Monday, December 22, 2014

Raving about Rusney Castillo and Applauding the Yankees


Better than Puig?

Alex Cora continues to rave about Rusney Castillo. Unlike his fellow countryman, Yasiel Puig, Castillo doesn't seem to have the attitude issues. He appears to be someone who is a hard worker to go along with his immense talent. Everyone is focusing on the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, it could be Castillo who ends up being the huge impact player next season. You can read more about Castillo here. By the way, why isn't Alex Cora somewhere in the Red Sox organization?

Yankees Step Up

I don't often like to praise the Yankees, in fact I usually like to make fun of them and Derek Jeter. I am still looking forward to the look on the faces of Yankee fans as they actually get to see what a good defensive shortstop looks like this season. Didi Gregorius will make the last ten years of Jeter in the field look statuesque. Anyway, the Yankees did step up this week in light of the awful murders of two NYPD officers. One of the officers killed has two children, the Yankees will pay for their education going forward. Great job Yankees!!

Yell at me on twitter @thepeskypole6

Monday, December 15, 2014

Red Sox Lose Jon Lester


Losing Lester




The Red Sox screwed up. I was happy that the Red Sox did not win the bidding war with the Cubs when it came to Jon Lester. The contract just got way too crazy. I understand why the Cubs did it and I agree with the Sox for not matching their final offer. However, the Sox screwed this up last spring. Lester could have easily signed for about $110 million and that deal would have made perfect sense for the Sox. Instead they offered him $70 million. The Red Sox then made a $140 million offer this past week, which wasn't nearly as sweet as the Cubs deal. I don't blame Jon Lester at all. Good for him and good for Theo Epstein and the Cubs.

Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino both basically admitted the Sox screwed this up. This is not surprising from Ben but for Larry I was shocked. This is the same guy who shot his mouth off last spring about how the Red Sox philosophy is basically better than the Yankees because they don't give out long term, lavish contracts. Larry needs to shut up. I hate the Yankees too, but his words come back to bite him way too often.

Replacing Lester

The Sox missed out on Jeff Samardzija because they were busy trying to sign Jon Lester who they didn't think was worth more than $70 million this past spring. Did I mention the Sox screwed up? Anyway, the Sox did get a three headed monster in the form of Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson. Together, the three will make in salary what Jon Lester will make in a year. That is great value.

These guys are all inning eating starting pitchers who get ground balls. The Sox desperately need this considering all they did have for the rotation was Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelley, both of whom are not what you would call inning eaters.

Justin Masterson was hurt most of last season but his four previous seasons he averaged just under 199 innings pitched a season.

Rick Porcello has been in the majors for six years and has averaged just under 179 innings pitched each season. He was 25 years old last season and threw 204 innings.

Wade Miley has pitched three full big league seasons and is averaging just a tick under 200 innings pitched a season.

Where is the Ace?

Justin Masterson and Wade Miley both started on Opening Day for their respective teams last season. Are they really aces though and does it really matter? Ben Cherington was quoted as saying "Once Opening Day is gone the whole No. 1 starter thing is kind of overrated" He is right to a certain degree. Those of us who remember the Pedro Martinez led pitching staffs can remember how awful things were those other four days. A rotation without a true ace can get you into the postseason. It is all about depth and having lots of quality arms. However, who is going to be the guy who leads you to a World Championship once you get there? A dominant ace is really needed when you get to October.

What are the Sox options? There is James Shields, even though he struggled this past October, he does have the #1 type of makeup in him. There is also Cole Hamels. Here is my issues with Hamels, in order to get him the Sox are going to have to give up at least two really good prospects and then the Sox will owe him around $110 million. That is the same price we could have had Lester back in the spring and would not need to give up prospects. Have I mentioned that the Sox screwed this up?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Box Score Stories: The Clemens and Canseco Effect



20 years ago today the Boston Red Sox acquired Jose Canseco from the Texas Rangers for Otis Nixon and Luis Ortiz. The Red Sox would go on to win the AL East the following season. 1995, was also the last time I would go to Fenway Park with my father.

My father took me to Fenway Park for the first time in 1988, ironically to see the Red Sox take on Jose Canseco and the Oakland A's. We would head to Fenway in 1995 while I was home from college.

We would take in a four game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles in mid August. The Red Sox were riding a seven game win streak and had a 6.5 game lead in the AL East when we arrived. I was excited that I would get to see Roger Clemens pitch on Saturday but I was not real excited to see Jose Canseco.

Roger Clemens was my boyhood hero. He could do no wrong in my eyes. Jose Canseco was the guy I saw in Fenway in 1988, the guy I helped heckle with the steroid chant along with thousands of other fans in Fenway. He was the opposite of Clemens in my mind. He was a jerk while Clemens was the bright light of baseball. Ironically, they seem like the same guy now. Sadly, they were the same guy back then.

