DYNASTY League Baseball: Where Heroes Come Back To Life
A while back I was invited to play in a DYNASTY League online baseball league with fellow baseball fanatics such as MLB Network’s Brian Kenny (1942 Cardinals), former National League All-Star Brian Jordan (1999 Braves), Steve Gardner, Senior Fantasy Editor at USA Today (1970 Orioles), Mike Wilner of Toronto’s The Fan 590 (1993 Blue Jays) and Mike Cieslinski, who unbeknownst to me at the time is the genius behind Pursue the Pennant and its successor, DYNASTY League Baseball.
Cieslinski wrote that it was the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers’ magical run to the World Series that inspired venture capitalists to “make the investment necessary to bring what was then Pursue the Pennant to your tabletop.” It didn’t hurt that those investors included actual Milwaukee Brewers—future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, second baseman Jim Gantner and pitcher Bob McClure.
So it’s no surprise that Cieslinski chose “Harvey’s Wallbangers” as his team in our league, citing how special that team and season were to him. I, too, chose the sentimental route, taking the 1975 Red Sox, the first team I really remember from my youth, and a squad loaded with talent, including Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk, All-Stars Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans, among others, and fan favorite Luis Tiant. I wasn’t worried about competing, I just wanted to watch my favorites again.
And it’s a good thing because through 25 games, I’m in last place with a 10-15 record and a six-game deficit behind the first-place 2001 Seattle Mariners. I can’t attest with total confidence to the game’s statistical accuracy due to a small sample size, but I can tell you that the numbers look right and the game play feels right. Rice is hitting .346 with five homers and 25 RBIs, but leading the team in strikeouts with 21; Lynn is hitting .304 with 11 doubles; Dewey is batting .292 with a very good on-base percentage and almost as many walks as whiffs. On the mound, Tiant is 3-2 with a 4.65 ERA after flirting with an Opening Day no-hitter; Reggie Cleveland has a nice 3.58 ERA in five starts; and friend of Seamheads.com, Dick Drago, has saved two games and posted an excellent 2.00 ERA in eight appearances. And fielding numbers look to be right on. Having played most of my games live, I can attest to how well my guys have flashed the leather.
A quick glance at both league’s leaders shows players you’d expect—Cecil Cooper and Keith Hernandez among the batting leaders; Gorman Thomas leading in homers; Lenny Dykstra leading in runs; Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson leading in steals; and among pitching leaders are Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Don Sutton and Mort Cooper.
Enough about statistics, though. The fun lies in the head-to-head competition and the camaraderie that comes with it. My first series came against Gardner and his O’s, and not only did we have a blast, but Steve, a veteran DYNASTY player, was very generous with his explanations of how the game works. I’d played Pursue the Pennant when I was younger, but it had been too long and Steve provided a refresher course via DYNASTY’S chat feature while we duked it out. Though the game is a lot of fun in itself, it’s the chat feature that I enjoy most. It allows fellow Seamheads to get to know each other—all of my live opponents have been friendly and knowledgeable—while discussing strategy. I always enjoy contemplating a move, then sharing my thoughts, and getting feedback and a few chuckles. There are few things better than hearing “Nice job bringing your corners in. If you hadn’t I was gonna bunt.”
My next favorite element of the game is its transparency, and options for such. The image below shows the basics—ratings for range, errors and arm strength for outfielders; range, errors and double play rating for middle infielders; ratings for range, errors, ability to hold runners, a steal modifier, average against and remaining endurance (measured in number of batters) for pitchers; ratings for range, errors, arm strength, passed balls and handling a pitching staff for catchers; batters’ average and power rating (depending on the handedness of the pitcher); and runners’ baserunning, lead and stolen base ratings.
