So early impressions.
First off, the 3d presentation is nice enough, I suppose, though I’d never imagine playing more than a couple of games in a season with it. The historic stadiums are recognizable…and I’ll just give them that.
What I’ve really liked about the game though is that it seems to have considerably continued tightening the AI on trades. On that last bit, I think I need to be a little more specific. It’s tough to pull any kind of outright fleecing of the AI at this point. I’ve tried some of my favorite go-to trades from OOTP 15, 16, and 17, and those get swatted away like Dikembe Mutombo in that commercial.
That’s cool, though it seems to result in even more ridiculous trade proposals (No, AI, I would not like to consider trading you Bill Caudill and Garry Templeton for 36-year old Tommy Davis, thankyouverymuch.)
And so I’ve embarked, hopefully, on a project I’ve long wanted to do: building the mid-1970s Cardinals.
The Cardinals went 15 years between World Series titles, but it was bleaker than that. The 1970s were NOT a kind decade to the Redbirds. That ridiculous Steve Carlton trade was just the beginning.
So I’ve started with the 1975 Cardinals. And it’s not as hopeless as it seems. They’ve got some established players who either superstars or on the verge – Ted Simmons, Reggie Smith, Lou Brock, Bake McBride, Keith Hernandez. They’ve also got some arms: John Denny and Bob Forsch in the rotation with a guy who has disappeared from memory in Lynn McGlothen. They’ve got Al Hrabosky and Elias Sosa in the back of the bullpen.
Oh, and down on the farm, they’ve got Garry Templeton, Tommy Herr, Ken Oberkfell, and Bill Caudill. So there’s some things there too.
I try a couple of lopsided trades to see if the AI is paying attention. It is. So I set my sights a little lower. I’m very concerned with the state of my starting pitching long term. Bob Gibson is pitching his last season on an arthritic knee with a fastball that’s a shadow of it’s former self. But he’s in the rotation. Bespectacled John Curtis is fooling no one, but also in the rotation because he’s a warm body. There’s precious little behind Forsch, Denny, and McGlothen, and I have no idea how the OOTP development engine is going to treat McGlothen at all.
There’s also no arms besides Caudill in the minors, and Caudill looks like a starting pitcher who should be relieving (which, historically accurate.) Gotta shore that up, and so I have to hope my biggest surplus–those two giant arms at the back of the bullpen–can be converted into something useful.
So…I do some shopping and it turns out the Dodgers are interested in Hrabosky. And they have players I want that they’re willing to deal. So, I turn this little deal to start the season:
Al Hrabosky (who in real life 1975 won Fireman of the Year)
Jim Dwyer (who in real life would be a useful platoon piece for the Baltimore Orioles)
Cardinals get back from Dodgers:
Bill Buckner, who at age 25 is still a corner OF and can run a little
Dave Stewart (who’s in AA ball)
and an 18-year old named Rick Sutcliffe.
Now I’ve got some starting pitching prospects in the minors.
As training camp goes along, I lose my starting 3b, Heity Cruz for the first 6 weeks of the season. Jose’s younger brother wasn’t ever very good in real life, but was a huge prospect back in the day (he hit 30 HR and OPS’d over 1.000 for a full year in AA ball). He’s not great, but I like his potential power better than my other starter choice, Ken Reitz. I also hate that Ron Fairly is sticking around to steal ABs from both 25-year-old Buckner (who I envision as a utility OF to spell Brock) and 24-year old Keith Hernandez at first. Since I don’t want to babysit the computer AI, I deal Fairly to the Reds for Joel Youngblood. We’ll see how that works out.
In the first week of the season, I lose my two corner OF, when Brock and Smith are both hit by pitches against Montreal. Both are only gone for two weeks, but only through the graces of the baseball gods do the Cardinals win any games. Hernandez, still years away from leading the league in BA is having a nice rookie campaign. Ted Simmons is knocking the cover off the ball.
After a few weeks, I get both Brock and Smith back, and both immediately commence to joining Simmons and Hernandez in tearing the cover off the ball, and soon enough Bake McBride joins in. Youngblood and Buckner aren’t hitting at all, though, and in mid-May I lose Bob Forsch until after the All Star break with a sore shoulder (which sounds ominous.)
My starting rotation is trash, but I’m not sure what’s to be done for it. I press Eric Rasmussen into starting work from his long-reliever role in the bullpen. In real life Eric “Don’t call me Harry anymore” Rasmussen was a guy with good stuff who seemed to break down when called upon to start. He’s most famous as the guy the Cardinals traded to get George Hendrick. But so far this year, he’s been a decent stopgap.
The back of the bullpen remains a strength. Elias Sosa is more than capable of handling things there, and sports a beautiful sub-2.00 ERA. Mike Garman and rookie farmhand Ryan Kurosaki are both fine so far as setup guys.
So I’m nearing the ASG here in 1975, and I’ve somehow got this motley cast sitting 39-35, 7 games behind a power Pirates team.