Posts Tagged ‘mlb 12 the show’

I used to be a Cubs fan. That is to say, I used to care if they won or lost. I’m pretty sure that constitutes some part of fandom. Honestly, I liked the Braves more as a kid. I begged my dad for one of those awesome red and blue hats with a curved “A” on the front for two years. I had pretty much picked them at random though, and they happened to be a great team at the time. So there was that. But there was never a reason for liking the Cubs other than them being from my neck of the woods. I never felt a connection with the team until I reached my late teens and early 20’s. Perhaps it was the fact that as a teenager I felt like I was in a rut. There wasn’t much going on to make me feel like I had a future. Sound like any baseball team we know? Sure there were some star players, Mark Grace being one of my favorite first basemen of all time (Can we get a hall of fame recount?), but there was never a real feeling that victory could be ours. It was all just for show, and maybe some ticket sales.

 There was always hope.

Baseball’s currency is doled out in hopes and dreams. At the end of the day, the Cubs are pretty much always the biggest spenders with the least to show for it. The phrase, “next season” may have started with the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Red Sox, but the Cubs wear it like a “dunce” cap. “This is the year” is an equally comical codpiece. Even now, in a season that every sensible baseball fan knows is a throwaway rebuilding year, there are people preaching about a possible playoff appearance. What the fuck are they thinking? That’s why people laugh at Cubs fans. In 2003 when the Cubs basically shot themselves in every foot they could during the playoffs, and blamed some poor fan, I had pretty much had it with being one of their fans. I didn’t even want to be associated with those people. It just got so ugly and hateful. I felt like Cubs fans were a crew of Goonies if they had all been Chunk. It was fucking awful, half a city screaming and crying as if their chubby fingers were inches from some rusty blender blades.

But still, I watched. I kept on being a “fan” and hated every minute of it. I actually found myself smiling (sometimes giggling) every time Sosa struck out, as if his every whiff was proof that the natural order of things remained perfectly in line. Then on Saturday October 6th 2007, though I conveniently had another, I threw my favorite Cubs hat into the warehouse trash compactor at the hospital I worked at towards the end of my shift. The Cubs had just lost the division series against the Diamondbacks, three games to zero. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the team that was cursed, it was the fans and the only way to break that curse was to stop watching them. If the 1994 strike had forever ruined my inner baseball child, being a Cubs fan in the time since crammed it into a coffin, slapped a White Sox “2005 World Series Champions” bumper sticker on it, and lowered it into the cold dark earth.

So I did the unthinkable. After nearly 20 years of being a fan of all things baseball, I quit. I stopped paying attention. It didn’t matter anymore. The team I chose to follow was a horrible heart eating monster that wouldn’t stop until I had given it everything. Then it would walk away with my pride in its roided out gorilla hand and finish another season under .500. Fuck that shit.

 It lives…

But I couldn’t ever really let it go. I still loved the game, even if I hated some things that were happening in it. I played All Star Baseball 2003 obsessively for seven years after it came out, as the expansion sensation Indiana Outlaws, building up a team that would rival the great champions of yesterday. I had Ricky Henderson’s ancient ass leading off at the age of 45 and he played 5 seasons with my team, batting .345 with around 40 stolen bases a season until 2008. Fred McGriff, Greg Maddux, and Craig Counsel made up the rest of this come-from-nowhere unstoppable force that I wished the Cubs could be. (Counsel coincidentally lead my league in on base percentage every season until retiring in 2006. Perhaps he should have been given more at-bats in real life?) For all my trying I couldn’t stay away, and I knew baseball was waiting for me, if I ever wanted to hang out again.

Then I met Mo. That jerk loves baseball. He loves it in the way I used to as a child and he’s a grown ass man. He made me feel icky. His love of the game reminded me how much I had enjoyed it and how much fun we had together. It made me feel like I had abandoned a good friend. I just threw baseball in the trash compactor at work and crushed it. So I started paying attention again. I found a changed game. One that, free from any players I knew, wasn’t so bad. It was hard at first. I still had hurt feelings. I was still pretty butt hurt about all the cheating it did. Especially Bonds and McGwire. Fuck Those guys. Eventually, and most recently because of fantasy baseball, I began to like it again. Baseball and I were on good terms. Being civil and all that.

