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 National League West, in alphabetical order.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Colors: Red, Black, Tan
Background: Like the Rays, the Diamondbacks were an expansion team formed in 1998. Unlike the Rays, though, the Diamondbacks found great success rather quickly in their existence. They made the playoffs three out of their first five years, and even brought home a World Series title in 2001, just their fourth season in the league. Despite being located in a dome in Arizona, which translates to playing in a very hitter-friendly environment, the Diamondbacks are typically known for great pitching. Three of their top four players in career Wins Above Replacement are Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, and Curt Schilling. Johnson was just voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, while Schilling will likely get in at some point, and Webb finished in the top two in Cy Young voting three times. Last year was not one of those great years though. They’ve only made the playoffs twice since since 2002, and not once since 2011. They finished in the cellar last year, despite some great performances from Paul Goldschmidt and Josh Collmenter. The team isn’t looking particularly strong this year, and underwent a management overhaul last year. It probably won’t be pretty this year, but the Diamondbacks have been in this position before and climbed out of it, so fans can cling to hope that they’ll be out soon.
Some of the best games are the ones that aren’t intimidated by their limited scope. These days games are getting more grandiose in scope and ambition, but there are lots of good games that don’t try to do everything at once. They recognize that being limited in some aspects isn’t a big deal, and they instead try to excel in what they do. These games may be on rails, but that railed experience is phenomenal. They may lack multiplayer, or an online component, or replayability, but the experience that they deliver is amazing nonetheless. If you love games like this, then the Diamondbacks are for you. The downside is that sometimes the obvious limitations are just that, and the game fails to deliver. Regardless, it’s the hidden gems that unexpectedly shine that deliver the best experiences, and a Diamondbacks gamer will take that experience any time.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Bastion, Faster than Light
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Delve Deeper, Beyond the Beyond
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Colors: Blue and White
Background: The Los Angeles Dodgers; The Yankees of the West. They’re given that reputation both for their long history of winning, their impressive payroll, and their expansive fanbase. They’ve got 6 World Series titles and another 16 pennants on top of that. With names like Don Drysdale, Jackie Robinson, and Sandy Koufax adorning their Hall of Fame, the Dodgers have been household names for the last century. They’ve made the playoffs six times since 2004, but don’t have a World Series appearance to show for it, and the fan base is getting restless. The Dodgers have been throwing their full payroll behind the efforts, but they’ve also been getting creative. This offseason saw them hire ultra progressive GM Andrew Friedman to head up the front office, with A’s deputee Farhan Zaidi as his right hand man. They’ve already made some darling moves for Howie Kendrick and Brandon McCarthy, and that only adds to a core lead by Clayton Kershaw, the consensus best pitcher in the game. Kershaw, by the way, just won his third Cy Young in four years, and his first MVP, despite missing a month from injury. The Dodgers are all about the hype. They make the big trades, they go after the best guys, and they don’t like losing. Following the Dodgers means following winners, or at least that’s the idea.
When it comes to games, you might be the type of gamer who wants it all. You want the great gameplay, the incredible musical score, the deep characters, and the fabulous replayability. There are too many games out there for you to ever play, so perhaps you should just concentrate on playing the best ones. Big games get hype for a reason, and you’re the first one in line to figure it out. You rally your friends to party up on day one, and start a guild to show your commitment. You buy the Collector’s Edition, and actively campaigning for a Beta Invite. Some people don’t like the flash and hype, but you do. You want to be blown away, and aren’t afraid to contain your excitement. When others might shy away from admitting they’re gamers or nerds, you embrace it, and tell everyone your gaming plans for the weekend. You might even be a competitive gamer, with aspirations on a career. If this sounds like you, try the Dodgers. They’re committed to being the best, and aren’t afraid to show it. Sometimes it leads to being the butt of the joke when they don’t succeed, but most of the time it’s at least pretty awesome.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Dragon Age: Origins, Resident Evil 4
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Daikatana, Savage: The Battle for Newerth
Location: San Francisco, CA
Colors: Orange, Black, White
Background: The Giants are one of the oldest teams in the league, going all the way back to being the New York Baseball Giants in the early 1900’s. Since moving to San Francisco, they’ve been a study in how quickly legacies can change. Between 1953 and 2009, they didn’t win the World Series once, despite having the chance more than once. Then in 2010, it all flipped. They became a huge story, winning their first World Series in nearly 60 years. Then they won in 2012, and then they won again in 2014. By now it’s becoming a bit weird; they win it all in the even years, but totally underperform in the odd years. While some of the players have stayed consistent through those years, like star catcher Buster Posey, at other times they’ve had outlying huge years from guys like Aubrey Huff. This year I think most fans are prepared for the valley of their recent trend. While Madison Bumgarner looks to bolster his playoff reputation into his first Cy Young award, and Brandon Belt looks to finally break out, the roster still looks a bit thin, especially at third base and left field. There’s still plenty to like here, though the world wouldn’t mind seeing somebody else win the World Series for a change.
