ve tried to align this to existing gamer tendencies. I’ll lay out a brief background and a few facts about each team, then tell you what kind of gamer they’ll appeal to, and give a few examples of what the good and bad of following a team will feel like playing. I hope you enjoy it!
I’ll be going division by division daily. I’ll admit that this was somewhat inspired by Joe Posnanski’s excellent “How to Pick a Premier League Club” which you can find here. Next up: The American League Central, in alphabetical order.
Location: Cleveland, OH
Colors: Red, White, and Blue
Background: When you think of the Indians you may think of two things: A dominant team from the late 90’s, or a plucky fun-loving team from the movie Major League. Both descriptions are relevant to the current ballclub. The Indians are generally regarded as a well run organization, but they’ve only got three playoff appearances since the turn of the millennium. Gone are the late 90’s days when they made the World Series twice in three years, anchored by Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and David Justice. That said, they’re on the upswing. Last year they won 95 games after making the playoffs in 2013, and manager Terry Francona seems to know how to get the best out of his team. Michael Brantley had a huge breakout season, and Corey Kluber came out of nowhere to win the AL Cy Young award. They’ve still got plenty in the farm, too with Trevor Bauer and Francisco Lindor. The Indians are a smart organization willing to re-examine themselves to find out a winning formula, and they’ve got a bright future.
When it comes to the gamer tropes, you’d probably enjoy the Indians if you’re a really strategic thinker that cares about playing smart. Maybe you’re a competitive RTS gamer that does their research in order to show up to LAN parties prepared, and you read guides on how to achieve that. When things don’t work out, you don’t get salty, you re-evaluate why you lost. You figure it out, and you fix the problem. When you come back, you know what’s coming, and you’re ready with the counter strategy. Your wins are no flash in the pan; you savor the knowledge that you outplayed your opponent. If this sounds like you, maybe take the Tribe for a spin, and see if it fits your competitive gamer attitude. An attitude like this can be bad though; you may feel like your research is in vain and you’re losing to a lot of RNG, or that you’re losing to Pay2Win players. If you can overcome that, though, it can be truly awesome.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Starcraft, Defense of the Ancients
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Hearthstone: Goblin vs. Gnomes, World of Tanks
Location: Kansas City, MO
Colors: Blue and White
Background: The Royals took their giant leap forward last year. After nearly 30 years of playoff drought, they put it all together for a big run at the end of last year, and kept their hot streak all the way until the last game of the World Series, when they were shut down by arguably the greatest postseason performance ever. They did it old school; lots of designed plays, speed up and down the lineup, and great defense. They had big years from Alex Gordon and James Shields, and had arguably the most dominant bullpen in the history of the game. That said, it was a long time coming. The once proud Royals franchise who were a dominant force in the late 70’s and early 80’s up until last year were a joke. They were always in the cellar, and Royals fans were constantly wondering when all these amazing prospects would be come real stars. Though it finally happened to some extent last year, it’s been a long road. Royals fans take pride in their perseverance as they should, but this is not a team for the casual fan. These fans are used to the long road, and enjoy everything along the way, even if it is frustrating.
From the gaming perspective, the Royals will appeal to the Indie game fan. Perhaps for you, gaming is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life. You love watching Kickstarter, and contributing to the development of games you care about. You read development blogs, and you write bugs when you Beta Test. You sound your opinion, and maybe you’re even a Community Moderator for the message boards of your favorite game. When the game you follow really hits its potential, that’s huge for you. You feel like you’ve contributed, and you pour your soul into the game and reap the rewards. If you’re this type of gamer, the Indie Lifer, then the Royals are your team.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Super Meat Boy, Kerbal Space Program
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Fez, Ouya
Location: Detroit, MI
Colors: Blue, Orange, and White
Background: The terrors of the American League Central, the Tigers, have won their division the last four seasons. The Tigers were once renowned for being a truly awful team, with a 43 win season in 2003, but since 2006 have been generally an above average team with serious star power. The Tigers are known for being somewhat of a “Stars and Scrubs” roster, to use a common term. This means that they’ve got some MVP caliber players, but they’ve always got serious flaws. These flaws usually take the form of a shaky bullpen, bad defense, or a poor bottom of the order. What they lack there, though, they make up for in overwhelming peak. Their star player, Miguel Cabrera, has won the MVP twice and finished top ten in voting six other times. They’ve had excellent starting pitching, highlighted by names like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, each of whom have won Cy Young awards. That said, the team is aging and the holes are getting bigger. Cabrera is slowing down, particularly in the field. Verlander is not the ace he once was, and the Tigers lost Scherzer to free agency. They’re still expected to be good, but the window is closing, and the team has a few albatross contracts that threaten to hamstring their payroll in the years to come. In a suddenly very competitive AL Central, 2015 is a very important year to determine the franchise’s future.
