The Let's Play Archive

The Closer: Game of the Year Edition

by TheMcD

Part 2: Update I - After All, You're Comparing Me To Germany In World War II.

Update I - After All, You're Comparing Me To Germany In World War II.

♪ BGM: Closer's Theme

Alright, let's get this show on the road.

♪ BGM: Silence ♫

We have our developer and publisher logos.

We also have our disclaimer, which is a bit different than usual.

And we get some standard RPG Maker controls, though one thing that is very appreciated by me as an RPG Maker 2000/2003 veteran is the run button. This is an RPG Maker XP game, and as such has some more abilities as your average RM2K/RM2K3 game.

New York leads the series 3-2, and the game 2-1. The starting pitcher went deep in this one, nearly finishing what he started. After retiring the first two batters in the ninth, he walked the next and out came the manager. No surprise there.
You gotta think this one's almost ovah. The bad guys bring the lead run to the plate, but he ain't gonna be facing an easy task, no sir.
One out away from the World Series trophy, it's no surprise who the manager turns to here. He's bringing in the closer.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

So, right off the bat, I have some things to explain. I will be interjecting these quotes into gameplay in order to explain either baseball people, historical moments, certain rules or other things to the less knowledgable parts of the audience. So if you know your stuff, you can probably skip these. Now, here, we have two things.

First, the people we're seeing here. The first of the two is announcer Joe Buck. If you're an NFL fan, you might have seen him in broadcasts as well. He is not a competent broadcaster, according to popular opinion (and my opinion as well). I don't want to waste more words talking about Joe Buck.

The second one is Hawk Harrelson. His name is actually Ken, but his nickname stuck, which is a thing with some baseball players. And indeed, Harrelson was a baseball player as well in the past. Despite never playing for the Chicago White Sox, he eventually became a broadcaster for them and stuck with them, becoming rabidly biased in favor of them as a result. He is mostly known for that bias and copious amounts of catchphrases, and from what I've heard, he is also very unpopular in general.

Now, the other thing we need to go over is pitcher roles. We've established that the pitcher is an important player, but of course, one pitcher can't pitch all the games, their arms would fall off. Well, back in the old, old days of the 1800s, some pitchers would just keep pitching complete game after complete game, but we're far away from those days now, and managers are more careful than ever about overusing their pitchers.

As a result, we have a set of roles for pitchers. To start with, pitchers can be split into starters and relievers. Let's begin with the starters, as they're easier.

The starters are in what is called the rotation. Basically, this means that the first starter (SP1 for short - "starting pitcher 1") starts the first game. Then the SP2 the second, the SP3 the third and so on, until the SP5 (most teams these days employ a five man rotation) has started his game, after which the SP1 has his turn again. This ensures that your starters get enough rests between their starts. Generally, your SP1 is your best starter, colloquially referred to as the ace.

Now to the relievers. The relievers as a whole are commonly referred to as the bullpen, named after the area of the park where they throw their warmup pitches before being put into the game. Relievers are given many different roles. Here are some:

- Closer: This is the best reliever on the team. He is usually expected to come in in the ninth inning with his team having the lead, and he's supposed to dominate the opposing batters for that one inning and close the game out. The pure "closer" role is being diminished these days, as managers are more open to using their closer in the eighth inning and having him pitch two, or just bringing him in in the fifth if the bases are loaded, the game is tied and there are no outs - basically, there's no reason to keep your best reliever for only specific situations. If you need the best reliever, you use him. If you're more liberal with the use of your closer, you might also call him the stopper - somebody who comes in and stops the other team from a potential rally.
- Setup: The setup pitcher is usually the second best reliever on the team. He is usually expected to come in in the eighth inning and keep the lead, setting things up for the closer to take over, hence the name.
- Short reliever: A short reliever is a pitcher who isn't that limited in his usage by innings, but is commonly expected to pitch one or two innings at most and bridge the gap between an average starter outing and the setup/closer.
- LOOGY: The abbreviation stands for Lefty One Out GuY. To really explain this role, I'd need to get into platooning, but let's just ignore that. Simply accept for now that the pitcher has an advantage when he throws with the same hand as the batter bats with, and the batter has an advantage if that is not the case. LOOGY pitchers are pitchers that come into the game precisely to get that matchup advantage against one batter and are then replaced by another pitcher. ROOGY pitchers exist as well, but since the majority of pitchers is right-handed, they're not as common. However, MLB has mostly killed this pitcher type recently by instituting a rule that any reliever must pitch to at least three batters (unless he gets injured or the inning ends).
- Middle reliever: The middle reliever is usually expected to pitch somewhere around two or three innings. He is mostly used when the starter gets into trouble relatively early.
- Long reliever: Also the "emergency SP" of sorts, the long reliever comes into games when the starter messes up really early, like in the first or second inning, or the game goes into extra innings with no end in sight. The long reliever is expected to give his team a similar amount of innings as is expected of a starter - which in this day and age is somewhere around five to seven innings, depending on how much of an ace they are - and is usually the next best starter that doesn't make the rotation.
- Mopup: The mopup pitcher is usually the worst starting pitcher on the roster. He comes into the game when it's gotten completely out of hand - like, it's the third inning and the team is down 18-0. The mopup pitcher's job is to go out there and just get the game over with. He'll probably get beaten up even more, but it doesn't matter, since the game is already out of hand, and there's no use in using better pitchers and needing to wait some games before getting to use them again. A mopup pitcher might also be brought in if his team is very far in the lead.

