It began innocently enough.  Someone placed an ad in the company electronic classified ads looking for people to join a simulation baseball league.  Since this was December and I was suffering from baseball withdrawal, I basically saw “blah blah blah BASEBALL blah blah”.  I asked for some details.  The league was based on something called “Mogul”.  GMs (otherwise known as “human players”) controlled various aspects of a team, such as drafting players, developing them, making trades, and determining optimal lineups.  A friend would later refer to this as the baseball equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons.  (I’ve never actually played D&D, so I’m not sure how accurate this assessment is.)  I had never heard of Baseball Mogul, but it sounded interesting.

I contacted the league commissioner at his “plush offices” in Montana.  He pointed me to a web site displaying the rules.  Some of them made a lot of sense, and some of them referred to concepts that I didn’t fully understand.  In any case, it was December and I needed my baseball fix, so I jumped in headfirst.  I was granted custodianship of the Atlanta Braves, who were in the midst of the dreadful season.  I would guide them to a 10-10 finish to allow them to finish the 2015 season with 52 wins and 110 losses.  On the bright side, my record allowed me to snag the #3 pick in the upcoming draft.  This was a good thing, because pretty much all of my players sucked, with very little talent in the minors.

While the league was based on Baseball Mogul, the commisioner built a lot of extra features into the league.  I actually toyed around with Mogul for a while, and found that it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the actual league.  For those of you who are familiar with Mogul – one of the twists was that the commish was the only person with the player file – meaning that he was the only one who knew when a player would peak and decline.

The discussion board

There were 30 different GMs in the league (later expanded to 32 teams as a result of league expansion) – spread all across the country.  A GM gained “league credits” for writing articles about his team or about the league in general.  Many of the articles took the form of “my team was 14-6 during the last sim, and this is how my players did”.  The more interesting articles would analyze various aspects of the league.  Who were the best centerfielders in the league?  Who were the top 50 minor league prospects in the league?  Most interesting were questions such as the importance of productive outs and the value of stolen bases (as well as the cost of failed steal attempts.)  It was a discussion in the sim league that made me completely change my opinion about the cost of strikeouts.

The draft

Everyone in the league had access to a file containing statistics and a general scouting report on potential draftees.  The scouting discussed a hitter’s contact, power, speed, batting eye, and defense.  A pitcher’s endurance, control, power, and movement were mentioned in the pitcher reports.  The players ranged in age from 18 year old high school players to 24 year old college students.  Obviously, you can’t compare a high school pitcher’s 3.00 ERA against a college pitcher’s 3.00 ERA – the college player faced more difficult competition.  Each GM then had the opportunity to obtain ten “free” advanced scouting reports that would contain a more accurate assessment of a player’s abilities.  The GM could then spend league credits to obtain additional advanced scouting reports.  Among other things, the ASR provided insights into a player’s coachability.

Player development

GMs had the ability to determine the development of a player.  Players will develop somewhat on their own – with the more coachable player improving more than the less coachable players.  GMs then have the ability to boost a player’s development with winter ball.  For the price of league credits, you can focus on a particular area of a player’s development.  For example, you might choose to send the player to weight training to boost his power.  In my mind, player development was one area where a GM could add considerable value to an organization by determining the optimal options – which players to send to winter ball and for which skills.  I always wrote a ton of article for the message board in an effort to max out my league credits – which I funneled into winter ball.

Trading

Trading was far and away my favorite part of the league.  Over the course of my tenure in the league, I traded with very nearly every other GM.  Some of them I found to be very easy to deal with while others were considerably more difficult to trade with.  In the latter stages, I did blacklist a couple of GMs because of extreme difficulties working with them – it simply wasn’t worth the effort.

I was definitely one of the more active traders in the league.  I even found myself in the middle of a few three way trades.  There is a lot of bluffing in trade negotiations, and this was probably the most fun.  Which trade partner needed the trade more?  How far could I push the other GM before they would back down?  If I walked away from a deal, would the other GM chase?

Many of the trades centered around minor league players.  GMs could obtain minor league reports on their own players (but not players from other teams).  These reports often provided valuable insights to a player’s potential, and could be a critical bargaining chip during trade talks.  However, development could take unforeseen curves – turning a mediocre prospect into a great player or a great prospect into a mediocre player.

How did Kosmo do?

One of the first things I did was start obtaining players who were dumped onto waivers by other teams who were looking to save a few bucks.  I acquired a slugging first baseman via trade, and in my third full season in the league, my ragtag band of players made the playoffs.

After four playoff appearances with the Braves, I had the opportunity to jump ship and get behind the helm of the Colorado Rockies – my favorite “real life” team.  The NL West offered stiffer competition than the NL East, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run my favorite team.  The Rockies were floundering.  I quickly shuffled things up a bit, and an apparent fire had been lit under the team, as they rallied and took the NL West crown.  The Rockies picked up division titles in 2031 and 2036.  In all, my teams won seven division titles in my 24 full seasons in the league (spanning 3 ½ calendar years).

During my time in the league, I developed quite a few tools to aid in my analysis of players and draftees.  Some of these I shared with other GMs, and some of them I kept under my hat until this very day.  I also tracked particular behaviors of GMs in order to gauge how they would value a particular type of player in a trade – in order to take advantage of situations where they would overvalue or undervalue players.  If a GM would consistently send pitchers to winter ball to work on their movement, this was a sign that the GM might overvalue that skills in trades.

I had a tendency to write two types of articles for the message board.  The one variety would be math based and focus on analyzing a particular skill or determining a formula that could be used in ongoing analysis.  The second type of article were quirky fiction pieces.  These fiction pieces served as a catalyst for the fiction you see on The Soap Boxers each Friday.

Finally, I stepped down from the league.  Why?  Simply because the amount of time that The Soap Boxers required made it impossible to be an effective GM.  It was great fun while it lasted, and if I ever give up writing, I’ll surely find myself back in the league.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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