Some ESPN personalities are known, and chided, for making product endorsements. Steve Berthiaume isn't in that crowd. Writing a 2500-word guide on how to create, in MLB The Show, painstakingly accurate journeymen players from the 1970s is not being a lip-service pitchman. That is a bona fide roster editor.
Berthiaume, 45, a SportsCenter anchor and co-host of Baseball Tonight, yesterday published an incredibly detailed breakdown of how he built Ed Ott, the catcher for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, and Milt Wilcox, who won 17 games for a powerful Detroit team in 1984. He's just as much a stickler for matching the players' appearances as he is their statistical performance.
To get their playing styles correct, Berthiaume matches certain stats from that player's year with ones similar to players in the current roster, then uses the latter's ratings in building out the player. For example, to derive Ott's contact rating against left-handed and right-handed pitching for a player in MLB 10 The Show, he used an average of attributes from Ryan Church, John Baker and Brett Gardner, who in 2009 had batting averages and at-bat totals similar to Ott's in 1970
Berthiaume didn't stop there. He told me over Twitter that a DVD of the Pirates' 1979 season helped get him through the winter, so he was watching that closely for how Ott swung the bat, then matched it to one of the nearly 500 batting stances included in the game.
For Wilcox, Berthiaume did news research to make sure he had his repertoire of pitches correct, and watched old footage of the 1984 playoffs, noting the analyst's assessment of the pitches' strengths and movement. He also applied the same methods to Wilcox's ratings, noting that creating pitchers takes much longer.
Why? Berthiaume likens player creation to baseball card nostalgia. "We old guys are supposed to pick up relaxing, old-guy hobbies like building model train layouts in our basements," Berthiaume writes. "I've been building video baseball players with a computer and a PlayStation 3. If your goal is absolute accuracy, this can become an immensely interesting research project for baseball fans."
Berthiaume told me he picked Ott and Wilcox because their first and last names are included in the soundfile of 4000 last names and 800 or so first names, so announcer Matt Vasgersian and the stadium PA will say them. It also helps that the Pirates in this game have a 1979 throwback uniform, helping to complete Ott's look. The Tigers' home whites have also stayed the same forever.
Those are just two players. Berthiaume said he built the entire 1973 Milwaukee Brewers ("long story," said the Red Sox fan and Massachusetts native). It must have taken forever. Why would he do this?
Berthiaume compares it to baseball card collecting, or another hobby. "We old guys are supposed to pick up relaxing, old-guy hobbies like building model train layouts in our basements," Berthiaume said. "I've been building video baseball players with a computer and a PlayStation 3."
Taking An Inside Look at 'MLB The Show' [Steve Berthiaume, ESPN.com]