The Red Sox would win on Thursday 11-1 as Canseco would go 3-3 with a homerun.(BoxScore) Hmmm, this Canseco guy was growing on me. He sure did bring excitement when he walked up to the plate.

The Red Sox would win the next night 5-4 in 12 innings on a walk off double by Lee Tinsley. My father and I instantly started calling him "Lee Buck", an ode to Lee Trevino. Canseco would go 3-5.(Box Score) The big lug was starting to grow on me.

The next night was the main event, Roger Clemens vs Mike Mussina. Hall of Famer vs Hall of Famer, only Clemens will probably never make it in and Mussina, who deserves to be in, is not getting the votes and it doesn't look real good for him in the near future.

I have seen Clemens pitch on every one of our trips to Fenway, that takes some luck. This would be the last time I would ever see Clemens pitch in person. He didn't disappoint. The Red Sox would win 7-0. Clemens would pitch seven shutout innings and strike out nine. Canseco? He would go 2-5. (Box Score)

Canseco was now 8-13 in the series. I was officially a Jose Canseco fan. Morals be damned! He suddenly seemed like a good guy now. Weird how that happens.

My father woke up early Sunday morning to get a newspaper and coffee and while he was out he saw a street vendor selling Jose Canseco shirts. He picked one up for me. When he returned to the hotel with it, I was excited. I was definitely going to be wearing it to the series finale.It makes me puke to think about it now,

The series finale took a back seat to news that Mickey Mantle had passed away that morning. The flag in Fenway Park was lowered and there was a moment of silence. It was pretty cool to be in Fenway Park that day. The Red Sox were honoring a rival from the past, an icon. I might have made the comment, "they better do the same damn thing in Yankee Stadium when Ted Williams dies", which of course the Yankees did.

The game? Well, the Red Sox would win 3-2. (Box Score) They would sweep the four game series, extend their winning streak to 11 games and their lead in the AL East was now 9 games. It was the final nail in the Yankees coffin. Rumor is that I may have even said "Mickey is dead and so are the Yanks", I can't confirm nor deny this. Canseco? Oh yeah, he hit a three run homer in the first inning to account for all the Red Sox runs. What a guy! Whatever happened to him?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Red Sox Sign Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval


Pablo and Hanley

The Red Sox signed BOTH Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. I thought it was going to be an either/or deal and I was campaigning for Hanley over Pablo. Both have their question marks but Hanley is the better player and I think Ramirez will thrive in Boston. Pablo, not so sure.

Don't Call Him Billy Boy

The Oakland A's traded Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays this week and it later came out that Donaldson and Billy Beane got into a heated argument this past season over a day off. During the argument, Donaldson reportedly called Beane "Billy Boy". You can read the whole story here.  Makes me think of this scene in Moneyball.



Blame the Turf

Brett Lawrie was one of the players involved in the Josh Donaldson trade and he seems eager to get to Oakland and play on the grass. In this article, he blamed his injuries on the artificial turf in Toronto. In the comment section of the article, a fan named Brendan Holness of Toronto, Ontario had this to say:

Brilliant! Let's hope Lawrie can avoid the dead rats in the O.co Coliseum.

Yell at me on twitter @thepeskypole6

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Media Rips Derek Jeter

Joel Sherman of the New York Post ripped Derek Jeter on the Michael Kay Show last week. It was  refreshing to hear the media go after Jeter about his captaincy. I touched on my issues about Jeter, The Captain in this blog post.

Sherman took issue first with manager Joe Girardi and the way he is managing Jeter. Sherman reminded Kay how Girardi insisted that in Jeter's final season he would not manage it like a farewell tour, rather he would manage to win games. Sherman pointed out that Girardi still has Jeter batting second in the order and has yet to lift Jeter late in the game for a better defender.

Sherman than pointed the finger to Jeter. While Girardi should be managing to win games, the captain could make it easier on him. Joel brought up Don Mattingly in 1994 and how he made life easier for manager Buck Showalter. Captain Don Mattingly went into Buck Showalter's office and told Buck that he realizes he is no longer the best hitter on the team and he should no longer bat third in the lineup. Mattingly said that the team now belonged to Paul O'Neil and he deserved to bat third.

Showalter later admitted that without that meeting he would have continued to bat Mattingly third. Showalter explained it is a delicate situation when trying to manage an aging veteran who has been so important to the organization. Mattingly acted like a captain, Jeter has yet to act like one in his career. This should not surprise anyone. This became real clear in 2004 when Jeter refused to change positions when the Yankees acquired the best shortstop in the game. Chipper Jones was never the official captain of the Braves but he offered to move to the outfield to accommodate Vinny Castilla and help the Braves offense. I blogged about that here as I compared the careers of Jeter and Chipper

Derek Jeter does most things really well but don't let him fool you. He is not all about winning. He is all about winning as long as he is winning his way.