The transparency comes in during game play, and is less a peak behind the curtain than a look under the hood while the engine’s running. At least the way I like to play it. Every at-bat plays out in full view if you choose to let it. The dice roll is shown on the screen, as is the player’s card and the result. Plays don’t always end with one roll of the dice, and it’s fun to watch how things develop. A roll might result in a possible error, which requires subsequent rolls to determine the position and the chance for said error, which is shown in the form of a small chart. For example, a roll of a die that results in a possible error on the left fielder might show that an above-average defender has a 17% chance of booting the ball. Once the rolls are made, the action plays out in the play-by-play window. Of course, if you prefer not to know how the dice are landing, you can turn off the transparency and rely solely on the play-by-play. It’s a lot like listening to a game on the radio vs. actually being at the ballpark.
Another of my favorite features is the deep drive chart, which shows the location and distance of the drive, the distance to and height of the wall, how well the ball carries at a specific park, wind speed and direction and temperature. It’s very cool to see the unadjusted distance of the ball and how it’s affected by outside factors. In a recent game I played for fun Bobby Doerr of the 1946 Red Sox belted a shot 405 feet to left off legendary hurler Walter Johnson. Considering the Green Monster at Fenway Park is only 315 feet away (some say it’s actually 310) and 37 feet high, it would have taken an act of God to keep the ball in play.
The ball gained five feet because it carries well at The Fens, but lost five feet because it was colder than normal for July. There was also no wind, so the 405-foot drive crashed into the net high above the Monster without aid or hindrance. Had the ball been struck differently or the wind been blowing in, Doerr’s shot could have easily hit the wall for a double or single, or been caught at the warning track.
Another great feature is the “Bizarre” line on each player’s card. I don’t think I’ve played a DYNASTY League game yet where something interesting didn’t happen, although most of the time it hurts me in some way. In his first at-bat of the season Jim Rice was ejected for arguing a called third strike. In a more recent game against the 1929 Cubs, Reggie Cleveland was lost to an injury and, later on, Jim Willoughby was caught with sandpaper in his glove, which resulted in an ejection and a nine-game suspension. By the time our second game rolled around I had only two pitchers who weren’t tired or had low endurance, but it made the game more fun and challenging. Fortunately Rick Wise was up to the task and went 7 1/3 innings before Roger Moret and Drago closed out a hard-fought 3-2 win, the winning run scoring on a Bernie Carbo walk, Denny Doyle single to center and a wild heave to third by center fielder Hack Wilson.
The “Bizarre” results aren’t always bizarre and never feel overwhelming. In fact, they make the game that much more realistic; fans interfere with hits down the line, pitchers experience shoulder stiffness in cold weather and get ejected if the umpire thinks a hit batter was intentional, runners get decoyed by infielders, and video replay on homers comes into play for games played after 2008.
Cieslinski leaves no stone unturned and it makes for a fun and rewarding experience. Having been in the manager’s seat for 25 games now, I feel for real skippers and their plethora of choices. The other day I pinch hit for Yaz because he’s been terrible against southpaws, which meant going with back-up catcher Bob Montgomery at first base when we went into extra innings. Cecil Cooper was my designated hitter and wasn’t available, lest I put him at first and lose my DH. I can’t say the move cost me the game, but Montgomery didn’t remind of George Scott, to say the least. On the other hand, I used lefthanded slugger Carbo as a pinch hitter against southpaw Art Nehf in the ninth inning of game two because despite a low average and power rating against southpaws, he could draw walks. It paid off and we won.
In the first game I actually considered walking Hack Wilson with the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the ninth because I was nursing a two-run lead and thought it would be safer to face Cliff Heathcote with a one-run lead than the NL’s RBI leader with a two-run lead. Alas, I didn’t have the stones to pull the trigger and Hack singled in the runs the Cubs needed to tie the score at 7-7. I ended up losing 11-7 in extra innings, but a good time was had by all.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Out Of The Park Baseball and the team at Out Of The Park Developments, but DYNASTY League Baseball has also treated me well and provided hours of entertainment, and I can’t recommend it enough.