By Sam Adams SWX Reporter/Anchor
Did you ever wonder how the Boston Red Sox would've faired had they not traded Babe Ruth and invoked the "Curse of the Bambino?"
Have you ever thought, "Gee, I wonder if the Mariners would've won a World Series if Griffey, A-Rod, and the Big Unit hadn't bolted for greener pastures?"
Would you like to fire Jack Zduriencik and be Seattle's new general manager?
Out of the Park Baseball 14 – better known as OOTP14 – lets you answer those questions in its long-standing video game franchise. The game isn't your garden variety video game that you'll see on Playstation or Xbox. OOTP14 is a purely text-based computer simulation that provides unparalleled realism in baseball simulation. The game lets you take over a baseball franchise in any era and pull the trigger on trades, set ticket prices, sign free agents, set pitching rotations and lineups… you name it, you can do it.
For the purposes of my review of the game, I decided to take over the modern-day Mariners. If you read my review last year of Out of the Park 13 (OOTP13), you saw I didn't have much luck. I let the game go on auto-pilot, and it yielded eerily realistic results compared to what ultimately really happened in the 2013 season:
The Mariners went 75-87, last place in AL West in the game (75-87 in real life!)
Felix Hernandez: 3.32 ERA in the game (3.26 in real life!)
Detroit Tigers win the ALCS but lose in the World Series (bingo… that really happened!)
In short, this computer "game" pretty much nailed it and made very accurate predictions for the season. So this time around, I'm going to take the Mariners' fate into my own hands. I'm not going to let the M's nosedive into last place yet again on their own. This time we're going to knock off the A's, Rangers, and Angels in the toughest division in all of baseball.
My first order of business is to unload any high-priced players not pulling their weight in the lineup. The M's took care of that for us last year by trading Ichiro (hey-oh!), but I also see Franklin Gutierrez is due to make $15 million over the next two years. Trading him really is a two-for: Mariner fans would no longer have to hear Dave Sims try to roll the "r's" in Gutierrez's name everytime he steps up to the plate in a Root Sports broadcast. You'll thank me later. So I shop Goo-tee-EHRRRRRR-ez around on the market and the only bite coms from those free-spending Dodgers, who offer up pitcher Aaron Harang. I counter with an offer of Guti and Felix Hernandez for Harang and Clayton Kershaw. Hey, if they're taking on all these salaries, I might as well pull a fast one on them and get a grossly underpaid Cy Young winner in exchange for a grossly overpaid one. LA general manager Ned Colletti promptly rejects that offer, telling me – quote – "I am sorry, but I will not accept trades that include vastly overpaid veterans!"
The negotiations continue with me proposing a package of Gutierrez, Joe Saunders, and Hisashi Iwakuma for Harang and Matt Kemp. Again, my trade offer is summarily dismissed.
This may be harder than I thought.
That's one of the challenges in OOTP14. The game's artificial intelligence (AI) is pretty strong. So you can't just pull a lopsided trade like, say, Erik Bedard for Adam Jones. Oh, wait, that one really happened. But you get my point. If you're looking for a quick fix, trading a bunch of no-names for a cornerstone player like Mike Trout, it ain't gonna happen.
Instead of trying to swing a trade, I decide to sit tight and see how this 2013 team really stacks up. Maybe the Mariners were really on to something when they picked up Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Joe Saunders, and Jason Bay in the offseason. Maybe Seattle really does have a playoff contender and we just don't know it yet. Wishful thinking?
Come late-May, I'm feeling really good about my decision. We're holding a slim one-game lead for first place in the AL West with a respectable record of 26-21, and I haven't even lifted a finger. Jason Bay sends me an email (really, people still email?) and tells me he'd like a contract extension. Sure, why not? He's a Gonzaga guy and he's playing very well so far -- .329 batting average with 6 homers and 21 RBI in 39 games. With the click of a mouse, I sign him to a two-year extension. Boom, I'm a baseball executive!
My first real test as a big league bigshot comes in the Major League Draft. The M's have had a pretty good run in the draft as of late (with the exception of that whole Dustin Ackley thing),so I better not mess this up. Even though we already have a stud catcher in the minors in Mike Zunino, I decide to go with another catcher with our 1st round pick who just happens to be from Covington, Washington: Reese McGuire.
Speaking of Ackley, he's got to go. Dude's hitting just .215 and showing no signs of improvement. He's officially a bust. I send an APB out to the rest of the league: send me your best offer. To my amazement, teams are lining up for his services. The Braves offer up Dan Uggla. The Yankees say they'll trade me Kevin Youkilis. I choose to go with the Royals. They propose a swap for Billy Butler, a stud first baseman. Because I'm feeling charitable, I add our overpaid centerfielder Gutierrez in the deal and ask for a minor league outfielder in return. Done deal! My first trade.
Feeling pretty good (yet a little guilty) about trading away Seattle's one-time All-Star-in-the-making, I decide to trade the team's other so-called franchise savior: Justin Smoak. We send him packing to Boston for shortstop Stephen Drew. A few weeks later, in the thick of a pennant chase, we make a deadline trade with the Indians for Nick Swisher.
My work done, I leave it to the players to take care of the rest, and that they do. They hold off the Angels to win the AL West with a respectable mark of 88-74.
You heard that right. The Mariners win the West. Sure, that win-loss record was probably padded a little bit by having the lowly Houston Astros in the division. But if you're a Mariner fan, you'll take a playoff spot any way you can get it (even if it's in cyberspace). Oh, and the Yankees didn't make the playoffs. A win-win in my book
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tampa Bay's David Price no-hit us in the AL Wildcard round, helping eliminate us in five games. And you'll be bummed to hear King Felix strained his back in that game, and was not available again for the M's again in the postseason.
All in all, though, a very promising season. Michael Saunders turned into an All-Star outfielder, hitting a career-best 19 homeruns and stealing 21 bases. Kyle Seager led the squad with 27 homers and 83 RBI (but also struck out 130 times). Tom Wilhelmsen led the league with 43 saves, though he did have 9 losses. A little surprisingly, Felix had a down year, going 13-9 with a 4.05 ERA. Maybe those new ballpark dimensions at Safeco really are going to mess with King Felix's numbers. And you'll be interested to know that Ackley hit a blistering .279 with 13 homers and 57 RBI after getting traded to KC, finishing the season at .252, 18 HR, 74 RBI overall. Maybe patience on Dustin will pay off for the M's in real life.
So, there you have it Mariner fans. Whether or not the M's make the playoffs in 2012 remains to be seen. But if Out of the Park Baseball 14 has anything to say about it, they'll give the AL West a run for their money.
The best part about OOTP14 is the game never ends. I have now hit the offseason, trying to reshape the roster to repeat as AL West champs. I let a few expiring contracts go in hopes of signing free agent second baseman Robinson Cano. Unfortunately for me, the Yankees – just as they probably will in real life – ink their All-Star to a 7-year, $126 million extension just before free agency. Oops. That leaves me scrambling for a backup plan, eventually signing former Spokane Indian Ian Kinsler. Sounds like something the Mariners would do.
OOTP14 is available online now at ootpdevelopments.com for $39.99 for PC & Mac. There are all sorts of different ways to play the game. You can choose any team you want, in any era you want. Let me know how your team ends up: @SWXSamAdams on Twitter. Good luck!