The year of gaming to come: 2014

This is a list of both games released in 2014 and games from 2013 I haven’t gotten yet that I plan to in 2014.

The big three games, already released, that I want in 2014 are GTA V, Saint’s Row 4, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I love all three series (although ACIII, not so much). WWE 2k14 is a possibility, but by the time I get back to my PS3, they’ll have a new version already; WWE ’13 was pretty good, but overshadowed by Bioshock: Infinite in terms of great PS3 games. Other games on my list are Tomb Raider and The Last of Us.

New games in 2014 I’ll definitely get are the new version of OOTP (obviously), Watch_Dogs (if it comes out in 2014, which is by no means guaranteed), East vs. West, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and almost certainly Madden. Rockstar hasn’t announced it’s next big title yet, but rumors indicate that it might be a sequel to Bully, which was surprisingly fun. The new version of WWE is a given, if I have the money. For indie games, I’ve heard really good things about the Stanley Parable and especially Papers, Please, which I’ll definitely get when it’s on sale. EU IV has an expansion coming out that I’ll certainly pick up.

There’s also this really engrossing virtual reality game called Dissertation I keep meaning to play but never find the time.

Ken Gurnick: So stupid, it’s actually beautiful

MLB.com shared its ballots today, and a number of them have Bonds and Clemens on there, which makes me happy. Then, of course, there’s Ken Gurnick. Here is his ballot.

KEN GURNICK, Dodgers beat reporter
Morris

Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.

That’s not a highlight of his ballot — he literally only voted for Jack Morris. Take a moment to reflect on the stupidity. Then, Rob Neyer counterattacked. The salient points is (with more profanity, because Rob Neyer is nicer than I am): “Hey, fuckwad, Jack Morris pitched during the PED era. You make Murray Chass look like a goddamned Bill James fan.” Neyer’s “correction” was hilarious and to the point:

Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for winning a lot of games and pitching one really big game, even though I know the rules say you’re not supposed to elect a guy because of one really big game. As for those who played most of their careers while I was actually sort of paying attention to steroids, I won’t vote for any of them. Or Alan Trammell, because I just don’t understand that he was a great player.

Don’t worry, guys — only one more day before the HOF ballots are done, I can write my last piece about it, and we can forget about until next year.

 

Jeff Francoeur: Cleveland Indian

It’s just to a minor league deal, but the Indians and Braves haven’t shared that many players… or have they? To Baseball-Reference!

For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to purposely restrict the conversation to the lives of Kevin and I, since both teams have existed since the beginning of the 20th century, the Indians being an inaugural member of the AL and the Braves tracing their lineage to the Boston Red Stockings of the late 19th century. (The actual history of the Cleveland baseball franchise is almost as long as the Braves, but the less said about the Spiders, the better, and they were in the NL anyway.) The list contains players who played for both franchises at some point in their careers, and I’m trying to stick to players with significant careers. Kevin can help me correct this list if I missed somebody. I’m also listing players only once.

1982 (the year of my birth): Brett Butler, Chris Chambliss, Phil Niekro, Len Barker
1983 (the year of Kevin’s birth): Julio Franco (it is CRIMINAL that he couldn’t get more than 1.1% of the vote on the 2013 HOF ballot), Juan Eichelberger
1984: Brook Jacoby, Jerry Willard
1985: Otis Nixon
1986: Paul Assenmacher
1987: None
1988: None
1989: Oddibe McDowell, Kent Mercker, Rudy Seanez
1990: David Justice
1991: Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten, Mark Wohlers
1992: Kenny Lofton (mad he got kicked off the ballot, but understandable), Jose Hernandez (the SS who hit home runs and played bad SS), Alan Embree
1993: Albie Lopez, Julian Tavarez
1994: El Presidente Dennis Martinez, Gregg Olson (who pitched three games for the Indians in 1995)
1995: Marquis Grissom, Eddie Perez (the C)
1996: Joe Borowski
1997: Jaret Wright (ah, what might have been), Tony Graffanino, Kevin Millwood, Paul Byrd
1998: John Rocker, Shawon Dunston, Steve Karsay, Steve Reed, Mark DeRosa, Tom Martin
1999: Terry Mulholland, Justin Speier
2000: Bob Wickman, Scott Kamieniecki (in the same year!), Tim “brother of J.D. and Stephen” Drew
2001: Danys Baez
2002 (the first year Kevin and I roomed together with Dan): Chad Paronto
2003: None
2004: Andy Marte
2005: Jeff Francouer (if he makes the Indians this year), Todd Hollandsworth
2006: None
2007: None
2008: None
2009: Derek Lowe
2010: None
2011: None
2012: None
2013: None

That’s a total of 46 players. Could we make a 25 man roster out of it? Let’s start by dividing the roster by position.