This boy is fantastic. He... He is amazing. He is...
You can't remember his name, can you?
You think he should be rookie of the year and you can't remember his name. This is why no one takes your analysis seriously.
Well if you're so gosh darned smart, what is his name?

And thus, we are given the opportunity to name our hero. Now, I will be leaving the proper name of The Closer up to you, the audience, but since I need a name to continue, well, when it comes to Yankees closers, there is really only one name.

There we go.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Mariano Rivera, commonly also simply known as "Mo", is a legendary relief pitcher. He pitched for the New York Yankees his entire career, which spanned from 1995 to 2013, all the way until he was aged 43. In his first season, he was used as a starter, but was switched to reliever in his second season and was absolutely dominant ever since.

He is the all time leader in saves, all time leader in games finished, and has never had a single below average season. He was also particularly dominant in the playoffs, giving up only 13 runs total while pitching 141 innings for a stellar ERA of 0.70.

Mariano was such a legendary pitcher he was the first player ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by unanimous vote.

Now, for those stats I brought up.

- Saves are kind of an arbitrary stat. There's some complicated rules that go into determining what a save is, but basically, what you need to know is that it's a stat made to give some credit to the closer, though due to its arbitrariness and focus on closing out the game, it's kinda failed at that task. Still, being the all time leader is very impressive.
- ERA is fairly simple. It's simply your earned runs divided by your innings and multiplied by nine - so it's the amount of earned runs given up on average over nine innings.
- Also, I guess we should talk about "earned" runs for a second. Basically, an "unearned" run is a run that is scored because a fielder messed up in some way. So, say, a fielder drops a ball he really should have caught or fucks up in a similar way (what is known as an "error") and a batter gets on base because of that. If that batter eventually gets to home plate and scores, the run is marked as an unearned run because it wasn't really the pitcher's fault. Any other runs scored are earned.

Of course I watch baseball! What are we watching right now? Mo is one of the best young pitchers in the game right now.
Well, you're right about that much. In the regular season, Mo had 80 strikeouts in only 57.1 innings, and a sterling 1.81 ERA. Called up in May and named the team's closer in mid-June, he was 25-for-25 in save opportunities. Looks like he's done warming up.

♪ BGM: The Entrance

And here our intrepid hero comes, out of the bullpen...

...and on to the mound.

They call Rodriguez "The Machine", presumably because he does not actually require oxygen to live.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Spoiler alert - this will not be Rodriguez's only appearance. Rodriguez, a dominating, right-handed St. Louis Cardinals power hitter nicknamed The Machine... based on Albert Pujols, a dominating, right-handed St. Louis Cardinals power hitter nicknamed The Machine. Ever since his rookie year in 2001, Pujols was an absolute wrecking ball. He demolished pitchers, hitting at least 30 home runs every season he played with the Cardinals (which he did until 2011), displayed excellent plate discipline by walking more than striking out in all but one of those seasons, and struck fear into the heart of pitchers, shown by the fact that he led the league in intentional walks four times. This excellence was rewarded by him winning the Most Valuable Player award of the National League three times.