Bet at 5dimes

Monday, August 11, 2014

Best Teams in School History: South Carolina vs Clemson



I have many Clemson fans who read this blog on a regular basis and I hear from them often with their disagreements about my views on things. Sometimes the truth hurts. That works both ways. This is a post that I think Clemson fans are going to like a lot. Don't worry fellow Gamecocks, I will figure out a way to spin it by the end of the post.

The topic is history, something Clemson fans live and feed off of on a daily basis. One of my all time favorite websites is Baseball Reference. Well, the people that brought you that website now have similar sites for the NFL and College Football. These sites are amazing. For example, this site makes it easy to access stats when you are trying to prove some tater wrong about something dumb they said on a message board.

The site uses the SRS which stands for Simple Rating System. The simple rating system as you can imagine is pretty simple. It rates a team on two things, point differential and strength of schedule. 

I have done a couple of blog posts comparing the rosters of both Carolina and Clemson this year along with their schedules. Carolina came out on top in both. I decided I would now compare the history of their greatest teams. I know Clemson leads the all time series and I know they have a national championship. Clemson fans for some reason tend to mention those things a few times every hour. I was hoping though that our five best teams were better than their five best teams based on the SRS. Unfortunately, the facts did not show this. I thought about destroying my research, never to be seen again, but instead I decided to post it. After all, this is a fair and balanced blog......ok...maybe not but still. Here is the research.

South Carolina
YearSRSWinsAP HighAP FinishScheduleRival Win
198716.3888155.05Yes
201316.0611446.29Yes
201215.9711384.51Yes
201113.5611993.1Yes
201012.97910226.18Yes
Average14.98107125.03
Clemson
198121.3412115.84Yes
198918.25107123.08Yes
197817.6911662.52Yes
198816.510392.5Yes
199015.3610992.61Yes
Average17.8310573.31

Time for some observations, the first is that the 1987 Gamecocks are the best team in school history according to SRS. They went 8-4 and yet get the honors. How is this possible? Well, the 1987 Gamecocks played an unreal schedule and when they lost it was close and when they won it was a blowout. As I mentioned, the SRS is simple but it is interesting how well the 1987 Gamecocks look using this system.

Now for the bad news, the four best Clemson teams are all better than any team we have ever had. The SRS is not only simple but it is stupid. Ok, I actually like the SRS and I liked it a lot more before I did this research.

I also need to be honest about the average win totals, as the chart shows both teams averaged ten wins a season during their five best teams. Since Clemson's best teams were sooooooo long ago, teams played one less game than they do now. 

Our five best teams have never lost to Clemson, their five best teams have never lost to us. Makes sense.

However, let's spin this a bit. Notice the schedule ratings? This is a topic that often comes up in debates. Once again, a Clemson fan can never talk about strength of schedule to a Gamecock fan. We will give you the history debate and all of that but please don't bring up or compare our schedules. They just don't compare now or historically.

I tip my hat to Clemson, they win the history argument just about any way you want to slice it. Trust me, I was looking for a way to slice it in the favor of the Gamecocks. However, I do want to point out that four of our five best teams in history have been the last four seasons. There also seems to be no sign of the Gamecocks getting worse.  The present is good and the future looks bright. Now, let's take a look at Clemson. 1990 is a long time ago. That is the last season they had a team that ranked in their top five historically. This is two years before Bill Clinton became President. The Atlanta Braves were the worst team in baseball and had the first overall draft pick and selected a guy named Chipper Jones. 1990 was a long time ago, a real long time ago, real long. So congrats to Clemson on their history but it is pretty clear the present belongs to the Gamecocks and the future looks awful garnet as well.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jon Lester Headed to the Atlanta Braves?

Jon Lester has officially been scratched from his start tomorrow night making it very likely that he will be traded before the deadline this week. 

WEEI is reporting that the Baltimore Orioles are no longer one of the teams after him. That leaves the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates and the Braves. The Dodgers already have the best rotation in baseball. I just don't see them going after Lester. Look for the Braves to come through and meet the Red Sox asking price. Just a guess and a request. The Braves could use him.

The Red Sox need to trade Lester. It is pretty clear the Red Sox have no desire to sign Lester for the number of years he is requesting and will be sure to get in the open market. It is also clear that Lester would prefer to stay in Boston. It is a long shot the Sox have Lester in uniform next year but it is also pretty clear that trading him now doesn't hurt their chances to sign him in the off-season. The Red Sox could decide in the heat of the hot stove season to step up and offer him what the other teams are willing to offer. If they do, Lester could be back in Boston along with the two upper tier prospects they get from the Braves. Stay tuned.