I’m not quite ready to be a Cubs fan yet.

So here I am, all excited for a new baseball season, but there’s a catch. I don’t really have a team to root for. Sure I could join Raul and be a Sox fan, but that wouldn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the White Sox. I get happy when they win. I get disappointed when they lose, but they don’t feel like they are my team. If you have to try to like something, it’s not meant to be. I could jump on the Marlins’ ship and support the possible one hit wonder they have going on there, but even that feels cheep. Atlanta doesn’t feel the same anymore either, so what’s an estranged baseball fan to do?

As I said before, the Cubs have always been free and easy when it comes to dealing out hopes and dreams. Even now with Theo, I’m skeptical. I don’t know the deal with all these prospects they have. I don’t know if Garza is going to be any good in a year or two. I don’t know if Rizzo or Jackson are going to be worth a nickle, ever. Neither does anybody else honestly, so don’t hate me for being initially unimpressed. I’ve been out of the Cubs loop. I like Theo. He says and does good things. There’s a track record to justify any optimism someone may be inclined to feel. I just don’t want to get hurt again.

 The guys have talked about the bandwagon fan before on the podcast and I agree with their collective opinion that bandwagon fans don’t really exist. But I would be a liar if I didn’t say for all my hatred and anger, baseball angst and regret, for all my idiocy and wasted time, I’ll be the first true bandwagon fan if that bastard Epstein can pull it off. I’ll buy a rude custom jersey, a new hat, and jump for joy in the streets of Wrigleyville if the Cubs even make the playoffs in the next five years. Until then, I’ll be watching other teams. I’ll be playing MLB The Show. I’ll be pretending I know what I’m doing in fantasy baseball, stacking up catchers and talking shit the whole time. But only until they prove that those hopes and dreams they’ve been squandering all these years were worth it. Maybe then, and only then, can I truly be a Cubs fan again. Some people may think that’s shallow, that I’m a fair weather fan, but all relationships are give and take. Cubs fans have been doing all the giving for a century. It’s about time they got something in return.

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MLB 12 The Show is once again the best sports game available. Period. It’s better than every other game for every other sport again. Period. I don’t know how they keep doing this. It’s almost supernatural how great this series is. The play mechanics are flawless. Ball physics are as realistic as they come and you won’t see a 30 foot leap to rob a home-run anywhere. You can learn from this, MLB 2kwhatever. Though you probably won’t. Most likely, when your cross platform contract with the MLB runs out after this year, EA will get it next and we won’t have to see you sitting there being mediocre anymore, wishing you could play in the big leagues.

I can’t say enough about how well the game plays. It’s just as good, if not better than it ever was. If I were to give a review score on gameplay alone, it would be a super high 9. Like a 9.9999999999. I don’t think there are enough extra credit points available to give it an accurate letter grade and the northern hemisphere would be pretty devoid of stars if I gave MLB 12 The Show as many as it deserves. A tad bit over-dramatic I know, but it’s just that good. I couldn’t come up with anything related to thumbs up, but you get the picture.

So what do you do when your review score is a forgone conclusion? When it’s almost impossible to quantify the level of smile inducement? When all you can say is, “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude, you have to fucking play this game!” there is only one course of action. You tell people how you personally feel about the game instead. You relate your emotions and impressions. Your experiences and thoughts. You don’t review it. You merely express it.

It was a little nerve wracking. Throwing for my first time in a professional team’s uniform, even if it was just a AA club. I couldn’t hit my spots in practice, but my arm felt as good as it ever has. I couldn’t quite locate my fastball, though it was quick and lively. My sinker was dropping like a bomb, but mostly in the dirt in front of the plate. I don’t even want to get into what my slider was trying to do. My first start as a professional ball player was looking to be a terrible day.