Sadly, his career did not end there. Pujols became a free agent in 2011 and signed with the Los Angeles Angels in a monster contract that gave him a ton of money. And from then on, Pujols slowly started to decline. And ever since 2017, when he was 37 years old, he started being an active detriment to the team, but the Angels kept playing him because they were paying him too much not to! So now, in 2019, with Pujols at 39 years of age, he still plays and absolutely stinks up the joint. A sad end to a career that started amazingly.

Now, to again explain the stuff I brought up.

- The National League and the American League are relics of the past, born from when those two were actually distinct leagues. These days, you can treat them like the NFC and the AFC in the NFL - they're part of the same league, the teams in the different leagues play each other occasionally, and the playoffs are held between the teams of each league until the winner of each league's playoffs meet in the World Series. Also, the National League makes pitchers bat, while the American League allows for the use of a "designated hitter", which replaces the pitcher in the hitting lineup and is commonly used for aging hitters that can't play the field anymore.
- The intentional walk is an interesting thing. Basically, it used to be that the catcher would set up way outside from behind home plate, and the pitcher would throw to the catcher in a high arc. This would obviously be a ball. The pitcher would repeat that three more times, sending the hitter to first base. This is done when the hitter the pitcher is facing is extremely good, and the hitter following the current one is significantly less good. This also happens a lot with the hitter that hits before the pitcher, since the pitchers usually cannot hit at all. Recently, MLB has changed the intentional walk - now the pitcher simply needs to tell the umpire that he wishes to walk the current batter with some sort of signal, and that's that.

He don't need to eat or drink, but is fueled by pure, clean American natural gas, pumped from the heart of Appalachia.
Again, I don't think any of that is true. Or even said by anyone other than yourself.
Lookit here, I've got it right up here on Wookieepedia.
You mean...Wikipedia?
What's Wikipedia?
It's... It's the real internet encyclopedia. You know that Wookieepedia is exclusively about Star Wars, right?
What's Star Wars?
It's a movie. And books. And video games. What's important is that it's a FICTIONAL universe. None of it is real.
Hold on there, boy. I know folks who fought in the Mandalorian War. You try telling the grateful peoole of South Korea that--
Let's just move on. Mo versus Rodriguez. This is what playoff baseball is all about. Matchups like these.
Mo has a killer slider. I mean I actually think he could murder a left-handed batter with it. Actual murder.
Rodriguez is, of course, a right-handed hitter, so he should be a bit better off against Mo. This season, lefties only managed to hit .200/.230/.386 against Mo. Right handers put up a more respectable .232/.271/.413.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Those funky numbers there are what's called a slash line. They consist of three numbers, the batting average, the on-base percentage, and the slugging percentage.

- Batting average (abbreviated as AVG) is simply the number of hits divided by the number of at bats the hitter has. So a hitter with a .200 AVG gets a hit one in five times. This stat is kind of bad, because hits don't tell the whole story - walks are also very important to calculate in.
- On-base percentage (abbreviated as OBP) is more complicated. It's the number of hits, walks and times the batter was hit by a pitch (in sum the amount of times the hitter reached a base safely) divided by the number of at bats, walks, hit by pitches and sacrifice flies. So it more accurately describes how many times a hitter reaches base, which is more important than just getting hits.
- Slugging percentage (abbreviated as SLG) is the number of singles the batter has plus his doubles multiplied by two, plus his triples multiplied by three, plus his home runs multiplied by four, and everything divided by the number of his at bats. This is a sort of batting average that gives more credit to the batter for hitting extra base hits and thus represents the hitter's power better.
- On-base percentage plus slugging (abbreviated as OPS) is exactly what it says. A player's OBP plus his SLG. This gives a more overall picture of his offensive performance and as such is a very useful stat if you need just one stat to look at and get a general idea of how good this one batter is.


- A hit is basically if the batter reaches first base safely and without benefiting from an error. Doubles, triples and home runs also count as hits, as does when the hitter tries to go for extra bases after reaching first base safely and then gets thrown out. There's some more rules to this, but they complicate matters for now.
- An at bat is actually not all the times the batter steps up to face the pitcher. That is the batter's plate appearances. An at bat is basically all the plate appearances minus the times the batter takes a walk, he is hit by a pitch, or hits a sacrifice fly or sacrifice bunt. Again, there's more rules, but they complicate matters.
- A sacrifice fly is basically when a hitter hits a ball into the outfield and is caught by an opposing fielder, but a run still scores. This is commonly done by tagging up.
- A sacrifice bunt is when a hitter bunts the ball and accepts that he will be thrown out at first base in order to let the other baserunners advance one base.

