Even The All-Stars Are Role Players In MLB 11 The Show

Sitting there with my DualShock in my lap, I struggled to recall the last time a video game blindsided me this hard, much less at a point this early in playing it. I'd ranked up at a respectable rate, gained a fast understanding of my abilities and the situations in which they were useful. I was fearless and, I thought, indispensably valuable to the cause. The story of my success was playing out conventionally.

And then I was traded to the San Diego Padres.

How in the hell? My pitcher, in his first professional season, had gone from the bullpen to starting in the Eastern League all-star game in the span of three weeks in-game. A prospect showing that kind of overnight success would likely be untouchable in any baseball organisation, or be part of a multi-player, trading-deadline deal designed to get a free agent to a contending ballclub.

Yet as soon as I made it back from the all-star game in Toronto, was packed up from Minnesota's double-A stop in New Britain, Conn., and sent to San Antonio in a 1-for-1 player exchange, pitcher for pitcher.

I've dashboard-quit and restarted for any number of petty reasons in this game. But I decided that if sports career modes, as I've argued, are really role-playing games with an open-ended, self-driven narrative, then I had to live the creed here.

"I'm just numb right now," I told a friend. "I'm on auto-pilot for this start."

MLB 11 The Show is proudly realistic, to the point that you are just as vulnerable to the business of the game as the next minor league player with a one-year contract, which is to say, you have no say. If you've always wanted to come up with your favourite team, play there for 20 years and go to Cooperstown wearing its cap on your plaque, you may choose that franchise when you create your prospect. But you'd better hope they don't find you more valuable as trade bait in the meantime.

MLB 2K11 deliberately does not permit your character to be traded in its singleplayer mode, called My Player. At a preview event in January, one of the game's designers explained that the Visual Concepts team had debated the idea rather deeply before deciding against it. The idea was, if some guy was a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, they didn't want their game - which he bought, of course - to kick that fantasy in the arse and potentially derail a fun experience.

Sony's San Diego studio, the makers of The Show, saw it differently.

"We feel protecting the user from the possibility of getting traded contradicts our approach to the game itself," Aaron Luke, a designer, told me. "We strive to create the most realistic baseball experience possible, and getting traded is another part of the game.

"Our emphasis with Road to the Show has always been to avoid scripting out the user's path through the mode, by keeping the flow organic and the possibilities limitless," Luke added, "thus ensuring each user has their own specific RTTS experience and career path."

I can respect both points of view. Had I been a Minneapolis native and a lifelong Twins fan, fired up about the chance to pitch to cover star Joe Mauer, I probably would have reloaded an earlier save and prayed that it didn't happen again. As it is, I grew up in North Carolina, back when the Atlanta Braves were terrible, so I don't really have that kind of attachment. I subjected my created player to the whim of the draft, and was content to be assigned to the Twins. By that attitude, I should also be fine with the PS3 sending me to San Diego, with no choice in the matter.

Still, I wasn't kidding when I said I was numbed. My teammates in New Britain were mostly bot characters, but I'd come to recognise their contributions and rely on them. As a knuckleball pitcher, each at-bat runs the risk that my trashball will get hit a mile. Mike Rixey, the third baseman, was a human vacuum cleaner at that corner, and saved many hits with his wide range. Brett Buffinton, the right fielder, likewise pulled down many mistakes. Tyler Steen, the first baseman, and I had connected on three pickoffs already.

Now I had to make friends with a new set of teammates. These, however, included actual past major leaguers down in double-A trying to get back. Guys like Chris Denorfia, an outfielder who was just as capable of stalking down my warning-track oopsies. And Kevin Frandsen. I lived in San Jose for three years; Frandsen was a standout at Bellarmine Prep and San Jose State. I was delighted to be in a lineup with him.

It turns out I thrived in the remainder of my AA stop with the Padres' San Antonio affiliate, just as much as I would have with Minnesota up in Connecticut. At one point I had a 25-inning scoreless streak, and later came within two outs of a perfect game. Down the stretch, we won 19 of our last 24 games, with me pitching eight scoreless innings in the finale, to force a one-game playoff against Midland for the second-half division title. We lost 4 to 2.

I scrolled through the other league standings before beginning the off-season sim. Sure enough, my old club, the New Britain Rock Cats, won their division. I smiled. Maybe I'll see Buffinton, Rixey, Steen and the others down the line someday.


Comments

    i love this. I too subjected myself to the draft, and as a Red Sox fan, was surprised to see myself picked by the Yankees! I'm not almost halfway through the season, and while I am not leading the all star vote, I am doing well. They've got me pitching 7th or 8th inning duties right now. I have developed a connection with the 1B (Jody Kelsey - named after the game's senior producer) and the 2B. It's quite funny. Looking forward to seeing what happens when contract renewal time comes up. I'm focusing on my hitting attributes just in case I do get traded to the NL. Thanks for the post.

    It's complete crap! They pride the game on being realistic but it is such a sham... I'm halfway through the second year and should easily be considered a top prospect like on a Bryce Harper level. I purchased the extra training pts to get my player to an actually more realistic abilities i.e. made him a five tool player since in all actually lots of young prospects have more then just a few tools... Anyways... In triple A I have an equal or better rating then the players above me and I'm tearing up triple A and they trade me to the Padres as well! WTF!?! lol... For Brett Hawpe!!! A 32 yr old 1st baseman that I am clearly way better than... I wouldn't mind getting traded if it really was a realistic scenario but this is most definitly not. I requested a different position even to fill any potential needs with no avail... I even requested to be traded! In which I was told I was too valuable to the organization to trade! Yet a second later they ship me away...

    "MLB 2K11 deliberately does not permit your character to be traded in its singleplayer mode, called My Player. At a preview event in January, one of the game’s designers explained that the Visual Concepts team had debated the idea rather deeply before deciding against it. The idea was, if some guy was a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, they didn’t want their game – which he bought, of course – to kick that fantasy in the arse and potentially derail a fun experience."

    MLB 2K11 sucks ass, Road to the Show is about YOU playing a baseball player. A first year player in the minors has zero say in whether or not you get traded. That is how baseball works, and is why these games are realistic and why people love them.

    You also are not taking into consideration everything that goes into whether or not you get traded. If I pick my player to be a 2nd baseman, then decide to choose the Yankees as my team, I am most likely not going to stay long with the team as they have Robinson Cano who is still relatively young and is a great 2nd baseman.

    If you keep failing your Advancement Goals, you not only can get benched and moved own, you can make yourself more likely to get traded Things like that matter. It's not just about stats. Rarely do players stay with their teams the whole career anyway these days. There are stupid moves made, but stupid moves get made in real baseball too.

    You are complaining about something that makes this game realistic, and a simulation is supposed to be like that. People like you obviously don't understand the whole point of Road to the Show judging by the dumb complaints.

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