Baseball is different from every other sport because its statistics live and breathe. There's a constant dialogue about baseball's eras and players. How would Babe Ruth stack up today? Would Roger Clemens strike out Ty Cobb?
And on a personal note, could you run the Yankees better than George Steinbrenner? And do your GM and managing abilities stack up to other baseball fans?
These computer games and board games can satisfy that itch, and be a blast doing it.
Diamond Mind is a computer simulation that's been around for more than 20 years, and its intricate engine is used by ESPN and other media to simulate seasons. It's considered the best simulator out there.
Its main concept: Players draft a team using past players and then try to beat other owners in a 12-team league in a simulated 162-game season. It's not as easy as sticking Mickey Mantle in center, Babe Ruth in right and putting Cy Young on the mound, either. You have a salary cap and can only afford a few superstars for your team, so you'll be filling out your roster with players you probably forgot about long ago. And that's part of the fun.
The online version costs $19.95 per team. There's also a downloadable version.
Sim Dynasty is very similar to the above two, but different in that its premise is more in line with running a franchise instead of just running a team. Managers can control their team over multiple seasons, starting in 1950, building a farm system and competing over a longer span of time. And the price is right for a single-season team: It's free, and a great place to go to see if you'd like it and get into a multiple-season league through their system.
SimDynasty doesn't have the polish of Diamond Mind, but it has a vibrant online community, and it's franchise potential is intriguing. But because it's free to start, there are inherently more people who will ignore their teams after a poor start.
A contemporary of APBA, this is another popular card/dice game that was adapted to the computer. And through a partnership with The Sporting News, they've adapted Strat-O-Matic to be like Diamond Mind, except it uses the player ratings from the past season. Like Diamond Mind and Sim Dynasty, it simulates three games per day until the season is complete. Each team costs $24.95, or $99.95 for five teams.
The original dice game is still available each season ($45.50) and there's also a traditional computer game that allows you to play head-to-head on the internet or do your own simulations against the computer.
I grew up playing the old dice version of APBA Baseball with friends and on my own, and it was a blast. They still make the game after all these years, and also have a software version. The software adds Pete Van Wieren describing the games, which is a nice touch. This is more of a solitary quest than the ones above. You're controlling a team from the past or drafting a team and playing against the computer or a friend in person.
The classic original dice version costs $20, and the master game $25. The cards from each season are sold separately, and the latest seasons cost $39.99.
You have to be in the regular season for this, but it's another interesting concept. It's fantasy baseball with a twist. Played in real time during the season, this service touts itself as the only baseball simulation that plays based on stats from the current week's major-league games. It doesn't use past stats, as essentially every other game does. So it's like drafting a traditional fantasy team, but playing alternate games on the computer. And you actually manage the team, at-bat by at-bat, working the matchups like a real manager.
New one-year teams in leagues that the league forms cost $89 for one team. You can also create a league with friends.