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    Friday, August 4, 2017

    What Would a Hypothetical Backyard Baseball 2017 Look Like?

    The recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony gave me a lot of varied ideas for articles. This one might be the silliest though, so of course I had to follow through on it.

    Few things have been as influential a part of my life as baseball, but video games are up there. Maybe you already knew that though; after all, I sometimes even write about them. And, like many kids my age who grew up with a love of both things, one title reigned supreme: Backyard Baseball.*

    *You too can enjoy having this song stuck in your head, just as I did while writing this (in alternating shifts with this, of course).

    For those who might not be aware, Backyard Baseball was a series that started with a computer game released in 1997. The premise was generally pretty simple: it was a relative simple baseball game* aimed at younger audiences, with a colorful cast of neighborhood kids, straightforward and easy-to-understand gameplay, and a slew of cartoonish elements serving as the main selling points, and it made a strong enough impression that in spawned an entire, multi-sport franchise that became a cultural touchstone for a generation of sports fans.

    *Fun fact: in researching this, I read that the original game was made in a point-and-click engine, which seems like a strange way to build a sports game, but makes more sense given that maker Humongous Entertainment was known for that style of game.

    The second game, released in 2000 (but titled Backyard Baseball 2001), is probably even better known, however, as it tightened up things from the first game and added a bunch of features, including one of the things the series is most known for, the addition of 31 major league stars as kids to the game’s roster. A 2002 follow-up (but again subtitled 2003) would repeat the formula with a slightly shuffled set of 31 players (then subsequent games would shuffle the formula even more as the series generally declined in quality, but we won’t go there).

    What got me thinking about it in relation to the Hall of Fame was that, as the writers at Cespedes Family BBQ noted, two of the inductees were on the Backyard Baseball 2001 roster. Indeed, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell are actually the eighth and ninth Backyard Representatives in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But it was their reference to Tim Raines that got me thinking, where they called him “one that would have been had the game been made 15 years earlier”; it’s been even longer than that since the release of 2001. What would a Backyard Baseball 2017* installment look like, as far as major league stars go? Since the series is functionally dead at this point, this will forever be stuck in the realm of fantasy, but it’ll still be a lot of fun to think about.

    *Keeping track of 2001 and 2003 is already hard enough, so I won’t be calling this one Backyard Baseball 2018. Sorry.

    Tuesday, August 1, 2017

    Who Are the Hall of Famers Playing Today, If We Adjust for Size?

    With the Hall of Fame induction over the past weekend, I’ve had a few ideas for related articles lately. Let’s start with the most directly-related idea.

    I saw an interesting article over at Sporting News recently from Hall of Fame expert Graham Womack. If you aren’t already familiar with his work, you may still recognize his name from the “50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame” Project that I frequently participate in. In any case, he ran a piece recently looking at how many active players today might one day make it to Cooperstown.

    It actually reminded me of something I wrote several years ago, and even though we took slightly different approaches, we wound up with similar conclusions: the Hall of Fame, as is, is just too small. And not just that, but we even wound up with similar numbers for our numbers too: while we’re seeing a little under 40 active players per season making the Hall, based on the precedent, it should probably be a little over 50 at least, possibly even as much as 75 (although we both agreed that end of the spectrum seemed a little too high).

    It’s nice to see someone else who knows what they’re talking about come to that conclusion. And I figured it could be a good opportunity to run an update on my subsequent articles on the matter, where I tried to demonstrate how a Hall of this size would look transposed onto modern times (using both 2012 and 2006; you can find all of those pieces on this page under “Series 2”). It’s been five years, and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was on Sunday* after all, so this is extra timely!

    *Also, six months later, it’s still hard for me to believe Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines , and Ivan Rodriguez all got in this year, let alone that two more players missed by less than 20 votes.

    So, what would 40/50/60/70+ active players making the Hall of Fame look like in todays game? Which players would we be looking at?