C: Eddie Perez, Jerry Willard
1B: Chris Chambliss, Julio Franco
2B: Mark DeRosa
SS: Tony Graffanino, Shawon Dunston, Jose Hernandez
3B: Brook Jacoby, Andy Marte
LF: Todd Hollandsworth
CF: Brett Butler, Kenny Lofton, Oddibe McDowell, Marquis Grissom, Otis Nixon
RF: David Justice, Mark Whiten, Jeff Francouer

SP: Phil Niekro, Len Barker, Juan Eichelberger, Albie Lopez, Dennis Martinez, Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd, Kevin Millwood, Tim Drew, Derek Lowe
RP: Paul Assenmacher, Kent Mercker, Rudy Seanez, Joe Borowski, Mark Wohlers, John Rocker, Steve Karsay, Steve Reed, Tom Martin, Terry Mulholland, Justin Speier, Bob Wickman, Scott Kamieniecki, Danys Baez, Chad Paronto

The starting lineup would be:

1. CF — Kenny Lofton
2. LF — Brett Butler
3. RF — David Justice
4. SS — Jose Hernandez
5. 1B — Julio Franco
6. 3B — Brook Jacoby
7. C — Eddie Perez
8. 2B — Mark DeRosa
9. P

C: Jerry Willard
IF: Tony Graffanino, Chris Chambliss
OF: Marquis Grissom, Mark Whiten

With a DH, I’d move David Justice to DH, put Marquis Grissom in at RF and bat him 5th, pushing everyone else down.

Rotation:
1. Phil Niekro
2. Kevin Millwood
3. Derek Lowe
4. Paul Byrd
5. Dennis Martinez

Closer: Bob Wickman
Setup: Steve Karsay
LOOGY: Terry Mulholland
Rest of the bullpen: John Rocker, Paul Assenmacher, Steve Reed, Jaret Wright (doubles as swingman)

There’s only one HOF in the bunch: Niekro. Kenny Lofton and Julio Franco are borderline; leaving them out is the right decision, but it still feels wrong that Julio Franco couldn’t even get two years on the ballot. Offensively, this club would hold its own, but the defense… we have a serviceable catcher, and a great OF if Justice DHs, but the infield would be atrocious. I mean, Mark DeRosa is okay, I guess.

The real strength of this team is the pitching staff. I mean, Bob Wickman is the closer by default, and we’d be cringing every time he took the mound, but hey, if he gets hurt, we can use Joe Borowski, who is pretty much the same pitcher. That’s a scary bullpen, and a surprisingly good rotation. Millwood was, in his prime, ace material and a solid #2 outside of it. Derek Lowe and Paul Byrd are our workhorses (we could throw Lowe in the pen in a pinch) and we have El Presidente to round things off. You could swap him with Jaret Wright — I thought about it — but all in all, this would not be the worst team I’ve ever seen.

Top thirty crime procedurals, #23: Dragnet (both the 50s version and the 60s version)

IMDB links.

Basic Premise: “The story you are about to see is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

Why it’s here: The most iconic theme music of any crime procedural. The granddaddy. It wasn’t flashy, it didn’t have special effects, but it was a fine television program that made this entire genre possible. (As an aside, the 1987 movie was pretty great too.)

Why it isn’t higher: It’s too low-key to be taken seriously. These are idealized versions of the police; if the world actually worked like Dragnet, it would be a far nicer place to live.

Piazza vs. Pudge — catcher of the 90s

Kevin just sent in his unofficial ballot earlier today. (Hey, if this blog lasts until 2016, we’re in the BBWAA, right?) One of the comments he made, for a moment, infuriated me — he called Mike Piazza the best catcher of our generation, over Pudge. I was going to flame the ever-loving shit out of his comments section, but I am older and/or wiser, so I decided to check the numbers. (All of these from baseball-reference. Piazza/Pudge.)

