I’ve played more hours of baseball video gaming then can be counted, but it’s always been console based. I always knew there were PC baseball games but because I was already pouring so much time in the console games I never really bothered to play those games, and in addition I was never really a PC gamer in any capacity. That has all changed in that about three months ago I was able to join an online league hosted by the same site where this article is being posted, Sim Sports Gaming. This league is a once a day sim in real time and has been in practice for several years. While playing that, I’ve also advanced into 2021 in a Cardinals solo manager/GM file. My experience with OOTP Baseball has been more enjoyable than I could have imagined, and the deep immersion is something I still feel I haven’t reached the bottom of, despite hours already spent in the game. Still, my enjoyment of console gaming and of course in the current industry MLB The Show, has also not waned. Being in control of the stats that are compiled and the actual gameplay experience is still a major draw. Seeing the actual detailed 3D model players you have, acquire, draft, and develop are also still something that can’t be replicated in OOTP.
It is clear, however, that the franchise mode for MLB The Show has been neglected and underdeveloped in recent iterations of the game. I felt this way before I ever played OOTP Baseball and then when comparing the two in terms of outside of gameplay franchise features, it’s not even a fair fight. OOTP Baseball blows The Show out of the water in every way imaginable. Why wouldn’t San Diego Studios want franchise enthusiasts to purchase their title for both the pristine visuals, realistic gameplay, AND an authentic franchise experience. Every piece of creativity that goes into MLB The Show seems targeted towards Diamond Dynasty, every promotion, every Tweet, every… thing. I’m not here to hate on Diamond Dynasty, there are aspects I enjoy and have spent time with. Ultimately if that is how they make their money I understand that they put time and effort into that game mode, but why not shoot for the stars and have the best of both worlds? So with that in mind here are my “Top Ten OOTP Baseball Franchise Features MLB The Show should implement for MLB The Show 21”. My list will assume no limitations from hardware, disk space, etc. as the power of the PS5 should hopefully put that issue to rest.
In no particular order:
Expanded and more immersive scouting system
In MLBTS, your scouting is basically limited to three scouts who can be sent out to compile reports. These reports come back as minimal rating projections based on the 20-80 scouting scale that is not used in any other capacity in the game. There is also an indication as to the accuracy of the ratings and this and can be used to inform your draft decisions. That’s about it. Still, prime prospects show up at the last second without a chance to scout them, you can’t scout current players in the game, and there is no sense that the scouting is really providing you an edge. OOTP changes all of that. You can send your scouts out to scout your own players, opposing players, upcoming draft eligible players, you name it. Your head scout comes with his very own deep attribute rating (yes, scouts also receive a rating in the MLBTS but there is never a sense that it matters), he also has his own rating for players and so you can toggle between in game ratings and the ratings your scout has given. Your scout finds international talent and assigns them to a development facility for 16 and 17 year old prospects. Thinking about trading for a player? Is a team offering you prospects for one of your aging veterans? Before making a decision you can scout that player and receive a detailed report with both ratings and a text based feedback. Scouting is a major aspect of OOTP, and adopting even some of these additional features would deepen the MLBTS experience.
Increased dynamic “storytelling”
In OOTP, I’ve had a player demand a trade, break off negotiations with me after a lowball offer and refuse to re-engage, and approach me for a donation to his charitable organization. In the message system, I’ve seen other franchises deal with off season injuries incurred that effect the upcoming season. This is just a small sampling of the possibilities that can occur in something I would refer to as “storytelling”. In MLBTS, your players generally present themselves of having the personalities of gnats. Yes, there is a morale rating (more on that next), but nothing out of the ordinary ever happens to your franchise. OOTP mixes these things in judiciously, I’m not looking for a soap opera experience, but a little variety could go a long way.
Morale and Quirks that actually impact performance
MLBTS has a morale system and the quirk system. As a player do I ever really feel like they impact anything? Not really. The morale system is clunky. For example, a player who expects to be a star expects to hit in the middle of the lineup. So if you bat that player leadoff, you incur a morale penalty. Strange. If you have a DH who isn’t listed in your lineups with no DH, the game sees that as him not being a starter and imposes a morale penalty… even if you are playing with DH at all times. These are just a few examples of the awkwardness. For quirks, you have pickoff artists who can never pick a guy off. You also can’t gain or lose perks through performance. OOTP does not use the term quirks, but they do have personality features that effect their personal and team morale. This one is trickier because in playing The Show you always have the factor of human performance that can help to render morale and quirk issues less impactful whereas as OOTP is a straight simulation model.