Monday, July 28, 2014

Box Score Stories: Alex Rodriguez Makes His Debut







Twenty years ago this month, my father and I took our annual trip to Fenway Park. I was 19 years old and just finished up my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. I was home for the summer and the next summer would be the last time my father and I would take out annual trip to Boston together to watch the Sox play. The annual trip started in 1988 when we caught a three game series between the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. 
This trip in 1994 was all about the Red Sox of course, but also the Seattle Mariners and the great Ken Griffey Jr. He was having a monster season and the Griffey jerseys were out in full force at Fenway. Junior would also get a very warm reception each time he came to the plate. He was a star and the Fenway faithful knew it. 
My father, who grew up a Willie Mays fan was a bit more skeptical of The Kid. After all, he was being compared to his hero and he did not like it. A deep ball was hit to center and it hit the wall behind Griffey and my father muttered, "they should take that 24 off his back right now, he is no Willie". I wrote about my father's love and bias of Willie Mays in this post.
Griffey would go 3-4 on this night.
Twenty years later this game stands out not because of Griffey but because of an 18 year old rookie shortstop who was making his debut. His name was Alex Rodriguez. He was skinny and just a year younger than I was.
My father, who read the Boston Globe sports section as soon as we arrived in Boston, told me he was someone to watch. He was supposed to be real good. He would not get a hit in the game but I remember watching his every move in the field wondering if he would become as good as his hype. It is hard to believe how different things would be just ten years later when on the same field he would spark off a bench clearing brawl as a member of the New York Yankees. He would become public enemy number one. Jason Varitek became an even bigger hero when he punched AROD. Of course, later in that 2004 season AROD would be center stage as the Red Sox would complete the greatest comeback in baseball history and beat the Yankees in the ALCS. 
Ten years after the brawl, Alex would be sitting out the season due to a league ban. He has become a punchline. Twenty years ago he was a young phenom and I was there to see his interesting career begin. I even explored what would have happened if Rodriguez was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2004 season. I blogged about that alternative reality here.
As for the game, a pretty mediocre Red Sox team got the win thanks to a Tom Brunansky home run. Bruno was and is one of my all time favorite Red Sox players thanks to the incredible 1990 season. Most fans remember the division clinching catch but they forget about the unreal weekend he had late in the season against the Blue Jays. He put the Sox on his back. The Sox would win the 1990 AL East. It is one of my favorite Red Sox teams because they won the division when they clearly had inferior talent to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox would play just 31 more games in 1994 before a work stoppage would wipe out the rest of the regular season and post season. Below is the actual box score from that Friday night in Fenway, the night AROD began his career.

Friday, July 8, 1994, 8:08
Attendance: 33,355, Time of Game: 2:51

           
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Mariners        0  0  1   0  1  0   0  0  1    3  8  1
Red Sox         0  0  0   0  0  4   0  0  X    4  9  1
W: Chris Nabholz (1-2)
L: Bill Risley (6-5)
S: Ken Ryan (7)


Friday, July 25, 2014

Is the ACC Closing the Gap on the SEC?

Is the ACC closing the gap on the SEC? Yes and no. The ACC is much better than it was but that is not saying much. There is this belief among some that the SEC is overrated, that their bottom teams are awful and just like any other conference they just have a couple of good teams at the top.

This is something that ACC fans are really starting to believe since Florida State won the national title last year. The ACC thinks they are just like the SEC now. They have a couple of really good teams at the top and equally bad teams at the bottom. Very simple, very easy. Not so fast.

Using Phil Steele's power ranking numbers, I decided to match up each SEC team with their ACC counterpart (Best SEC vs Best ACC, Second Best SEC vs Second best ACC etc.) to see who would win and by how many on a neutral field. The conclusion is that it is not close. Let me be clear, Phil Steele's numbers are not perfect but they are pretty accurate and the results are pretty staggering in favor of the SEC. The ACC is getting better but the depth of the SEC in comparison is no match.


1) Florida State -1 over Alabama

2) Auburn -13 over UNC

3) South Carolina -8 over Clemson

4) Georgia -7 over Louisville

5) LSU -7 over Miami

6) Ole Miss -9 over Virginia Tech

7) Texas A&M -6 over Duke

8) Missouri -6 over Georgia Tech

9) Florida -6 over Pitt

10) Miss State -7 over Syracuse

11) Tennessee -3 over NC State

12) Arkansas -6 over Virginia

13) Vanderbilt -9 over Boston College

14) Kentucky -3 over Wake Forest


                                              


Friday, July 18, 2014

2010: Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox

Alex Rodriguez entered the final year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox with no contract extension in sight. The 2010 regular season was similar to the previous seasons as the Boston Red Sox dominated the AL East as AROD put up big numbers once again.