And then...

- A bunt involves the batter holding the bat horizontally across the plate and tapping the ball into play when the pitcher throws it his way. A ball played this way basically never leaves the infield, and the batter usually doesn't make it to first base, so the most common use is for the sacrifice. However, some very fast runners are able to bunt and sometimes still reach first base.
- Tagging up involves a baserunner standing on his current base until a ball is put into play and caught by an opposing fielder. After the catch, the runner can then take off for the next base. Most commonly, this involves a runner at third tagging up to run to home and score after a hitter hits a fly ball into the outfield that is caught - the sacrifice fly.

Indeed, Mo can still control right-handers with an excellent fastball, and use the slider to keep them from sitting on the hard heat. Just one out left, and Mo will try to close out this final game for New York.
That ain't gonna be enough. It's like General Douglas MacArthur said: "Do or do not, there is no try."
That... That was Yoda. From Star Wars.
Aw, quit it with the liberal historical revisionism. I ain't gonna apologize for my country or its history.
Oh lord. Fortunately, it looks like Mo is ready to throw his first pitch.
This is it, folks, New York is one out away from the world championship. Get up on your feet and get ready to cheer.
Mo goes into the stretch...

♪ BGM: Terminate

Well, here we are in our first "pitching combat". However, we will be going through a tutorial for this later, and for now, we don't really have a lot of choice, either. We're on rails for this segment. So I'll just be skipping through this in favor of letting the tutorial explain things more.

We are given two pitches to use. We'll go over the different pitches later. For now, here's how this "battle" works.

- If we throw a fastball, it's a strike until we get to two strikes. From then on, whenever we throw a fastball, Rodriguez will foul it off.
- If we throw a slider, it's a ball until we get to three balls. From then on, whenever we throw a slider, Rodriguez will foul it off.
- And the exception to that: If the count is 3-2 - a full count - and we throw a slider...


♪ BGM: Silence ♫

And apparently silenced my broadcast partner as well.
With that, New York no longer has the lead and this entire series has been turned around. Shades of Texas against St. Louis in 2011 here. New York was one strike away from a championship. You can't help but wonder how this affects a young closer like Mo.

So, yes, this is what we in the trade call a "supposed to lose fight".

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

And thus, it's time to talk about the inspiration for our hero. A friend from the Super-League thread asked the developer on Twitter, and it turns out the base for our closer is...

...Brad Lidge. "2005 Brad Lidge with higher stakes", to be exact. But before we get into that, who is Brad Lidge? Brad Lidge is a relief pitcher who enjoyed a moderate success overall. He was very adept at striking hitters out and had some excellent control in 2004 and 2005, giving up very few walks, but after that, he would give up significantly more walks and thus had less success after that. He still had success, just not enough to really stand out. Eventually, he would be sent down to the minor leagues after a series of bad performances in 2012, and he would retire after that. The highlight of his career was winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, where he saved the decisive game, and had a season where he did not fail to convert an opportunity for a save the entire season long.

But what about 2005? Well, something happened in the playoffs there. Lidge's Houston Astros were facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals. It's game five, and the Astros are up 3-1 in the seven game series. A win here would advance them. The score is 4-2 for the Astros, and Lidge is out there to close things out. He's already gotten two outs, but he's gotten himself into a pickle. David Eckstein singled and then moved to second, and Jim Edmonds walked. So Lidge's got men on first and second. And then comes...

...Albert Pujols.

So, Lidge blew it big time. Now, the Astros would go on to win that game six and move on to the World Series. They'd lose to the Chicago White Sox there. However, Lidge was never quite the same after that. Now, our pitcher faces an even worse situation - blowing a game in the World Series and allowing for a critical game seven in the seven game series for all the marbles.

The first thing I noticed was the silence. One minute, the crowd was ecstatic. They were on their feet. They were cheering my name. A moment later, I could hear the pounding of my heart, deep in my chest. I didn't have to see where the ball landed. The silence told me all I needed to know. With a single pitch, I had turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit. The game was over. Of course, the game wasn't really over. It was only the top of the ninth. My teammates had a chance to erase my mistake. With a little luck, they could even put us back on top. They could make everyone forget what I'd done. They didn't.