As gamers, we can take the Stars and Scrubs trope, and apply it here too. Sometimes we play a game that we feel is seriously excellent, even if we can recognize obvious flaws in the overall product. We’re OK with that, though. If the game as a whole is fun and fulfilling, we can overlook the frustrating parts or just plain ignore them. We’ve learned how to not get frustrated by the annoying things and just enjoy the excellent product in front of us. We want the good parts to be really, really good, and we are willing to accept that sometimes that comes with a prize. Give us something truly memorable and we’ll forgive a lack of polish.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Dead Island, NCAA Football 2015
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Elder Scrolls Online, King of Fighters 12
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Colors: Red, White, Blue
Background: The Twins have a bit of an unfortunate reputation. They’re always the bridesmaid, and never the bride. Despite bringing home the World Series twice in five years 25 years ago, they’re now the team that loses to the Yankees in the playoffs. Four out of the last five times they’ve made the playoffs, they’ve lost to the Yankees in the first round. The last one came in 2010, and since then they’ve suffered through a four year stretch of poor play. All things considered, though, the Twins are not an organization that’s thought of as hopeless or incompetent. They parted ways with long time manager Ron Gardenhire this year, and this year could very well be when they turn the corner. Though they have a couple bright spots on the big league club like Phil Hughes and Brian Dozier, the most exciting names are down on the farm. The Twins possess possibly the two best prospects in the game in Byron Buxton, a ridiculous athlete with insane speed, and Miguel Sano, a kid who could turn out to be a perennial 40 home run guy. The future is bright, but this is still a team with a lot of question marks, and the evolution of it may take some time. Fans should be willing to wait it out, and enjoy the climb back to the top.
You’d probably be drawn to the Twins if you’re the kind of gamer who likes watching the long evolution of something great. You like to start with nothing, and not just build up a character or two, but to build up an entire army or society. You like games that give you a lot of creative freedom, and where every playthrough is something different. You can play games with your friends, but you want to make sure your personal touch is known. Sometimes this takes longer than you thought. Sometimes the game is so complicated, in all the wrong ways, that it’s just not fun to get there. When the game works, it’s great and fulfilling, but when it doesn’t, boy does it feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Civilization, Crusader Kings
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: ARMA II, A Valley Without Wind
Location: Chicago, IL
Colors: Black, White, and Grey
Background: The White Sox are a consistently decent team with a number of good stars. In 2005, they won the World Series, but manager (at the time) Ozzie Guillen expressed his frustration with feeling like the White Sox are the little brothers in Chicago when compared to the Cubs, despite having more success. Since then, playoff results have been hard to come by. In the 2000’s, they’ve made the playoffs just two other times, both times not making it past the first round. They’ve had an exciting offseason though, and have added some big names. Chris Sale is a bona fide ace, and is probably a top 5 pitcher in the league, while Cuban import Jose Abreu won the Rookie of the Year award, showing he’s one of the top power hitters in the game today. Time will tell whether or not their efforts are in vain, but they’re claiming to be playoff ready now, and at the very least will make the already exciting AL central even more fun.
From the gamer side, you prefer to play games that put gameplay first, even if they don’t get the flash that similar games do. While others are playing the new hotness and posting about it on Facebook, you’re very happy playing games that are lesser known but more fun. You like finding the gems that others miss, where the gameplay truly shines. You’ve got a catalog of great games from the past, and every time someone talks about a disappointing game they played, you’re ready to tell them what they’d have more fun playing. The downside is that sometimes you do miss out on some fun games because of your aversion to the spotlight, and sometimes you end up with some duds that nobody plays. You’re happy in your gaming life though, and are looking forward to the next gem.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, King of Fighters 13
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Wanderers of Ys, Gex: Undercover GeckoNext post: Teams Scored Three or Fewer Runs in Half of All Their Games in 2014
Previous post: The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year