Total WAR for career: Piazza, 65.7 oWAR, 1 dWAR. Pudge, 53.8 oWAR, 29.7 dWAR. Edge: Pudge. I’m honestly surprised Piazza’s dWAR was even positive, although I do contend he was better defensively than many.

Counting stats: Piazza, 2127 H, 427 HR. Pudge, 2844 H, 311 HR, 127 SB (!!). Edge: Piazza. The only reason it looks closer is because Pudge played for five more seasons and about 2300 more PAs.

Career slash stats: Piazza, .308/.355/.545, OPS+ of 143. Pudge, .296/.334/.464, OPS+ of 106. Edge: Piazza. The OBP difference is pretty surprising, and while Piazza was always more feared, we have to consider that Pudge had the better offense around him. If we look at Pudge’s best season — 1999, for which he won the MVP — he had Palmeiro, Juan Gone, a still very serviceable Lee Stevens, and Rusty Greer in the one season he was actually healthy. The 1997 Dodgers had Raul Mondesi, Eric Karros, and Todd Zeile. Which club would you rather hit for? To be fair to Pudge, his last few years in the bigs absolutely torched his career rates. I think the slash stats, apart from SLG, would be much closer if they played the same number of games.

K-rate: Pop quiz, who struck out more times, on average, in a season? Answer: THEY’RE EXACTLY THE SAME, 94 Ks per season. The biggest hole in Pudge’s game, by far, was plate discipline, as he rarely walked and struck out like a power hitter. Ks aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but Pudge didn’t draw walks. Part of this is the “fear factor” Piazza had built in with his freakish power, of course, but Pudge needed to lay off the bad pitches just a little bit more.

Hardware: Piazza, Rookie of the Year, 14 All-Stars, 12 Silver Sluggers, top 10 MVP 11 times. Pudge, 4th in Rookie of the Year (won by Chuck Knoblauch), 13 All-Stars, 7 Silver Sluggers, 13 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP (1999) and 3 other top 10 finishes (all at #10), 2003 NLCS MVP, 1 World Series ring. Edge: Push. Both have very full awards cabinets, mostly deserved. Piazza finished second twice, to Ken Caminiti and Larry Walker. You could award both to Piazza and I’d have no real problem with it, although steroids aside, Caminiti deserved the 1996 MVP and Walker was every bit as good a hitter in 1997 with better defense and baserunning.

The 1999 MVP that Pudge won bares further inspection. If I had a vote, I would have voted for Pedro, who was just stupidly good that season, but the BBWAA has always been shaky with voting for pitchers for MVP unless it’s a clear runaway (like Justin Verlander in 2011). Manny Ramirez was a better hitter, but a terrible defender. So, it comes down to Robbie Alomar or Pudge. Pudge had a better overall season hitting, with a touch more power and a lot less discipline than Robbie, with more ABs. Both were outstanding fielders, although C is more important than 2B.

My ballot, if I voted that year, would have gone Pedro, Nomar (seriously, the dude played out of his fucking mind that year), Pudge, Alomar, Palmeiro, Manny, Jeter. There’s a bit of Indians homerism there, sure, but that Pudge won the award doesn’t cost me any sleep. It was a damn good year in the AL.

Although I like to pretend the 2003 World Series didn’t happen, it did, and the only silver lining was that Pudge got the ring he deserved.

Postseason: .255/.314/.392 for Pudge, .242/.301/.458 for Piazza. Edge: Pudge. The Marlins don’t win in 2003 without Pudge. The Mets lost in 2000 in spite of Piazza, not because of him, but both players were well under career averages in the post season.

Defense: Duh.

Conclusion: I had a lot of fun with this one, revisiting my younger days when I was obsessed about baseball instead of merely really, really fond of it. In my first ever fantasy baseball season in 1998 or 1999, I had Pudge and Kerry Wood. Instant championship. Both are, in my opinion, first ballot Hall of Famers in a just universe. Piazza was a preternaturally gifted hitter who stood around at catcher and didn’t make too much of an ass of himself. Pudge was a preternaturally gifted catcher who was slightly above average with the bat, and at his peak, much better than average.

So who was better? Honestly, I have to say Piazza, but by the tiniest shred of a nose. Pudge played too long. If Pudge retired in 2006 or 2007, it would have tipped the balance back to Pudge. But he didn’t.

Of course, if I had my way, I have Pudge behind the plate and Piazza at DH and I laugh all the way to the bank. You know, the bank where they award World Series titles.