One of the most fun and interesting aspects of playing the APBA tabletop baseball game is to see what happens when your favorite teams acquire new players during the offseason, then seeing how they fit into the lineup.
So, for example, you can see what happens to the Seattle Mariners’ anemic offense when you insert Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez into the three, four and five spots in the batting order. Or you can enjoy seeing the impact of Denard Span at the top of the Washington Nationals lineup, along with pitching Stephen Strasburg in the playoffs.
This week I wrapped up a tournament that used the 2012 season APBA cards to fill out the current rosters of eight favorite teams. And in the spirit of the College World Series going on in Omaha this past week, the tourney used the eight-team double-elimination format and included teams featuring former Oregon State standouts Darwin Barney (Cubs) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox).
In the end, the Nationals triumphed over the Mariners, sweeping the M’s in the best two-out-of-three championship series. Losing by scores of 4-0 and 2-1 showed that maybe the Mariners could still use some more hitting, and the Nationals just might be one of the best teams in baseball if not for all the injuries they’ve endured this season.
Of course, one of the benefits of APBA baseball is that managers can ignore injuries and play their ideal lineup and pitching rotation, which proved beneficial to the Nats in this tourney. Strasburg earned victories in both his starts, and Jason Werth put a major hurt on opponents by going 7 for 18 (.389) with 2 homers, 3 doubles, a triple, 3 runs and 4 RBI in six games.
The only hiccup in the Nationals’ run to the title was an 8-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, who were powered by their own Big Three of Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, who pounded Nats pitchers for 6 hits, 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 runs and 4 RBI in one game. Oh how the Brewers miss having those three guys in the lineup these days! The Nationals, however, bounced back in the elimination game, winning 5-0 over the Brewers for the right to take on the Mariners for the championship.
The Mariners, meanwhile, made it to the championship by defeating the San Francisco Giants not once but twice, 2-1 and 2-0. The M’s advanced primarily on the strength of rock-solid pitching, especially their grade A and B relievers. Needing only a three-man starting rotation, the M’s and most of the other teams thrived on strong starting pitching. Using the designated hitter also kept the best starters in games into the late innings.
Relievers were limited to one inning per game if their real-life innings pitched were less than the number of games in which they actually appeared. The sacrifice and hit-and-run options were limited to three rolls per game per team.
Other highlights (and lowlights) from the tourney included:
–The Mariners twice winning 2-1 extra-inning games on walk-off home runs, one by leadoff man Michael Saunders and the other by catcher Kelly Shoppach. (Shoppach jacked his homer off Cubs reliever and Corvallis native Kevin Gregg.) In fact, Saunders was the entire offense versus the Cubs, hitting a pair of solo homers.
–Saunders almost single-handedly defeating the Giants as well, driving in both runs with a 2-run homer off Matt Cain in a 2-0 victory.
–Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals pitching a pair of shutouts, winning 2-0 over the Brewers and 4-0 versus the Mariners in Game 1 of the championship series.
–The Brewers scoring 7 runs in one inning — including a 2-run homer by Hart — in a 9-7 win over the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia had a grand slam in the loss. While the Red Sox lost twice to the Brewers, Boston showed why they’ve returned to winning form this season with the addition of Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli to their batting order.
–The Baltimore Orioles mustering but 1 run in two losses, 4-0 to the Giants and 2-1 to the Cubs, who won on the strength of a complete game by Matt Garza. It’s no wonder contenders already are eyeing Garza for the playoff run later this summer.
I enjoyed the double-elimination format of the tournament and can see why it’s so popular at the College World Series. (It was sad to see the Beavers’ time in Omaha cut short by Mississippi State, but nice to see the Pac-12 prevail in the championship, even if it was the UCLA Bruins.)
I’ve been playing APBA baseball since 1976, starting with the 1975 set featuring the world champion Big Red Machine and the likable Boston Red Sox, including Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, Yaz and “Spaceman” Bill Lee.
A lifelong Milwaukee Brewers fan, I’ve played countless games with the 1982 World Series team, easily my favorite. I’ve occasionally erased the painful Game 7 loss with a win over Joaquin Andujar and those dastardly St. Louis Cardinals. It sure helps to have Rollie Fingers available in the bullpen instead of being on injured reserve! I can never get enough of hall-of-famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor and fondly recall all those games we sat behind Gorman Thomas in the centerfield bleachers at old Milwaukee County Stadium.
Since moving to Corvallis, Oregon, in the mid-1980s, I’ve also become a huge Seattle Mariners fan. I’ve replayed last season’s perfect game by King Felix Hernandez against Tampa Bay, though it can’t quite match the exhilaration or good fortune of attending the game in person!
When I’m not playing APBA baseball or city-league softball, I teach journalism at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon.