Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez participating in MLB The Show league
By Sean Penney
Players from each team, including Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, have formed a virtual league through MLB The Show to compete against each other.
Baseball remains on an indefinite hiatus but players can still get their competitive juices flowing in the virtual world. We can’t watch the Boston Red Sox play ball but we can play as them in video games, an opportunity that the players themselves plan to take advantage of during this period of mass quarantine.
ESPN’s Joon Lee reports that the MLB Players Association is teaming with Sony to launch the first MLB The Show league featuring players from all 30 teams.
Left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will represent the Red Sox. Some of the other notable participants include Tampa Bay Rays starter Blake Snell, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader and Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
The 29-game regular season begins on April 10 and runs through April 28, followed by a postseason beginning April 30 and the World Series on May 2. The eight best teams qualify for the playoffs so apparently leagues and divisions are irrelevant. There are no Wild Cards so all playoff-eligible teams are on equal footing in the best-of-three postseason format, followed by a best-of-five World Series. The only advantage of having the best record is home field – does that even matter in a video game?
That’s far from the biggest question regarding this virtual league. Based on what we’ve learned from ESPN’s report, there are a number of open questions about how Rodriguez will mange his Red Sox squad.
Each game is only three innings, presumably eliminating the need for bullpens. How will player fatigue work in a video game league with a short season and shorter games? Can E-Rod send himself to the mound for every game?
Maybe he won’t want to rely solely on his own arm if Chris Sale is available. Does the game know that he’s supposed to miss this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery or are injuries turned off for this league?
Either way, Rodriguez should have a much easier time utilizing his rotation under these settings than the Red Sox will in reality if this season ever gets underway.
For the sake of consistency for all 30 teams involved in this virtual league, all settings will remain the same for everyone. That means the designated hitter has been turned off. How will Rodriguez utilize J.D. Martinez? There won’t be many pinch-hitting opportunities in a three-inning game so Martinez will have to play the outfield in order for E-Rod to get his best bat in the lineup. That means one of the other projected starting outfielders will have to sit.
If the teams are playing out a season, even a shortened one, are they allowed to make trades? It’s hard to imagine there will be any sellers in a league the ends after one 29-game season. Nobody needs to shed payroll and trading for prospects who aren’t major league ready doesn’t help. A good old fashioned challenge trade could make things interesting though, with one team dealing a star to another club for elite talent at another position.
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The report makes no mention of the option to make transactions but it would add an exciting wrinkle to the league. Personally, in my experience playing any sports video game, pretending to be a GM by making trades and signing free agents is half the fun. Can E-Rod call Chaim Bloom for guidance? Is Rodriguez allowed to trade himself?
There are many unknown variables about this virtual league but we can find answers by following along as players compete in MLB The Show. Players are expected to stream their games on their personal Twitch accounts or their team’s account. Rodriguez has a Twitch account under the name “thegualo.”
It’s not the same as having real baseball back but this is a fun idea for players to connect with fans. The NBA has had success running a similar league on NBA2K. MLB The Show isn’t quite as popular since it’s exclusive to Sony and only available on PlayStation. Those of us with an Xbox don’t have a suitable alternative for a baseball game.
While many of us don’t have the option to play along in our own league, anyone can watch players from their favorite MLB team compete against each other online. We all want the chance to root for the Red Sox again, even if we have to settle for cheering for a virtual team.