The postseason was also way too familiar for the Red Sox and AROD. Once again, the Sox would not get out of the first one and AROD would not be the dominant player that he was in the regular season.




In defense of AROD, he was hit in the face with a pitch towards the end of the season and came back just a few days before the playoffs began. He was the clear leader for MVP before the injury.



The attention next turned to AROD and his contract. He would hit the free agent market and it was quickly obvious that the Red Sox would not be serious players for his services.



The Braves would come calling on a two year deal with the second year contingent on 550 plate appearances by AROD in the 2011 season. 

Alex Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox part company without a World Series. They dominated the AL in many ways but could never pull through in the playoffs. Will the Red Sox ever end their drought going back to 1918? Will Alex Rodriguez ever win a ring? These questions will be answered in the next and final post on this "What if simulation".

Friday, May 2, 2014

2009: Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox

Alex Rodriguez would finally get his ring in real life in 2009 while playing for the Yankees. Would he finally get his first ring in the world of Out of the Park Baseball? Let's first take a look at the 2009 Red Sox. Below is a team picture. This is Out of the Park Baseball 15 now as I imported this dynasty from OOTP 14. The transfer went off without a hitch. The team picture concept was first introduced in OOTP 14 but it always was sized wrong and would cut off half the roster while saving the file. I figured it was my laptop and I was doing something wrong. In OOTP 15, saving the team picture is much easier and looks a lot better. Here you go. Love this feature!



As the season moved along, moves were made. The Red Sox traded for David Robertson. What I love about OOTP 15 is in the player profile screen it lists how they were acquired.


And then when you click on the link, you get this....


I love it. Something small but it is the small things that make the difference.

Moving on to the season. Alex Rodriguez led the Boston Red Sox to yet another AL East title. The Red Sox have won the division every single season since the trade. You can say the trade in many ways has been successful for the Red Sox, of course they are still searching for their first ring since 1918


It would all come down to the playoffs once again but the Red Sox have some glaring weaknesses, mainly a lack of pitching. Daisuke Matsuzaka was the staff ace but he was hurt and would miss the playoffs. Jon Lester is in Texas thanks to the trade years earlier for AROD. Hanley Ramirez is perhaps the best player on the Red Sox but because he is here,  there is no Josh Beckett. The Sox have some pitching issues.



Cliff Lee was a minor league free agent pickup by the Sox. He never turned his career around like he did in real life where he want from the minor leagues trying to find it, to an ace in the big leagues.

Sadly, the playoffs for the Red Sox would end very similar to how it always ends since AROD arrived in Boston.


The Minnesota Twins would win their second straight world championship and would sweep the Red Sox in the first round on their way to the title. Was Alex Rodriguez to blame?


0-12 in the series is not good. Is the championship drought starting to get to AROD in the playoffs?

AROD's first four seasons in the playoffs were  incredible. The last two trips have been miserable. He is now 1 for his last 26 in the playoffs.


Alex Rodriguez will now enter the final year of his contract with the Red Sox. Will they extend him? Will they let him walk and have Hanley Ramirez take over at SS? What will his legacy be in Boston if he can't get the Red Sox the ring in 2010? Stay tuned.

Buy OOTP Baseball 15 PC & Mac



Monday, April 7, 2014

The Man Behind Out of the Park Baseball

Out of the Park Baseball 15 is set to be released. It is the latest installment of what I believe is the best simulation sports game ever invented. My addiction is the only proof you need.  Markus Heinsohn created the first installment of the game in 1999 and should be enshrined in Cooperstown because of it. I had the chance to exchange emails with Markus about OOTP 15 and the history of the series. Enjoy!

Me: Let’s get right to the big news, Out of the Park Baseball 15 and the leap into the word of 3D. There are plenty of us who have been wanting this for a long time but there are also many who do not want this at all and are worried it is somehow going to ruin the game. Has making OOTP 3D always been a goal of yours for the game or was it brought on by feedback of your loyal customers?

Markus: A little bit of both: We always knew we’d have to go the 3D route eventually, especially given how successful it has been for Football Manager, but we’ve also had people asking for it on our forum over the years, so the demand was there. However, we also realize that we have long-time OOTP players who have zero interest in 3D, which is why we’ve made 3D ballparks and 3D in-game ball flight optional in OOTP 15. If you don’t want it, simply turn it off and play the game the way you always have.
The same will also hold true moving forward as we work toward adding 3D players on the field in OOTP 16: That will be optional too, so if you don’t want to see it, you can switch it off.

In the long run, leaving it optional won’t ruin the game because everyone will be happy. Personally, I’ve always said that the greatest 3D graphics engine ever created is your imagination, so I understand why some people don’t want anything to do with 3D.

Me: Great stuff, count me as one of the loyal customers who has looked forward to 3D and the best part as you said is that it can be turned off if you don't want it. Can you go into more detail about the ball flight animation? While OOTP has always been my favorite text sim, PureSim Baseball always did a really good job with their ball flight animation. It wasn't perfect but the pop ups and fly balls etc were pretty good. I also loved the pitched ball and the sound of it hitting the mitt for a strikeout. I found myself playing the 1999 Red Sox a lot on that game with the great Pedro Martinez. How much time has been put in to make that part of the game fun and authentic?

Markus: Since its introduction, ball flight in OOTP has been 2D, so you would see where the ball went but you didn’t know if it was in the air or on the ground, and you didn’t know if it was an out or a hit. It served its purpose, but I knew that when we eventually added 3D to the game, we would need to address that part of the graphics too. A lot of work has gone into making sure that the ball flight is realistic, so you’ll see a ball smashed on the ground through the infield, versus a base hit that’s hit in the air and drops in the outfield. And, of course, everyone will love watching home runs end up in the seats. Like the addition of 3D stadium support, this is just the first step in the long walk toward full 3D action on the field in OOTP.


Me: You have been working on Out of the Park Baseball for over a decade now. I jumped on board for OOTP 5 and really got hooked on OOTP 6.5. What is the most difficult aspect/feature to get right when creating a baseball simulation game? Have the problems changed over the years?

Markus: The hardest thing to get right is making sure that all the different pieces of the game work together to create a seamless world. AI GMs need to make realistic decisions based on so many different factors (their team’s current win/loss record, payroll, the contract status of their stars, their owner’s attitude, etc.), the players need to behave in natural ways as their careers ramp up and eventually decline, the managers, coaches, and scouts need to make proper decisions, and so forth. All of those things need to mesh just right and make you feel like you really are sitting in the GM’s office, and/or in the dugout, making the decisions your real life counterparts face all the time.

When it all comes together, it’s beautiful. I love hearing from people who say they pulled off an amazing mid-season trade and made a run at the division title before experiencing some incredible player heroics in the playoffs. They talk about those things the same way all baseball fans talk about iconic moments in the sport’s history, which is how I know OOTP is working the way it should.

In the early days, the problems involved getting basic baseball mechanics to work. Teams needed to manage their rosters properly, they needed to know when to put on the hit-and-run, etc. These days, the problems are more complex because the last several years have seen OOTP add all kinds of minutiae that most games gloss over or abstract in some way. For example, in OOTP 15 we’re going to have real international leagues with real teams and players, so that adds a layer of complexity to everything: It needs to feel natural when, for example, a star pitcher decides to leave Japan for the majors in the US, or when an aging veteran in the US heads overseas to get another shot at extending his career.

Me: In my opinion the greatest thing about OOTP is all the different ways you can play. It feels like 20 games within one making it impossible to get bored. I have several dynasties and in each one I play different ways. In one I go into George Steinbrenner mode where I control everything, in another I am strictly the GM and hope my manager does a good job with my lineups and in another I am just the manager and play out every single game and hope my GM goes out and gets me more talent. I know OOTP tracks the way people play the game, what has the information that has been collected tell you about how people play the game and has that information had any effect on the features in OOTP 15?

Markus: In OOTP we track basic user activities (if the user accepts it). For example, which screens are visited most often and what game types are created. This way we can figure out how the average user plays the game and what parts of the game are most important. For example, the player profile screen is by far the most visited screen in OOTP, so it has to be as close to perfect as possible. But we can also conclude if certain areas of the game are not properly designed. If a certain screen that we think is rather important does not get utilized by many users, we should think about improving it or placing it in a more prominent spot.

One example of that in OOTP 15 is the Manager Home screen. We discovered that it wasn’t used as much as we wanted, so we reworked it and made it more functional manager screen.



Me: Can you give us an idea of your schedule when creating an OOTP game? Obviously you are now hard at work putting the finishing touches on OOTP 15 but when did the work begin on OOTP 15? When will the process start for OOTP 16? How many others do you have working on it with you and has the schedule and timetable changed over the years?

