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, and 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 East, in alphabetical order.
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Colors: Blue, White, Silver
Background: Right around 1990, the Blue Jays were a powerhouse. They won two world series in a row, and made the ALCS two of the previous three years. With huge moments like Joe Carter blasting a walkoff home run to win it all, the Blue Jays were an iconic team. However, they haven’t been there since. The bluebirds haven’t made the playoffs since 1993, and amidst an always competitive AL East, they’ve struggled to remain relevant. To the outside world, they’ve gained the unfortunate reputation of being that team that always seems ready to break out but never does. They play in the Rogers Centre, which is one of the more hitter-friendly locations in the league, due to the dome and the artificial turf. The Blue Jays tend to stock up on power bats, and frequently are among the league leaders in home runs, even when they don’t win. Jose Bautista had another amazing year with 35 home runs, and late bloomer Edwin Encarnacion was right behind him with 34. The Blue Jays aren’t ever afraid of pushing in to try and win, and they’ve got a reputation of doing well in trades, but it just hasn’t translated to big success in the postseason front.
You might like the Blue Jays if you’re really into flashy games that provide a lot of exciting moments. You look around at others and find other gamers who seem to have lost the joy out of gaming, and take it so seriously that they’ve lost the innate joy of gaming. You still get a kick out of big flashy moments when a game makes a big deal out of success. You like big numbers, even to the point of being superfluous, because that still gives you a thrill. Sometimes you can be more concerned with this and end up playing some really dumb games, but usually at the end of the day you’re happy enough (if only because you’re Canadian and so dang nice).
When it’s good, it feels like: Guitar Hero, Dynasty Warriors
When it’s bad, it feels like: Rock of Ages, All Zombies Must Die
Location: Baltimore, MD
Colors: Orange, Black, White
Background: After a long drought that lasted the entire first decade of the 2000’s plus a few here and there, the Orioles are back to being a successful baseball team. Last year they made it to the American League Championship, only to get swept by the darling Royals. Having made the playoffs in two of the previous three seasons, the O’s are generally viewed as a successful team. While the AL East threatens to rise up and bury them again, it’s hard to say the Orioles will be bad this year, even among experts who say they’ll regress. They had some notable offseason drama with the Blue Jays attempting to trade for their GM Dan Duquette, who has built the current O’s team into what it is today. At the plate last year they were lead by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce though the former left as a free agent to the Mariners and the latter was such an unforeseen event that many are questioning whether or not he’ll be able to avoid the Sophomore Slump. There’s also Chris Davis, who lead the league in home runs in 2013 only to seriously take a step back in 2014 along with receive an untimely suspension for Performance Enhancing Drugs. The pitching staff is solid, though the “ace” Chris Tillman, while solid, doesn’t strike fear in to the hearts of the opponent. The Orioles also have the benefit of having a really long history of great players, with many world series appearances, including three straight years at the turn of the 1970’s. With guys like Cal Ripken Jr, Brooks Robinson, and Jim Palmer at the top of their leaderboards, Oriole fans aren’t ones to impressed easily. Orioles fans have seen great players and great dynasties in the past, and they yearn for those days to come again.
Some gamers aren’t taken in by just quick gameplay and flash. They want their game to be a rich, full bodied experience, with both a gripping storyline and immersive gameplay. These are the types of gamers that might be Oriole fans. These gamers like it when every element of the game serves a singular purpose, and they want the game to deliver more than just casual fun. Many developers will seek out this experience, but only rarely does it all come together, and these games are typically held in very high regard in the gaming communities. Seeking out these types of games can produce long stretches of mediocrity, but every now and then it’s amazing, and those experiences exemplify the Orioles as a baseball team.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Shadow of the Colossus, Bioshock
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: White Knight Chronicles, Watch Dogs
Location: St Petersburg, FL
Colors: Blue, White, Gold
Background: The Rays were an expansion team, born out of MLB’s growth in 1998. As such, in the beginning of their life, they were viewed as a perenially rebuilding team. That changed in 2008 after a huge run to the playoffs, upsetting the much larger market teams, and they’ve remained mostly successful since. The Rays’ maverick GM, Andrew Friedman, left in the offseason for greener pastures, becoming the President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers. The reputation he leaves behind for the team is a good one. The Rays are a small market team, but they’re viewed as placing a strong emphasis on advanced analytics and always seem to be ahead of trends for finding value. They were one of the first teams to heavily employ platoons, and have always run more infield shifts than the rest of the league. They always seem to have a strong farm system, though they’ve had some notable busts from their very high picks. They’ll be going into 2015 without David Price and Ben Zobrist, who have been traded away, and both of those players have been consistently excellent producers for the Rays the last few years. They still have a few veterans who should produce well above average like Evan Longoria, and they got big years last year out of youngsters Chris Archer and Alex Cobb, so there’s still plenty of hope. The Rays look to do what they always do; build a strong core, resist the temptation to push all in for a big run, and achieves sustained success, though it may not show results this year.
