I had hoped this blog would be about the start of Spring Training and the final destination of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but since that never-ending saga is, well, never-ending, I figured I would take the time to address something else that’s been on my mind lately: The state of the MLB The Show PlayStation franchise.
I began playing the Sony MLB offering back when it was known simply as MLB, in 2000, which featured Mo Vaughn on the cover (apparently in those days it was easier to get an Angels player on the cover than it is now, since Mike Trout is clearly this generation’s Mickey Mantle). In those days, the game was stripped down to the absolute minimum, no franchise mode, a “minor league” system that amounted to three players per team, etc.
Prior to owning a PlayStation, my game of choice was Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run for the Super Nintendo, back in the days of games that either featured real players and was sponsored by the MLBPA but had no real teams or games that featured real teams and was sponsored by MLB but featured no real players. KGJWR featured all the real MLB teams but with made-up player names, including “Big Magoo” in place of Frank Thomas with the White Sox.
Going back even further, my game of choice was Baseball Stars on the NES. Most people seemed to prefer the RBI Baseball series because it was licensed by the MLBPA, but I liked Baseball Stars because it was completely programmable. You could create your own team, players and league as well as having the ability to trade players. Back in 1993, in the days before the current generation of fantasy baseball or games like The Show, a friend of mine and I spent a whole weekend holding a player draft, creating a team, creating a minor league team, and playing a full season on Baseball Stars. It was a lot of work but definitely a lot of fun in the end.
When I bought MLB The Show 07 (featuring David Wright on the cover) for the PlayStation 2, I was dumbfounded. I thought it was everything I could ever want in a baseball video game. Real teams and players, just like the previous generation simply known as the “MLB” series, but with real expanded minor league teams and league rules, to an extent.
Now, I need to point out that, of all the gameplay options on The Show, I am a Franchise guy. I like the concept of playing GM better than the Road To The Show option (where you create yourself as a player and work your way through the system). I also don’t bother with all the bells and whistles including the card collecting and that kind of thing. I’m a baseball card collector in real life and have an extensive collection, I don’t need to collect “pretend” cards.
This is not a complaint, I have no issue with this being part of the experience, but it brings me to my first issue with the MLB The Show series:
Make Different Versions Highlighting Different Aspects Of The Game
As it is now, you can buy three different versions (though I’m cheating a bit because one is an online version and two are physical versions) but why not make MLB The Show: Franchise, where you can play the game in franchise or season mode, without all the extra card collecting and packs and stubs and things that I have no interest in.
Make a second version, or even an expansion pack, featuring the cards and all the extras that have nothing to do with playing baseball.
Release The Game When Spring Training Begins
As one who enjoys playing Spring Training games, there’s no reason why, in this day and age, the game can’t be released a month early. With downloadable patches and rosters, the game could be updated throughout Spring Training and give games like me a chance to play the Spring Training games in real time, with up to date rosters, which I do anyway because I spend the winter updating rosters on the previous year’s game, then I play Spring Training through and then transfer my saves to the NEW game once it’s released near Opening Day.
As an example, Madden NFL 19 was released on August 10, 2018. The NFL season didn’t begin until September 6. The preseason began on August 2 with the Hall Of Fame game. Why can’t Sony release The Show on a similar schedule as EA releases Madden?
Make Saved Rosters Transferable
I do my updates on saved rosters. It would make the game a lot more easy to play if I could just transfer those rosters to the next year’s game like I can transfer my season or franchise saves. This seems like a no-brainer to me, considering that, when you transfer franchise saves, the roster is going along with it, it’s just not transferable individually.
Work on that.
Upgrade The Managerial And Coach Hiring Options In Franchise Mode
While you can trade players from one team to another, and sign free agents, you cannot hire another team’s manager or hitting coach or pitching coach. That is ABSURD. Instead, you have the option of hiring your manager and staff from a list of computer-generated made-up names. There is NO excuse for this. The option to hire another team’s coach should be no different than signing another team’s free agents, it should be part of the experience.
Allow Non-Roster Invitees During Spring Training In Franchise Mode
This could be a little trickier but certainly not at all impossible. As each team has it’s MLB roster, AAA roster, AA roster and A roster, add a roster of NRI’s for spring training that can be added to the main roster if need be and released to the free agent pool if you decide not to keep them. Once the regular season rosters are set, the NRI roster would just disappear until the end of the season. There are a huge number of available free agents on the game, so this isn’t impossible by any stretch, and it would add another level of realism.
Make Regional Or Downloadable Covers For Each Team
Too much is made of the cover athlete and this year showed just exactly what a clusterfuck that can turn into. We’re six weeks from launch day and have no idea where the cover athlete will be playing. Why not make regional covers that are available nationwide via purchase from GameStop and Walmart and Target online? Or, even better, have a generic cover or a “legends” cover and make 30 different team covers available for download on the official Show website. I have made my own custom covers three times over the years, it’s not rocket science. If you can make 30 team custom themes for the PS4, I’m sure you can produce custom downloadable covers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the game and I can deal with not having these options available but, for how little it would really take to make these few alterations, why not do it? Too much time is spent on “1,300 new defensive animations” when, does that really matter? I mean, you make a great catch, but in the long run does the style of the animation of that catch really make that big of a difference in the gameplay aspect? Or is it a wig for a bald personality? It’s just a catch. Basically, what I’m saying is the game needs more steak, not more sizzle.
I love MLB The Show, and it’s a hell of a lot better than lining up Big Magoo to play first base for the White Sox on Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run or having no options to make trades or transactions on the old RBI Baseball series on the NES.
But it could be improved. Let’s work on that.