Markus: I solicit ideas for OOTP year-round. People post their wish lists on our forum and I keep a running list that I prioritized based on what’s easy to implement and what will be a bit tricky. (Sometimes something that seems simple affects other parts of the game, so putting it in OOTP isn’t as easy as some may think.)
Even though we put out OOTP updates the entire year, I usually start work on the next version of the game in the late summer. I come up with a feature list and start the basic programming work after the World Series ends. Our graphic designer, Daniela, works closely with me during that time to make changes to the user interface and the overall look and feel. OOTP’s co-founder, Andreas Raht, also works with me on the game. He’s a very talented programmer too, and he handles all the technical areas of the game, like online leagues, FaceGen, database issues etc.
The schedule for OOTP 15 pretty much fit in with what I described above, and work on OOTP 16 will likely proceed according to the same timetable (although I may start on that earlier because 90% of the work on that version will related to the 3D game visualization engine). That process really hasn’t changed much over the years. The only time there have been deviations have been when other things have taken up some of my time during the offseason, such as when I was helping Sebastian get iOOTP development off the ground during its first year, or this past fall when I spent three weeks ripping all baseball-related elements out of the OOTP project so Francis had a good foundation for our upcoming football game, 'Beyond the Sideline Football.'

Me: I blogged about the Community of OOTP a while back and gave them a lot of credit for making OOTP such an incredible game. From my perspective, they make the game so much more enjoyable for me because I am so limited when it comes to programming skills.  When did you first start to notice the talented community of OOTP and has it changed how you go about programming the game?

Markus:  It took a couple years of sales growth and word of mouth to spread before the community began to gather around OOTP. After all, OOTP 1 sold just 250 copies. I knew early on that I wanted the game to have as much customizability as possible, since so many other kinds of games have benefited from community involvement. Look at Doom, for example.
I first started to really notice the community a couple years into the game’s existence, when our forum opened and a lot of regulars starting setting up accounts there. I can’t say they’ve changed my approach to programming the game, since their presence was always part of the plan, but having such a great community made it easy to, for example, put FaceGen in the game. I knew as soon as we announced it that our community would step up and create a realistic player images, and they did just that. It was amazing.
And, of course, the current state of our community made it a no-brainer to put customizable 3D stadium support in OOTP 15. As soon as we put that on the feature list, we knew the community would step up and create all kinds of amazing stadiums, past and present. From what I’ve seen on the forum, they can’t wait to get started, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Me:  The facegen that the community has come up with is amazing. I love looking at my 1939 Red Sox and how authentic Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr look. The authentic uniforms they have created to go along with the facegen are also incredible and is the icing on the proverbial cake. I spend more time setting up uniforms than anything else. My wife makes fun of me and equates it to playing with a barbie doll and playing dress up. She might have a point, but I still love to do it.

While 3D is the big feature news for OOTP 15, the feature that I am really excited about is the ability for teams to retire numbers. Is it insane for a 39 year old grown man with kids to be this excited about being able to retire numbers on a text simulation baseball game? Probably, but who cares.

Anyway, it seems like a relatively simple idea but was it a simple feature to add to the game? Can you give me an idea how the retired number feature will be displayed? Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you for this feature! Can you tell I am excited?

Markus:  I’m glad you’re happy about that feature. Let your wife know that playing with uniforms in OOTP is more like playing with GI Joe. :-)
It wasn’t a very difficult feature to add to the game, so since it was an oft-requested one, I thought I would add it to OOTP 15. I’ve added a Retired Numbers screen to the Info tab in the Team Home Screen, and that’s where each number is displayed inside a circle, like they do in baseball stadiums. There’s a basic editor that lets you choose a number to retire, and you can write a description where you can put the player’s name and other information. 
AI-controlled teams will automatically retire the numbers of players with Hall of Fame quality stats, and in commissioner mode you can retire other numbers too.

Me: That sounds incredible especially the AI-controlled teams also doing it. I can't wait! It is now time to voice my one pet peeve. As you may know, I blog a lot about my different OOTP dynasties and I love all the different options OOTP gives me. As I have said before, it is like 10 games in one with all the different ways you can play. However, I wish there was a way I could start up my OOTP and instantly replay the 1986 postseason or replay the 1975 World Series or see if the 2004 Red Sox could beat the 1927 Yankees in a Best of 7 series. I know there are "workarounds" to set these scenarios up but it takes a lot of time. Is this something that is possible in OOTP 15 or in the near future? Is this the first time you have heard this type of request?

Markus:  No, that’s not the first time I’ve heard such a request, and I doubt it will be the last. :-)
From a programming perspective, the problem with putting such functionality in OOTP is the same as the issue with manually setting up those scenarios: time. Given our limited resources, we need to make the most of the time we spend programming OOTP, and putting something like that in the game isn’t worth the hours it would take, from a cost vs. benefit perspective, given that we would have to not only program it but also deal with all the roster setups. Andreas and I would rather spend just as much time implementing a feature that would get us more bang for the buck, so to speak, such as the 3D stadium support in OOTP 15.
While the feature you describe would be a lot of fun, it’s something that really only appeals to a small subset of our customers, and even among them, it has limited interest. What I’ve found is that someone usually wants to replay a specific postseason for various reasons, and just limit it to that. For example, they want to replay the 1986 World Series (I know I’m in that camp :-) but after they’ve done it a couple times, they lose interest in such a feature. 
I can’t imagine putting that feature in OOTP any time soon, but as we grow and possibly add programming staff, we could devote someone’s time to putting things like that in the game. That’s a way off, though.