Some gamers like a game where the system is so incredibly complex that it requires some serious brainpower in order to master it. This is a bit like following the Rays. These gamers don’t like just re-hashing the same games they’ve played their whole lives. They want innovation, and they want games that are willing to push the boundaries of what the player can do. These gamers hate the recent trend of really obvious tutorials (“Don’t get hit by the bullets!” “Jump over the pit so you don’t die!”), and instead want a game that introduces new levels of complexity at every turn. These games reward players who do their research, are willing to fail, and master their craft. Finishing games like this shows that the gamer is willing to invest all of himself, and prove that he’s more committed (or maybe even just plain smarter) than others out there. This has it’s downsides; sometimes the game doesn’t deliver, and instead just confuses the heck out of you and wastes your time. When it works though, it’s a heck of a trophy to put up there, and it’s even something to brag about.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Path of Exile, Dwarf Fortress
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Wizardry
Location: Boston, MA
Colors: Red, Blue, and White.
Background: The Red Sox have a long and quite varied history. For a great number of decades, they were the foil in every way to the Yankees. Where the Yankees were wildly successful, the Red Sox could never bring the title home. A great many legends exist trying to quantify just why the Red Sox couldn’t seal the deal, but ever since 2004, after a miracle comeback from being down three games to zero against the Yankees, the Red Sox have been a team embodying success. Their three World Series in the last eleven years make them unquestionably one of the most successful teams of the last fifteen years, and their strong fan support doesn’t suggest that it’s an anomaly. However, the last few years have been strange. They won the World Series two years ago, but that win is bookended by two years where they finished last in their division. Despite all that, Vegas likes them to return to strength this year. David Ortiz had another excellent year, possibly cementing himself as the best Designated Hitter of all time. They’ve also made some free agency splashes by signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, while the projection systems have young’un Mookie Betts pegged for his first All-Star appearance. Can the Red Sox take up the “every other year” trend that the Giants have mastered, or will they finally take their plunge back to the cellar?
Everybody loves a great game, but some gamers will plunge themselves into a single game for a very long time once they’ve found it. These are the tinkerers, the modders, and the fanatics. When they find a game that hooks them, they don’t let go. They’ll obsess over the game, and do their best to even put their personal spin on it. They make YouTube videos of them playing it, or write GameFAQ’s showing how to replicate a hilarious strategy they’ve been experimenting with. They do the 100% playthroughs, or maybe even speed run the game. This is like being a Red Sox fan. It’s about more than just playing it through and moving on, it’s about eeking out every drop of fulfillment from a game. This can mean long periods where you’re playing a game that nobody else does, but most of the time it’s pretty great.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Torchlight II
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, Diablo: Hellfire
Location: New York, NY
Colors: Blue, Gray, and White
Background: Oh, the Yankees. What background can I give that people don’t already know? The Yankees are everything you’ve already heard. They’re the most successful team in the world by number of championships, and they have an incredible amount of fans. They’re the richest team in the MLB, due to a very profitable TV station and a long history of success. Every year, anything other than a World Series victory is seen as a failure. The Yankees carry themselves with class (or at least they claim to) and want to do more than just win ballgames. The Yankees rarely miss out on a player they’re targeting, and as such, rebuilding never really seems like an option. Other than a drought in the 1980’s, the Yankees have been wildly successful, especially since 1996. Since that year, they’ve missed the playoffs just three times, with a staggering five World Series wins to show in that span. The downside is that two of those postseason misses were in the last two years. They were still playoff contenders in those years, but few would call them top tier rosters. With the retirement of Derek Jeter and the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees are getting old and slow. They have very little coming in the farm, and GM Brian Cashman has stated they’re not going after big free agents this year. While they still have a number of big names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka, the roster lacks depth and looks to not have the balance to survive a 162 game season. Yankees fans will cling to hope though, because that’s what they do.
For some, gaming is more than a hobby. It’s an obsession, and a statement about life. Some people work long hours in order to come home and game, and pour their money and their time into getting everything they can out of a game. They buy into the hype. They keep their PC running smoothly with the best parts. They camp out in front of the store for days to make sure they’re the first to get the new system. If a game isn’t running on its highest settings, then it might as well not be running at all. These gamers prepare themselves to be blown away, and as a matter of fact, expect it. This makes them a ravenous fanbase at times. They’re great to have behind you when they’re good, but they’ll devour you when you’re not. As a gamer, this means that you get some truly amazing experiences out of a great game, but it also means you’re really let down when it doesn’t work out. If this sounds like you, then go out and buy a jersey and join the legion of Yankees fans.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Mass Effect II, Mario 64
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Crysis, HazeNext post: Alex Cobb’s Pitching Adjustments
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