Expanded minor league system (including foreign rookie summer leagues)
OOTP allows for a full A ball team, Low A, short season A, and even rookie summer league teams. In MLBTS, you are limited to 90 players total. I’m not necessarily suggesting The Show should make all lower levels “playable”, they could still maintain the current ability to actually play only AAA and AA games, but just having more players in your organization that need to be managed and kept tabs on would deeply enrich the franchise experience. The motivation level to maintain save files over several years and future iterations of the game would be helped immensely if a GM could dream about three years into the future where his stable of 18 year old prospects enter the big leagues together. More players in your system also allows for a more realistic injury management system. It would also add more to the training system currently available in MLBTS. You could even “play” some of the training sessions for your lower level guys in lieu of actually playing games. These training sessions are essentially already in the game through the RTTS features.
International Free Agents
In today’s baseball climate, if a game does not have an international free agent element, it simply lacks realism. OOTP does this beautifully with a cap on spending just like in real life to the point where if you spend too much in one year, it limits the amount you are able to spend the next. MLBTS does not account for international free agency at all. It’s a glaring omission in the realism department. This area also blends beautifully with the enhanced scouting system mentioned before for OOTP. There is also an element in OOTP that plays into my next category…
Various Negotiation results
When entering into negotiations in MLBTS for an extension, free agent offer, or draft signing, there are really only a couple of outcomes, and it’s only with free agency where there is really any intrigue at all. In OOTP, negotiation is a tense, multi-faceted part of the game with many possible outcomes. I had an experience where I lowballed a free agent whose contract had ended and he then refused to negotiate any further with me. Draft picks aren’t just easy signings, their motivation to sign varies and top picks often want big signing bonuses. The same for international free agents. All MLBTS provides is some intrigue if you offer a free agent a contract as he may not always accept yours and may choose another team, other than that it is a bland experience. Some easy tweaking and development would make this area much more interesting.
Player Development System
Linking back to the scouting system, in OOTP you receive regular reports on your player development throughout the season in any of the different scouting categories. Now, MLBTS also has a system by which your player progresses or regresses, but you receive no notifications. Also, their progression and regression system is questionable and not always logical. You never see stamina increase for example, so a player can never improve their stamina? Where is the logic there? OOTP also advances or regresses a player’s potential in each individual category as well. MLBTS has just one potential rating for the player as a whole, and while I have seen potentials decrease occasionally, I have NEVER seen a player’s potential increase. In my main franchise Dylan Carlson is the odds on favorite to win rookie of the year and I am nearly in to September on the schedule, his potential has not increased even one point.
Player Rating System
In OOTP, you are able to change the ratings to a 1-100 scale but the default is the 20-80 scout scale. I like this because it forces a GM to really dig deeper into results and other aspects to a player’s profile. The 20-80 scale is not as exact and is more of an indicator. For example a 50 grade generally just means major league average in that tool. You may have a large number of “50” rated power tool guys in your organization, but not every one is going to perform in the same way. In MLBTS, rather than evaluating a guy by simply looking at it and seeing Player A has a 56 contact rating vs righthanders and Player B has a 62 contact rating vs righthanders, if they both had a 45 “Contact tool” it would provide the player with much more of an immersive experience to decide who ultimately is the player who would receive the most playing time or who would advance a level, etc.
Expanded Statistical information
The statistics available to you in OOTP include all of the advanced metrics currently present in today’s game. MLB has evolved to a sport where these numbers are paramount in the way organizations make decisions. Teams at the cutting edge of statistical analysis are often able to gain an advantage. The Tampa Rays come to mind as an organization that has been able to win despite a low end payroll. Yet in MLBTS only a fraction of the advanced metrics are available to you as the GM. Even what is available is not presented with good visuals and ability to navigate the menu easily and sort out statistics.
Online Franchise Play
I saved this for last because probably more than anything else, the ability to play a deep online franchise mode would really catapult MLBTS to another level. A baby step was perhaps taken in this direction in MLBTS 20 with the return of online seasons. The mode, however, is lacking in some key ways. While trades can be made, there is no other way in which these teams progress so if you are in a league that plays multiple seasons you are essentially just replaying the same season. Players don’t age, there is no draft or free agency, players don’t progress or regress based on performance, and on and on. So while it was a welcome return it ultimately lacked the full experience. I can only speak for myself, but each of the online seasons I got into fizzled out and users don’t even play anymore. Of course OOTP has advantages in making this work as a simulation, two players do not need to be sitting and playing their game at the same time. But this could be a setting in a potential MLBTS online franchise universe where maybe 1-2 games per week would need to be played and the others are simulated. An MLBTS online franchise where you could have even all of the current franchise options without adding anything I mentioned so far would still be an attractive draw for players. Imagining a committed community of 30 GM’s/players navigating through MLBTS with all the immersive quality of OOTP Baseball AND the ability to actually jump in and play games 1-2 times a week is a dream, but one that can hopefully come true.
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