Robertson, the center fielder, was up first. He tapped the ball back to the mound. One out. Next was Vazquez, the first baseman. He led the American League in RBIs, but there was no one for him to drive in. He popped out to right field. Finally there was Jones, the catcher. The beat writers liked to say that he was "clutch", and that he came through in the toughest of times. He didn't. Just like that, the game was over. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to drink until I could forget about what had happened. Tomorrow was another game. Tomorrow was another chance. If only it was that simple... I had to go to the locker room. I had to shower and change out of my uniform. I had to look my teammates in the eyes. I had to face up to what I'd done. What I'd failed to do.

♪ BGM: City Theme

Well, time to talk to our teammates, I suppose.

It's the only thing that keeps the pain away. Delicious pizza.

Oh wait. It was.

They are, uh, not taking it well.

I don't know what exactly the Yankees' motto is, but that ain't it. That's more of a New England Patriots thing, I believe.

Inspiring! Well, I guess we have to talk to the coach now.

This is Moose. He's the pitching coach for New York. He used to be a pitcher himself. One of the best. He threw a rare pitch called a knuckle-curve. The name makes it sound like a hybrid of a curveball and a knuckleball, but that's not quite right. It's more of a variation on the curve. That's not what made him a special pitcher, though. He was able to make lightning-quick adjustments, changing his approach between at-bats, and even individual pitches to the same batter. Moose never won a World Series as a pitcher. Everyone on the staff wanted to bring this one home for him.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Mike Mussina, nicknamed "Moose", was a starting pitcher that pitched from 1991 to 2000 with the Baltimore Orioles and from 2001 to his retirement after the 2008 season with the New York Yankees. He was a pitcher most notable for being criminally underrated in his time. Like Moose in the game, Mussina never won a World Series title. He never won a Cy Young award (basically the award for the best pitcher, the National League and American League each have their own version of this award), either. He never put up crazy numbers. But what he was was consistently solid to great.

It took a while for him to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame due to the aforementioned lack of crazy numbers and hardware in his career, but his steady excellence in an era where offense was at an all-time peak made him deserving of induction, and so he was voted in in his sixth year on the ballot out of ten.

You threw a bad pitch. It happens.
We were one strike away...
I was one strike away from a perfect game, once. But you've heard that story.
Every day. We hear that story every day.
Carl Everett. Carl Fucking Everett. Did you know he doesn't even believe in dinosaurs? Who the fuck doesn't believe in dinosaurs? The fossil record is right there.
So you're not mad at me? Or, at least, you're still more mad at Carl Everett?
There are members of my family you could have killed tonight and I would still be more mad at Carl Everett.
Thanks, I guess.

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

This indeed mirrors an event out of Mussina's career. To note, a perfect game is when a pitcher pitches the entire nine innings of a game and never lets a batter reach base once. It is an exceptionally rare feat.

In 2001, Mussina faced the Boston Red Sox and got 26 of them out in a row. Then Carl Everett, a not really notable and largely mediocre outfielder, hit a single. Mussina then retired the next batter to end the game.

And yes, Carl Everett does indeed not believe in dinosaurs.

I don't know what happened. I don't think I threw it any differently.
You didn't, and that's the problem.
What do you mean? If my mechanics are fine, and I didn't throw my slider wrong, wasn't this just a fluke? Everything will be better tomorrow. Especially if I don't have to face the Machine.
It's not that simple, Mo. Have you ever heard of the Enigma Machine?
No, can't say that I have.
Prior to, and during, World War II, Nazi Germany used devices known as Enigma Machines to encode and decode secret messages. For the time, these were complex devices. The cipher wasn't applied directly to the input to encode messages, or directly to the code to interpret it. Instead, the cipher was the settings for the machine, which would do the hard work of changing the message into code and vice-versa. Without a machine tuned to the same settings, it was thought to be impossible to decipher the code. However, early in the war, the Enigma machine was cracked. The British built off of the efforts of the Polish resistance during the occupation. The Enigma was essentially useless by the time the United States entered the war. The Allies were able to easily analyze intel that, prior to cracking the code, was completely unreadable.
What does this have to do with my slider?
By the middle of the war, the problem wasn't with the Enigma machine. It was still an amazing piece of technology, and a marvel of cryptography. The problem was that the British had the cipher. They've figured out your slider, Mo. They can see when it's coming. They can see where it's heading. And they know how to hit it.
Just like that? That fast?
They cracked the code. It was bound to happen. Your slider is something of a trick pitch. You've managed a good few months off the fact that no one knew how to read it. And there's nothing wrong with that. Those few months helped us get here. Without your work in the regular season, New York wouldn't even be in the playoffs. And you dominated the ALCS. Now the hitters have figured out your slider. Now it's nothing but a meatball.