You always see yourself succeeding if you just get the chance to prove yourself. Even though you may be thinking about the possibility of failure, you see a win in your head. You know what never even crosses your mind? You never once think about just doing OK and walking away without a loss or a win. I pitched well enough, but I allowed 3 runs over 4 and a third and got yanked. Luckily the guys gave us some runs after I left and we pulled out the win, but the “W” isn’t attached to my name. It’s not what I wanted as my first professional start, but I’ll take what I can get.

My second game? My God that was a different story. I started out slow. I couldn’t hit my locations again. I got a little wild, but made it through the first two innings without letting a run by, something I couldn’t even do through the first inning of my last start. When I came into the third, something clicked. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt like I couldn’t lose all of a sudden. I struck out the side and just kept going from there. It started getting hectic around the sixth, I really just had no steam left, but I was throwing a gem and I was getting no sign that they were gonna pull me out. So I just kept throwing. I kept the ball low and outside, throwing at their hands every once in a while to keep the batters honest. I kept throwing different pitches and, miraculously, when a hitter made contact with one of my meatballs it stayed on the ground. I finally thought I would be sitting down when our closer started warming up in the eighth, but no dice there. I got sent back in to finish. Complete game shutout is the most beautiful phrase to a new pitcher, probably to any pitcher. To have it spoken about my last start is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Honestly though, I’m not sure what possessed me to take on a contract right out of high school. Though what’s done is done and I’m here now. With two starts under my belt and a third coming on only three days rest after a full nine, barring some form of lineup change, I’m worried about how I’ll perform. I just had two drastically different games. I still don’t know what I’m capable of, or incapable of for that matter, but I’m going to throw at everyone. That’s always been my style. Throw strikes and pray.

Exactly what baseball’s supposed to be.

My first two games as a starting pitcher in Road To The Show mode in MLB 12 The Show are pretty indicative of the series as a whole. The game, while being the best sports simulation available for any sport, is often erratic, random, unpredictable…

I picked up a no decision in my first start, allowing 3 runs and 5 hits over 4 and a third innings with 2 strikeouts. Then 4 days later I threw a complete game shutout, allowing 7 hits with no walks and 7 strikeouts in my second start. That is the essence of baseball. It’s erratic. It’s random. It’s unpredictable.

Sure it’s a video game, and there are ways to win or do decent pretty much all the time. Though The Show has always done well to minimize this by throwing in that bit of chance. Even if you have perfect timing on the meter, or the new “Pulse Pitching,” there’s a chance that curve ball will, well, not curve. Even whether a batter capitalizes on that bad curve is totally up in the air. That’s what baseball is all about. It’s tension and release. Every pitch. Every at bat. Every game. All season long.

It feels good to scrape away two seasons worth of pine tar.

I had a rocky seven year relationship with Allstar Baseball 2003. It was the only reason I kept my Xbox connected to my television for a long time. As soon as I played a game in MLB 10 The Show, I felt comfortable throwing the Xbox in the closet. I knew it was my new sports series for good. I tend to skip seasons on sports games, picking the new version up every other year (Madden’s, and EA’s, lack of true updates every year caused this habit to form.) so I’ve never played The Show 11. So much has changed in these two years that it feels like a totally new game to me. It still has the same overall feel and flow, still has the same sounds and visuals (though it’s the prettiest it’s ever been) but still feels new and fresh. The modes, features, and UI all have a fresh coat of paint but there’s enough new included to justify a new game.

This season marks the debut of two new mechanics. For pitching you have the option to use Pulse Pitching. It’s an innovative approach to pitching that I do like, though I feel the meter during the windup from 2010 is still more immersive, since the meter moves during the windup and delivery, synced with the animation. Pulse pitching allows you to select your pitch, then location, and then your release point by using a pulsing circle. The circle gets smaller and larger, rather quickly, and you have to press the pitch button when the circle is smallest to hit your location. The ball can end up anywhere within the circle and anywhere along its outline so timing is far more important than using the old pitching meter, and obviously takes some adjustment. Don’t expect to just start painting the plate corners your first time.