Me: Ok ok ok, I refuse to pout. Moving on, As many people know and I am sure many others don't know, you were born, raised and currently live in Germany. I have heard some of this story before but it is worth repeating. How does a guy who grew up in Germany create the greatest baseball simulation known to man?

Markus: In 1991, a friend of mine took a trip to Miami and returned with a glove and a bat, so we started hitting tennis balls around. We found a few others who liked baseball too and eventually formed a baseball club. Then we got into organized baseball leagues around 1994. I was a decent pitcher with a fastball in the low 80s, but I knew I was never going to make a living at the sport, especially since the top professional baseball players in Germany (yes, there are some) make what minor leaguers in the US earn.

Meanwhile, I played a variety of computer baseball games and was learning programming. By 1998, I had played enough baseball games to realize that there were none I really liked, and my programming abilities had gotten to the point where I could write complete software, so I decided to create my own game. It was finished in 1999, and I decided maybe I could publish it and see what might happen from there. I was fortunate enough to do this as the web was rapidly increasing in popularity, so I was able to connect with other like-minded baseball fans and get the game to many of them.

As the cliché goes, the rest is history.

Me: I have heard that story before but always find it fascinating. The other thing you did not mention is you are not a big fan of American Pro Football. Many have asked over the years, including myself, when you would make a Pro Football simulation game that is as great as of Out of the Park Baseball. I had given up hope because you always explained that you don't have enough knowledge of the sport to make a simulation game of high quality. Things have changed though, would you mind giving my readers the latest news about a football simulation game?

Markus: About 2 years ago, we decided to expand our product line as Sebastian (our iOOTP programmer) introduced us to his buddy Malte and told us about their hockey game, which they had been developing in their spare time - Franchise Hockey Manager. Now, the game was released a few months ago, and apart from a few hiccups and lessons learned, FHM is a big success for our company. 
Early in October 2013, Andreas and I discussed why we shouldn't try the same approach with the most popular sport in the US, football. I personally enjoy watching football games on TV, but my knowledge about the sport is far from good, so I wouldn't be able to develop a good football game. But, sometimes in life things just fall right into place, and a couple of days after Andreas and I had the conversation, we found out that a very nice and clever English chap named Francis Cole, who is a lifelong football fan who I've known from my days working for Sports Interactive in London, has been developing his own little football game for about a year. And after talking for a few days in October, Francis agreed to join Out of the Park Developments and develop a football game with us.
The game is called Beyond the Sideline Football. Trust me, it was quite a ride until the whole team managed to agree on a name. And this is it. We feel that it is a good match for our product lineup and "BTS" sounds like a pretty tasty sandwich (in our graphic designer Daniela's humble opinion), and what can possibly be wrong with tasty sandwiches?
BTS will be based on the complete OOTP code base, which means that the GUI of BTS will be very similar to OOTP and that it will have all the great technical functionality that we've developed for OOTP in the past (FaceGen, online leagues, HTML output, text engine, storylines, world database etc.) and which are tested & verified to work quite well.
Obviously, football is a different game than baseball, so the game flow will be different too. After all, the teams just play one game per week, so there has to be stuff to keep you busy on the 6 days that you are not playing. But we'll talk about all that once we reveal more info in the coming months.
There is no scheduled release date. We will release the game once we feel it is rock solid and has a good set of features. Francis already had an impressive football code foundation with an awesome 2D engine and will save plenty of time because he will use parts of the OOTP code, but still it's way too early to make a good estimate on how long this whole project will take. 
Here are the features we’ve announced for BTS Football. We encourage people to follow the BTS Football Twitter account for the latest updates. There’s also an FAQ here:
http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/board/bts-general-discussions/240264-bts-frequently-asked-questions.html




Me: That sounds incredible. I am a baseball fan first but football is a close second and imagining a football game that is built using the same basic principles that have made OOTP so great is really exciting. Markus, I want to thank you for your time and responding to all of my email questions. I have really enjoyed it and am looking forward to playing OOTP 15 and blogging all about it. Is there anything you want to add that you didn't get a chance to talk about?

Markus: I think we covered everything, so I don’t have anything to add except: I hope everyone enjoys OOTP 15 as much as we enjoyed creating it. It’s by far the best version of OOTP yet; we are very proud of it. Thanks!