Mo has lost the pitch "Slider"! Mo has gained the pitch "Meatball"!

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

The concept of a pitcher getting figured out and suffering from it is a real thing. Also, a meatball is an almost derogatory term for a pitch that is very easy to hit.

Hey, don't yell at me. Trust me, if it were up to me, you would have at least thrown one more slider before this had to happen. Sure would have been nice to get that last strike out from you.
So, what? Does this mean my career is over? Just like that? After all, you're comparing me to Germany in World War II. And being compared to Germany in World War II is never good news.
Don't be so hasty, Mo. This isn't the end of your career. This is a natural part of a pitcher's career. Some get over it. Others are Dontrelle Willis.
What do I do? I don't want to be Dontrelle Willis!

TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Dontrelle Willis was a pitcher that had a fairly short career, only from 2003 to 2011. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2003 and was runner-up to the Cy Young award in 2005, with solid seasons in 2004 and 2006. Then, starting with 2007, he never had an even average season again. What happened? Well, what Moose is alluding to here is that Willis had a very strange way of throwing the ball. He kicks his leg up really high and twists his body strangely. As a result, hitters didn't really know how to react to it. Until they did know. And the rest is history.

But Game 7 of the World Series is tomorrow! I don't have time to do any of that.
Then I don't know what to tell you, Mo. If coach puts you in the game tomorrow, you'll only have your fastball.
I can get outs with just my fastball.
But can you strike out Carlos Rodriguez with just a fastball?
The Machine? Hell no. If I go up there throwing nothing but heat, he'll make his homerun tonioht look like a pop-up.
Then we're going to have to fix you tonight, aren't we?
I can't just learn a new pitch in twenty four hours!
Oh, come on, Mo! You ever see "Do The Right Thing"? That whole movie happens in less than twenty four hours.
Wait... Really?
That's right.
Wow, I guess if racism can be solved in twenty four hours, then anything is possible.
...You have an unbelievably optimistic reading of "Do The Right Thing." We're going to need that optimism right now, though, so I won't dispute your view of the film.
So, what do we do?
First we should have a chat with coach, then we'll get started with your training.

Moose has joined the party!


We also have access to the menu, but it doesn't show us a lot right now.

We can look at the pitches our party members have...

...and see their status. That's about it. Oh, yeah, by the way, this game was made before Mussina was elected to the Hall of Fame. Anyway, let's talk to the coach.

This is Joe Randall, New York's manager. Most days, he's a reasonable fellow. Even though I was only a rookie, he was willing to make me the closer less than a month after I was called up. Some people in the media called it a rash decision. They thought the job should have gone to an experienced pitcher. There were a couple guys in the bullpen who could have been considered. They weren't exactly old-timers, but they'd been pitching for a few years. Coach Randall knew what he had in me, though. He called it "lightning in a bottle". But lightning is fleeting. It flashes across the sky in an instant and is gone before you even know you've seen it. Coach was right about me, but in the worst way.

You just going to stare at me, like I shouldn't be furious with you?
Calm down, Joe. Fucking with the kid's head isn't going to fix him.
Well, Moose, then what will fix him? Extra reps in the gym? Better scouting? Electroshock therapy? Waterboarding?
I'm really not feeling good about where these suggestions are going.
You're not injured, so we can't drop you from the roster. That means I'm willing to do anything to make you useful before tomorrow. Anything. ANYTHING.
That's what I was hoping to talk to you about. We'd like permission to go on an epic quest to remake Mo as a pitcher before tomorrow's game.
An epic quest?
We may get sidetracked onto a journey of deeply personal re-examination, or even a voyage into the darkest crevices of existential mystery.
I got no problem with the epic quest, and the journey of personal re—examination might be helpful for both of you. But, Mo, you have a clause in your contract forbidding contact with existential mystery.
Really? Our owner writes that into the contracts now?
Of course he does! After what happened when Alex Rodriguez started reading Nietzsche and drinking mescal...
Those *were* a wild few weeks. I barely remember them.
I got a tattoo of Ganesh, Hindu deity of new beginnings. And I still can't find it on my body.
I didn't need to know that.
So we're good to go? All clear on the quest and the journey, but we need to steer clear of existential mystery.

