Monday, February 28, 2011

Sixty (starting) nines, dude: the all-time baseball league

Baseball is the intellectual's game since all the action takes place in the observer's head — which could also be why it takes nearly three hours to complete seven minutes of action.

That's the best way of introducing a fun little side project borne from a secret shame: creating a 25-player roster for all 30 current MLB franchises, plus another 30 historical rosters. Sixty nines, as it were.

This sort of ties with the concept of metafandom, along with having personal and professional obligations that proscribe any blogging on baseball. Talking about a game will never replace watching the best players in the world do their thing. However, there is a lot to be said for the idea a lot of Seamheads, as Craig Calcaterra put it recently, have come "to love or obsess about the game — through something other than actually sitting down and watching it."

For yours truly, the gateway drug into being a stat geek was a computer simulation from called Earl Weaver Baseball that was released in the late 1980s. There is general awareness that John Madden Football was catalytic for sports video games, but Weaver was innovative in its own right (you could play an entire season and it recreated different stadiums). Its era-specific rosters using Hall of Fame players, this being before people realized using one's name and likeness without compensation was probably actionable, was a better introduction to baseball history than Ken Burns' Baseball (not being hyperbolic, it really was).

From about 1989 through 1996, a shameful number of hours were wiled away playing games between, for instance the AL 00-30 team with its Ty Cobb-Tris Speaker-Babe Ruth outfield (and two .400 hitters, Harry Heilmann and George Sisler, sitting on the bench) and the likes of the AL 61-75 team, on which the 1961 version of Roger Maris was the fourth outfielder behind Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Even more time was pissed away typing in contemporary players' stats from the backs of baseball cards to make rosters of current players to make imaginary teams.

As a 15-year-old loner growing up in a rural area, it was either that or learn how to hunt or fish. Remember, this was before kids out in the boonies had the Internet or meth labs. Besides, who wouldn't have been curious to see what kind of power numbers Frank Thomas would have put up if he was 'created' and placed on a team that played in Fenway Park?

Suffice to say, that's always been there. So, if all this goes according to plan, by Opening Day each roster should be posted.

Here is a rough format:
  • Franchises will be grouped by vintage. The Blue Jays and their 34-season history aren't competing with Red Sox and Yankees, whose lineups can be drawn from nearly a century. Feel free to read that as a protest against MLB wrecking a good thing, being a sport, no salary cap, with a bad thing, unbalanced schedules and too many divisions.

    That expanded playoff format cannot happen soon enough.

  • No player may be used twice. Rob Neyer of, a few years ago, published his Big Book of Baseball Lineups. When it came out, I was all, "How dare he have the drive and work ethic to see to fruition an idea I never acted on!" However, Neyer's objective was just picking the best lineup. This exercise is under the guise that there's some realm where these teams would actually play, so Barry Bonds can't be on the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.

    A couple years ago, yours truly also managed the Blue Jays in a sim league. Again, players could be used more than once. This is more pure.

  • Each player will be chosen by his most representative season. The criteria is to use WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to pick a 25-player roster with a batting order using a designated hitter, bench, starting rotation and bullpen.
  • Context counts. That's a way of dealing with suspect Steroid Era seasons or one-year wonders. For instance, Brady Anderson's 50-home run 1996 season (6.6 WAR) should get tossed out, but his '92 campaign (5.4) that better reflected his overall body of work is permissible. Some emphasis will be given to more contemporary players, since baseball has become more competitive over time. In other words, anyone from the pre-Jackie Robinson era or Dead Ball Era (before 1920) will have to be more exceptional than a latter-day player.

Here are the divisions:

  • Classic: The charter franchises — Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers.

  • Modern: Teams that took their current form in the 1950s and '60s — Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics.

  • Newbies: The under-40 (as in seasons) teams — Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays. Some allowance is being made for the Royals' small-market woes.


  • Classic: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals.

  • Modern: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves (dating from 1966).

  • Newbie: San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks. The Milwaukee team would draw on seasons when that city had a NL team.

  • North Division: Buffalo Bisons (Mets B), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies B), Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston B), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Yankees B), Rochester Red Wings (all-time Washington Nats/Twins B), Syracuse Chiefs (players born in '40s).

  • South Division: Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlotte Knights (Chisox B), New York Giants, Norfolk Tides (all-time Browns/Orioles B)

  • West Division: Columbus Clippers (Cleveland B), Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh B), Louisville Bats (Cincinnati B), Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit B).

  • American North: Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs B), Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis B), Nashville Sounds (Brewers AL-only, 1969-97), Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City B).

  • American South: Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers B), New Orleans Zephyrs (players born in '50s), Oklahoma City RedHawks (Houston B), Round Rock Express (Senators/Rangers B).

  • Pacific North: Colorado Springs Sky Sox (players born in '60s), Tucson (Padres B), Salt Lake Bees (Angels B), Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners B).

  • Pacific South: Fresno Grizzlies (Giants B), Las Vegas 51s (Blue Jays B), Sacramento River Cats (Athletics B), Reno Aces (players born in '70s and '80s).
Hope this can be pulled off!


AkiSchennberg said...

the meth lab would be more profitable, and probably better for your health.. i'll be cheering for this to actually happen. good luck in your nerdery.

Superfun Happy Slide said...

Sniffing fuel soaked rags and aerosols were all the rage in my elementary years, among my peer group.

I ended up riding the tracks to my own personal self-destruction (finding my inner-nerd) in the summer of’88, by trying to create a role-playing and dice based baseball substitute. The Jays were in a lull year and I was utterly unable to interest anyone in my overly tedious D&D-like creation.

Oh well, its nice to see some one else consumed a part of their youth with absolute frivolousness.

I'll admit that I'm both intrigued and excited (pushing my glasses back on my nose while searching for my long since lost bronchial puffer).

PS. I'm placing Scott Lusader and the Milkman on the proverbial bench in my mind, out of pure spite; no one may use them, they must suffer for the '87 atrocities.

halejon said...

Wow...I had no idea that anyone else knew about Earl Weaver baseball, or it's deserved place among the pantheon of greats. One of the only games available on the mac back in the day, as well. Bravo.

Greg W said...

Earl Weaver was interesting, but there was an odd hitch in the simulation. Hitting got worse and worse as the sim season wore on. It was almost impossible for a simmed game to have one team score 10 runs after June 30th. I created a player specifically rigged to be the second coming of Mickey Mantle, and by teh end of the year he was hitting .250 in a 'modern' league.

Why do I remember this? Because I, too am a nerd.