Happy 50th birthday, Strat-o-Matic

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For reasons that I still can’t explain, I was never exposed to Strat-o-Matic baseball until I twas way too old and involved in boring grownup things to have a lot of time to obsess on it.  Almost everyone else I know who thinks deeply or writes intelligently about baseball played it, however, and I totally understand why.  What the cards and dice lack in high-tech, they make up for in realism, and the game is (reportedly) as addicting today as it always has been.

And it’s now 50 years old, reports the New York Times:

Strat-O-Matic, in which rolls of the dice correspond to results on cards that mirror players’ real-life statistics, has survived in an age of high-tech video games.

“Like Othello or chess, you can learn the game swiftly, but you’ll never tire of the strategies,” said Glenn Guzzo, a former newspaper editor and the author of “Strat-O-Matic Fanatics,” who has been playing since he asked his mother for a set for his 12th birthday in 1963.

He said the game’s combination of playability (it can be completed in a half-hour) and realism were essential to its longevity. “There are also an infinite number of ways to keep your imagination fertile,” he added.

If you have trouble understanding the kind of hold this game — or a fictional one that is very much like it — can have on people, check out a great old novel called “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” Old Gator sent it to me last year and it’s awesome.  It explains, in somewhat satirical fashion, how one can be consumed by baseball even if one never played it.  The stats. Or the sims. Or playing fantasy. Or writing about it.

Happy birthday, Strat-o-Matic!

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.