From the gaming side, you’d like the Giants if you tend to get really comfortable with a game that provides a consistently great experience. Perhaps you got into a game when everyone else did, but when they all moved on, you stuck with it. Maybe you’ve got one game of which you consider yourself a fanatic. You play it nearly every day, and are unashamed of your gaming habit; it’s part of your life. You’ve made new friends that play the game, as your commitment to the game outlives what others may undertake. You enjoy the fun the game provides, and even if the rest of the world is tired of it, you’re still happy. Sometimes this can be bad. It can lead to long periods of drought while others take their turns playing the new hotness, while you never seem to come to that fruition. Sometimes though it leads to some seriously amazing periods, where gaming just delivers over and over again.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: World of Warcraft, Master of Orion II
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Dragon Quest VII, Battlefield: 2142
Location: San Diego, CA
Colors: Blue, White, Tan
Background: The Padres are a team with a number of interesting stereotypes surrounding them. First of all, they’ve been in existence since 1969 and haven’t won a World Series yet. Second of all, though they’ve made the World Series twice (both losses, obviously), they only have 5 playoff appearances total, and none since 2006. As another interesting wrinkle, they play in Petco Park, which is probably the most pitcher-friendly environment in the major leagues, due to the low altitude, marine layer, and large park dimensions. They haven’t lead the division in nearly ten years, so it’s been about a decade of relative futility. Things are looking up, though. They hired AJ Preller as their GM, and he has wasted no time completely turning the team around. He’s made big trades for Justin Upton and Wil Myers, while the rotation is filled with the likes of Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, both of whom have very quietly been above average pitchers the last few years. The Padres are out to prove that they’re done losing, though they’ll have to leapfrog the best team on paper and a 3-time World Series champion team to do so.
Reading the previous paragraph may have already stirred some emotions in you on a gaming level. You’re inspired by games that seem like they’ve got something to prove. You like it when game companies admit that they’ve made errors in the past, and are out to correct them. You like it when games are unfazed by industry trends and instead are out to deliver the best experience they can to a gamer. You respect this, and stick it out with these games. You provide as much feedback to the developers as you can, because you know they’re listening. You love the idea of sticking with the game while it’s bad, and then enjoying success when the game comes full circle. Obviously if the game flops and never becomes that hidden gem, you’re stuck looking for another obsession. If this sounds like you, the Padres are ready to turn everything around and be that team.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Star Wars: The Old Republic
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, The Saboteur
Location: Denver, CO
Colors: Black, White, Purple, Silver
Background: The Rockies have been in existence since 1993, and in that time, they’ve been defined by one thing: Offense. The Rockies play in a place coloquially called Mile High Stadium (officially called Coors Field now); so named because it’s literally a mile higher than sea level. Up in the Rockies (the mountain range), the air is thin and the ball carries easily. This means that, historically, hitters have performed better than they would elsewhere, and that goes for opposing hitters too. “The Coors Field Effect” has defined the Rockies. They’ve tried all sorts of things to negate it; using offspeed pitchers who won’t allow for balls to get hit into the air, or even humidifying balls in order to weigh them down. While the latter has actually worked to some degree, and the park has begun to play more neutral, the reputation holds. This effect is a big reason the Rockies have limited success. In their twenty two seasons in the MLB, they’ve made the playoffs just three times, and only once reached the World Series. Since 2011, they haven’t had a winning season, and have never once won their division. The Rockies have a few superstars in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but the question this year is not “Will these guys have a team to support them” but rather “Will the Rockies finally trade these guys away?” Unfortunately the pitching staff still looks too shaky to dream of playoff success, especially with a bullpen anchored by the ageless LaTroy Hawkins. Rockies fans are good fans, though, and the Rockies are always a lot of fun to watch. They’ll have to deal with the constant challenge of overcoming their environment, but until that happens, the Rockies at least always put up some fun offensive showings.
Sometimes games are just fun. Sure, it’s a blast to really finish a game you’ve invested a lot into, but let’s not get too carried away here. Games are supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to enjoy the road there as much as you are the destination. So many games out there have too much grinding that saps away the fun of literally playing the game itself. To enjoy the Rockies, you have to have this mindset. You have to be the kind of gamer who enjoys just the playing of games, and not the collecting of virtual trophies. You enjoy games where all the fun is in the moment, and not in some arbitrary destination later. Sometimes you play games that have no end goal and no real fulfillment, but that’s OK. You always have fun playing games, or you move on to another one.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Mario Party, Just Dance
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: I Made a Game With Zombies In It, Rock Band Blitz
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