A Quick Look At The Sports Page...
Hi! I'm Vin Scully, and welcome to a new season of Major League Baseball - MLB '99. Today we're going to talk about MLB '99's starting lineup from top to bottom. Overall, MLB '99 looks to field a strong team, although the lineup has a couple of weak spots.
In the leadoff spot, we have the veteran player Mr. Base Running. Running is a more complex player than in most other baseball games, but his complexity will certainly prove valuable in the long run. With just a push of the Square or Circle buttons, you can send all your base runners forward or back a base. To focus on just one player, the Triangle and X buttons are used. This gives you great control of your team on the base paths. Also, you have the choice of leading off manually or letting your players do it themselves. Stealing is a bit tricky, but not impossible to master with the right amount of speed. The main problem with Running is that sometimes it is difficult to tell if a ball is going to drop in front of an outfielder or be caught. When this happens, you can easily get doubled up if you don't make the right call - a real rally killer.
Mr. Lotsa Options is back again this year in the number 2 spot, and many predict he'll have another all star season. He features exhibition games, seasons, playoffs, all star games, homer run derbies, and spring training. In spring training, you create a minor league player and let him play in a six game spring season. If he does well enough and earns enough points (which are awarded for hits, RBIs, home runs, etc.) he'll make it to your teams major league roster. In most modes, a variety of stats are kept on both players and teams. Each roster, including the new Diamondbacks and Devil Rays, begins with that team's real major league players. You can, however, throw all the players into draft and try to build a team of your own. You can't pull a double switch yet, but hey, there's always next year.
Batting third in the lineup is one of the team's brightest stars, Mr. Bat Control. In most baseball games, only timing matters while you're at the plate. But when Control hits, he can guess the type and or location of the pitch. This makes hitting much more realistic, interactive, and fun. Just like in the majors, you constantly try to second guess the pitcher.
In the clean up spot, we have Mr. Smooth Graphics. His role on the team is to make everyone else feel comfortable and relaxed, and he does just that. Player motions are smooth and realistic, and they include all the perks - from diving catches and barehanded pick ups to slamming a bat down after striking out. In addition, all the thirty major league stadiums, plus spring training parks, are replicated in detail. At times it feels like you're watching a real baseball game.
Mr. Ballpark Sound is in this year's five spot. While Sound usually doesn't make a starting line up, he definitely deserves mention here. He's got everything a guy with his name should have - fans yelling at players, vendors yelling at fans, the crack of the bat, the sound of an outfielder crunching into a wall, the organist playing BINGO, even the bat being dropped after a routine single. Sound's only downside is me, Vin Scully. I drone on endlessly, saying nothing, unless you turn me off (or give me a Farmer John sausage).
Batting sixth is a young player with a lot of potential who has been steadily improving each season, Mr. Artificial Intelligence. For the most part, your opponents play a pretty good game. They are aggressive on the base paths, they change up their pitch combos, and they even catch on if your pitching becomes predictable. While AI is certainly not the best he can be, he is as good as I've ever seen him. He does, however, have two tragic flaws. The first is that, judging by the high scoring games, it feels like you're always playing at Coors Field. Usually, teams score an average of 6-9 runs a game. His second error is much more detrimental to the team. When there is a collision at the plate (which seems to happen at least once in every couple of games), 9 out of 10 times the catcher will get smashed and drop the ball, which rolls back to the backstop. This allows other base runners to advance 1-2 bases. Nothing's worse in a close game than having a possible out turn into a three run catastrophe.
The seventh spot in this year's order is a weak one, Mr. Impossible Fielding. Simply, it's just too damn hard to field decently, let alone make spectacular plays. Fielding is a huge part of a baseball game, and it can be very frustrating to lose game after game because you can't catch a fly ball. There is a solution though - auto fielding. While some managers would gawk at this idea and call it weak, I highly recommend it. Not only does it allow you to focus on your pitching, it also gives a sense of being on a team when one of your players helps you out with a clutch defensive play.
The number eight hitter, Mr. Friend Less, is the weakest spot in the lineup. He detracts from the team's camaraderie by demanding that two player games can only be played in exhibition, and only on opposing sides. Most recent baseball games allow you to play with a friend on the same team, and this is often the most fun way to play. But in MLB '99, if you want to play anything other than an exhibition game, you need to go solo.
Last, but far from least, is Mr. Clutch Pitching. On every pitch, he chooses the pitch type, location, and strength. He is constantly trying to outsmart the batter, and has learned that he needs to adopt different strategies for different types of hitters. The pitcher-batter duel, which is the most intense and important aspect of baseball, proves excellent.
There you have it. It looks to be a strong season in front of us. So go ahead and pick up MLB '99, grab some peanuts and crackerjacks, and remember to always eat Farmer John smoked sausages.