We’ve hit a time in our lives where we have to think about something other than sports. Sorry, you’re right. Sports over everything. So maybe we just need to divert our attention to sports in a different light. We’ve already seen MLB players challenging each other on MLB the Show . Tampa Bay Rays’ ace, Blake Snell, took home the championship over fellow hurler, White Sox pitcher, Lucas Giolito, in a best of 5 series. NBA2k leagues are also drawing a lot of attention recently. Anything to get any type of sports fix during these trying times. Those are video games though, anyone can play a video game. The true all-stars come out when there’s a bit of strategy involved. I give to you, Magic the Gathering, meets poker, meets Friday night at the hobby shop, meets baseball: MLB Showdown.
Sports Games, a Brief History
Each generation has that sports game that they could turn to and play for hours on end. I spoke to my dad and his favorite growing up was Challenge the Yankees. Today’s kids will probably say Madden or any NBA2K game. Those games are fun and I just bought NBA2K20 for my Switch (late to the party, I know), but they’re the same game year after year. The only things that change are the players (slightly), or instead of pressing “X” to shoot, now you use the joystick. OMG! MUST BUY! The people who work for these companies are marketing geniuses and have the sales to prove it. My hat’s off to them because I’m just as guilty as anyone.
MLB Showdown: The Game of Games
Despite how much I love video games, nothing compares to MLB Showdown. The basic premise is you put together a team of player cards (our favorite season is from the 2000 collection) that must fall underneath a total of 5000 points. Your team will consist of enough players to get you through a game but most likely a World Series type approach. So you will need to have a starting line up, a rotation, a bullpen, and some bench players. Then your fate is decided by the roll of a 20 sided die and some strategy cards.
The rest of MLB Showdown will operate as a standard baseball game. The person pitching will roll the die vs. the batter. From there, an advantage is given based on the sum of the roll and the pitcher’s “control” (as seen on the top of Pedro’s card). If the pitcher gets the advantage, the batter will roll based on the pitcher’s chart (bottom right of Pedro’s card). If the batter gets the advantage then it will be rolled based on the batter’s chart (bottom right of Green’s card). It is always in your best interest to want to secure the advantage as there is a better chance for your desired outcome.
Pedro Martinez: Rolls a 3
Umpire: 3+5 = 8, advantage goes to the batter as Green’s on-base is a 9
Shawn Green: Rolls a 17 aka hits a homerun!
Pedro: not pleased and will probably throw at the next batter.
Let’s take another example:
Pedro: Rolls a 5
Umpire: 5+5 = 10, advantage to Pedro
Green: being the professional hitter that he is, rolls a 20, aka hits a double!
The game goes on like this for 9 innings but there’s tons of strategy out there for all you baseball nerds. You’ll need to decide things like whether or not to trot your pitcher out there for another inning if he’s gassed (see IP on Pedro). You will have the ability to try and score from second on a base hit but depending on who you’re running on (Pudge, for example with a +11 arm), it might be best to hold at third. Then you could add on strategy cards that provide extra points to your rolls in certain situations (LHP vs. LHB, RHP vs. LHB, etc). Given the era this game was played, I liken those cards to performance enhancing drugs.
On Friday nights, the local hobby shop in our town would hold MLB Showdown tournaments for the best of the best to get together and duke it out. I, um, was never there, because I was, um, always partying on Friday nights. I swear.
This game takes me back to a simpler time. A time when nothing else mattered except being able to go to the shop and bust open a pack of cards hoping to pull a “foil” (all-star card). Then going home and constructing a revised team with some of the new cards you pulled. As you inched closer and closer to that coveted 5000 points, you could almost taste your opponent’s tears as you visualize Randy Velarde sliding under the tag for the game winning run (speed A, baby!).
My friends and I sometimes wonder what it would be like if they made today’s players. Ronald Acuna: on base 9 speed A, 17-20 homerun. Gerrit Cole: control 5, 1-10 strikeout, 19-20 single. Then other times, we’re purists, and still enjoy reminiscing about the guys who are no longer playing (so long Adrian Beltre, you were the last one standing). I would give anything to go back again to those days for a few hours, just to get all the boys together and play some good old fashioned baseball. Equipped with a 20 sided die and some adolescent aggression, tempers flared when someone like Mike Sirotka would throw an inexplicable complete game shutout. We didn’t know it then, but those were the days. Kids today will never know the feeling.
Photos courtesy of Mike Niggel