Coming Soon: The Parallel Universe Fake Mets

show_castillo.jpgMy dedication to this site was derailed the past few days by the tail end of spring break. Not mine, of course, but The Baby’s. It seems day care gives spring break even to three-year-olds, so I spent a good chunk of the last week driving The Baby back from Cabo. Maybe you think spring break is awesome if you’re still young and childless, but it really sucks if you have to work while your kid is drunk-texting you from Senor Frog’s.

But spring break is over, I have returned, and I wanted to let everyone know that I will soon commence on my newest, most insanest project: The Parallel Universe Fake Mets. An overwhelming 56 percent of you said this is how I should waste my time this baseball season, and waste it I shall.

For those of you who need an introduction or refresher, the premise is thus: I will play an entire season as the Mets in the PS2 version of MLB10:The Show in franchise mode. My results will be posted series by series, and compared to the result of the actual real-life Mets. I realize that, for comedic purposes, this project would probably work best if my Fake Team does awesome and the Real Team does not. But I will be totally fine if events do not develop in such a fashion.

I may also attempt to do some Fake Team results with Stratomatic Baseball, the spiritual grandfather to fantasy leagues. I reserve the right to do this at any time for any reason, and to discontinue doing so by whim as well.

If you’ve never played The Show before, here’s what you need to understand about it: It’s hard. Actually, it’s not hard–it’s unfair, especially at the more difficult settings (I will be playing my games at the second-highest difficulty). Your AI opponent gets breaks that you don’t; it’s as if the computer has paid off the umps. The other pitcher gets strike calls for every pitch even remotely close to the plate, while your pitches have to be right down the middle to receive such a favor. The opposing batters never have an appealed check swing overturned, while your check swings are always deemed strikes on appeal. The relative talents of the pitchers or batters involved have little bearing on these results.

Which brings me to another point. The unfairness is accentuated by the game’s resistance to the real life abilities and tendencies of major league baseball players. The Show does an excellent job of capturing real swings, real pitching motions, and real stadiums, but it is not quite as accurate when it comes to reflecting the relative weaknesses of certain players.

The computer-controlled batters are very reluctant to swing and miss at any pitch, no matter how much your curve or slider breaks, even if it’s a walk-ophobic hitter like Jeff Francoeur. Similarly, every opposing player fields like a Gold Glover, regardless of their real-life counterpart’s fielding abilities; Computerized Dan Uggla, for instance, robs hits in the whole all the time even though Real Dan Uggla has never caught anything not hit directly at him. And every single outfielder has a cannon for an arm, even Johnny Damon.

So I’ve spent the last month playing this game and figuring out how to work around these roadblocks. I’ve also had to regain my video game playing chops, which I lost during the first three years of parenting. But I don’t miss those years I would’ve spent with a Playstation console, because as Dr. Spock said, parenting is the toughest video game you’ll ever love.

I’m combating these unfair elements by taking advantage of unfairness that works in my favor. The Show‘s default lineups do not reflect the injuries to Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran, so I will be able to play with both of them on the team all year. (The same rule applies to Kelvim Escobar, but it’s still unclear how much of an advantage that will turn out to be.) And thanks to players who were still free agents when the game went to press (do video games go to press?), I was able to pick up Orlando Hudson to split time with Luis Castillo. And because the default lineup did not include Rod Barajas, I opted for a platoon with Omir Santos and Josh Thole.

Long story short, I will post my first installment on Friday, after the conclusion of the first Real Mets series of the year. And for any of you who wanted The 2000 Project, I plan on giving periodic mini-recaps of the 2000 season, though nothing nearly as comprehensive as The 1999 Project.

Without further ado, let the nightmare begin!