Alright, we have our task, and now it's time to head out to train.

Where are we going?
Out to the bullpen. And then, wherever fate takes us.
Aren't we *always* going wherever fate takes us?
Don't get smart with me.

♪ BGM: Moose

I already know about pitching. I've been pitching for several months in the major leagues.
Okay, that's true. But I still think I should show you what vou need to do. Things have changed. You don't have your slider any more. We should start over from scratch. When you're ready, step onto the mound. It's the small patch of dirt, closest to—
Oh, one more thing!
We should probably talk about saving your game.
Will you stop with the babying? I've been the closer for a while. I know about saving games.
That's not what I mean. I'm talking about saving the state of the game, so that you can pick it up again later.
I'm still not following.
Just go to the menu and select "save game". That way, there's a record of everything you've accomplished that you can return to. Any time you enter a pitching match-up or other kind of battle, there are all sorts of ways you can fuck up and end the game, so save often.
Wait, so you're telling me that I can use this "Save Game" to *rewind time*? Why didn't you tell me this before I faced the Machine? I could have saved my game and tried again after he hit the HR off of me.
It doesn't work like that.
It doesn't? Why the hell not?
Look, you shouldn't think about it too much. It's really not something to dwell on.
You're telling me that there is some kind of mechanism of time travel-- suspending and rewinding the flow of time-- and I shouldn't dwell on it???
Yes. You know who thought much about saved games? Rick Ankiel.
What? No way. Really?
Ankiel was nervous about making his first career playoff start, so Tony La Russa took him aside and explained the whole concept to him. Well, you know what happened next...
But couldn't Ankiel just load up his saved game and try again until he pitched better?
He did. Multiple times.
He threw five wild pitches in one inning! Are you saying that what we saw was his *best* attempt at that inning?
That's why you don't think about saved games too much.
What's wrong, Mo?
We weren't just talking about existential mystery, were we?
I won't tell the coach if you won't.

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TheMcD's Baseball Stuff posted:

Ah, yes, the tragic story of Rick Ankiel. Ankiel was a hot-shot pitching prospect - prior to the 2000 season, he was ranked the #1 prospect in all of baseball. He had already come onto the major league scene in 1999 and pitched 33 strong innings, but his first real season was in 2000, where he pitched 175 excellent innings and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. But then...

...the playoffs happened. Ankiel got his first playoff start in the National League Divisional Series against the Atlanta Braves. He was cruising, not allowing any runs in the first two innings, and then it all fell apart. When the dust settled, Ankiel had thrown five wild pitches and given up four walks and two hits before being removed for another pitcher. He was then given another chance in the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, but he was just as wild, being completely unable to find the strike zone, or even the catcher's glove for that matter, missing it five times again. Ankiel got removed during the first inning, and he was never the same again.

This is what is called "the yips". The sudden loss of motor skills that are necessary to perform at that level. Ankiel completely lost his ability to throw inside the strike zone consistently, and his pitching career was over before it began.

But here's where the story takes a bizarre twist. Ankiel, still wanting to play baseball, started training his hitting and essentially converted to a centerfielder, getting a decent major league career out of it. It wasn't anything great, but really, just the fact that a pitcher completely lost his ability to pitch and turned himself into an outfielder instead is insane.

And here's where the story takes an even bizarrer twist. Rick Ankiel is trying to make a comeback as a relief pitcher. Yes, "trying". Present tense. He is currently 39 years old and hasn't pitched at a professional level for 14 years. The story goes that Ankiel pitched a bit in an exhibition game where former major leaguers played against college teams, and that rekindled his desire to play. And so now he's trying a comeback. And I say, good. You get 'em, Rick.

Anyway, that concludes this update. It's fucking long enough already.

But before we leave, there remains one question for you to answer:

What is our hero's name?

And I would like to say that if you have any questions regarding baseball or anything I mentioned here, by all means, ask. This LP is at least going to try to also be educational on the sport of baseball and some of its history.