The second new mechanic is complete analog batting. The idea is that you use the left analog stick to locate your swing, and the right stick to time it. Since you have to pull the right stick down to set your front foot and then push forward to swing at the right moment, as well as locate the ball at the same time with the left stick, there is a HUGE learning curve. Even though I admittedly haven’t used it much yet, I’m going to come right out and say that I don’t really like it. It feels cumbersome and slow. The target that shows where your bat will make contact is obtrusive, often obscuring the ball as it comes in at you. It also has a spring return. Meaning that if you let go of the stick, it bounces back to center so you have to hold the left stick steady as you move the right to swing. It’s all just too much too soon.

That’s not to say it won’t feel much better with more practice, but as a new feature it has the feel of something meant for only very skilled players. Some people just want to play baseball.

For those people not interested in being the best at moving analog sticks, you have the option of using the older batting methods from previous versions of the game so you aren’t forced to even look at the new stuff if you just want to play the way you are used to.

Forced into retirement.

I’m a little disappointed that I can’t carry over my RTTS player from 2010. I know it’s a bit much to ask, and maybe you can do it if you have the 2011 game, but there’s still a feeling of loss there. I’m five seasons into my career on that game and in the middle of my first season at the MLB level and I just have to start over. It’s a shame, but I’ll get over it.

Want to hear something else that could fit the above tagline? Muting Eric Karros is almost a requirement. That guy has all the personality of a lobotomized brick in a coma, not to mention he says things that the guy he replaced last season used to say in the 2010 version of the game. What the fuck? Luckily, as I stated, you can mute any of the three commentators if you so choose. Crisis averted.

What do you mean I don’t have to work the bullpen?

I’m pretty sure (maybe 80%) this was included in the 2011 game, but I’m not enamored with the idea that you pitch your first game in AA as a starter. I liked how you had to earn a start in RTTS 2010. Being a starter right out of the gate has the advantage of speeding up your time in the minors, but it also has the disadvantage of taking away the feeling of accomplishment when you’re awarded with a spot in the starting rotation, even if it is just to keep it warm for an injured player. I’ll miss that feeling to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things it makes little difference to the game.

What it allows you to do is build up stats faster since you are seeing more batters and earning more points per game than you would otherwise. Some people don’t attach themselves to their virtual counterparts like I do. I’m sure other people with even less time than I have are big fans of not being stuck in a relief role for half a season before they are given a start.

Still, this is the only area of real contention I have with the game and it’s only because there’s no option to change it.

What it all comes down to is this.

Our resident stat nerd and baseball superfan, Mauricio Rubio, took a shot at the game while a plumber was fixing my kitchen sink. (NOT a euphemism for sex) It’s important to note that ol’ Rube is a fucking savant, I think he may actually be autistic. The man knows every player in baseball, past or present, and perhaps even future. Within moments of picking a team and starting a game, he was able to compete simply based on his knowledge of baseball. He knew where the pitch was going. Every time. Without ever playing any game in The Show series.

Who cares right?

Fucking wrong. That just goes to show you the amount of detail thrown into this game. Mauricio knows how a pitcher is going to throw at Alfonso Soriano, at what count, what number of outs, with runners at whatever bases and so does the game’s AI. That amount of detail wasn’t put together by no slouch. That takes constant and painstaking research from a team that absolutely loves the game of baseball. That’s why The Show is the best sports simulation in existence. You don’t create a game like this with code and QA testing. You give birth to it. It’s the love child of baseball fans and video game fans coming together in an explosion of statistics and gameplay polish. It wasn’t made for me. It was made for the game of baseball itself.

This has been making the rounds a little, but it’s still great. It really fits the feeling of the game as a whole.