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!
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.