Earlier this week, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa stole one of George Costanza’s plays. After winning the World’s Series, he’s leaving on a high note and retiring. As much as I hated La Russa’s A’s teams in the late 80s and early 90s, he had a real good run as a manager.
While I wish him a good, happy retirement, I selfishly hope he goes back to doing something he was even better at than managing a baseball team: making baseball video games (or more accurately, getting paid to pitch baseball video games).
Two decades ago, the Tony La Russa Baseball series led a strong pack of baseball-themed games. The series pinnacle was Tony La Russa Baseball 3 and its spinoff, Old Time Baseball. Sadly, the days of good (or even decent) well-rounded baseball video games could be categorized under “Old Time.”
While there are a few game franchises (Baseball Mogul, Out of the Park) that excel at the team-building area of the game, and others feature state-of-the-art gameplay, there is no modern game that combines both.
To be fair, today’s front office simulators are much better than the La Russa series of games in terms of building and managing a team. But the drawback is you can’t play the actual games.
Today’s popular games (such as the MLB 2K series) are based around gameplay, using modern video and audio capabilities. While the games look great, often, the gameplay is horrible and the front-office area leaves much to be desired. I’d rather play the games from the 90s (lackluster graphics and all) than the games of today, but sadly, they won’t work on modern computers.
Which is why Tony La Russa needs to go back to making (or lending his name to) video games. The La Russa series combined front office and gameplay in a way that in the mid-90s, was very entertaining. You could draft a whole league in under 20 minutes and then start playing games. Gameplay went by pretty quickly. The only thing missing (and this goes for most games from that era) was a free agency/salary component.
Back in high school (and college) I spent a lot of time playing baseball games, the La Russa series included. Another series that excelled at the time was Sierra’s Front Page Sports Baseball. The gameplay graphics were odd (all the players looked the same in an effort to play in a quasi 3D environment). Still, you could customize every facet of your team. What other game would give you the option of letting your team wear alternate jerseys on Bastille Day?
While the graphics is great, the gameplay and team management of today’s baseball video games fall far short of the standards set by their predecessors. I wish Tony La Russa the best in his retirement. But Tony, if you ever find yourself bored, why not take up making video games again?