In the absence of baseball, some of my friends and I had the idea to start an Out of the Park Baseball 21 online league.
If you aren’t familiar with OOTP, it’s essentially a baseball management simulation, you get to take over any current or historical team, or create one from scratch.
For our league, we’ve tried to be as realistic as possible, sticking closely to Major League Baseball rules, but we’ve also enabled draft pick trading and put some restrictions on length of contract in order to help keep general managers out of trouble.
We ran a draft to decide who got which team, and I drafted Cleveland and rebranded the team from the Indians to the Spiders, which was the name of the original MLB franchise in Cleveland way back at the end of the 1800s.
The Spiders are most notable for holding the record for the worst season in MLB history, as the 1899 iteration of the team went 20-134, allowing a whopping 1252 runs, compared to the only 529 runs they scored.
Luckily, the 2020 Spiders are faring a little bit better than the 1899 version did, as we have the best record in baseball at 56-28 as the season sits on June 29.
For every real week, we simulate three in game weeks, allowing us to move quickly enough to keep those in charge of rebuilding franchises engaged. We have a real person running each of the 30 teams, forcing us to deal with things like trading in a more realistic manner, as well as setting up some friendly trash talk between division rivals.
It’s been interesting to watch how different people handle running teams, even if some of the strategy has blown my mind. For example, the original general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tried to trade Mike Trout, consensus No. 1 player in baseball, because he was concerned Trout might deal with injury issues on the back end of his contract, for a handful of prospects.
The executives decided to veto the deal because it was so lopsided we argued it would hurt the competitive balance of the league, and the veto resulted in both GMs involved departing for greener pastures.
There have been some interesting challenges trying to get this going and keeping it running, and with four of us splitting duties running the league we’re able to mostly stay on top of it.
When we ran our league draft, which caused us to pause simulations for a week, we had an issue where once players signed, they were immediately released from their new organizations inexplicably, and we had to go back in and manually reassign those players to the teams they had signed with.
However, I can’t complain too much given my current position on top of the standings and already ten games up in the division.
The best part of it all has been the opportunity to bond with my buddies over the sport that sparked our friendships in the first place, even without the Colorado Rockies causing us the grief and pain they normally are in the middle of May. It’s given us something that is at least tangentially like sports to look forward to and talk about, and has dominated most of our discussions since we began last month.
Despite being spread across the country, we once again have an anchor to our discussions and the thing which brought us together in the first place, just in a completely different form than we’re used to.
I was familiar with OOTP before, and had played off and on through the years, but playing online, with other people, was almost entirely new to me.
Its also provided the opportunity for us to engage with new people around the thing we all have in common: baseball. Keeping 30 spots full is a bit of a challenge, and there certainly has been some turnover already, but by and large we’ve been able to keep things full with people from all over the globe.
I’ll continue to hope for the return of real live baseball as well as the rest of the sports slate here at home as soon as its safe for that to happen, whenever it can occur, but in the meantime, go Spiders.