I don’t subscribe to the theory “everything happens for a reason.” I think it wraps up everything in life a little too neatly. But something happened for a reason recently: my Lenovo laptop’s LCD screen decided to stop working. (I don’t know why this happened, but I’m assuming it’s for the same reason that my Lenovo laptop gets blue screens of death every day. So I think I’ll be getting that checked out.) So with my laptop out of commission and my iPad no fun to type long pieces on, I’ve resorted to my house’s desktop Dell computer for writing purposes. I believe this computer was around in the first George W. Bush era. It also has a space bar that doesn’t respond very well to being pressed. My right hand’s index finger is practically red from slamming the stupid thing.
But there’s a silver lining here: I’ve rediscovered some of the old computer games that are lying around the house. And while I haven’t yet returned to the Oregon Trail (stay tuned), I have rediscovered one of the ultimate staples of my childhood: Backyard Baseball.
Backyard Baseball, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the greatest computer games of all time. I’m not going to review it, because obviously it deserves nothing short of an A+. If you never played it, I truly feel sorry for you, but just take my word – there are only a few computer games even remotely comparable to this. (The Oregon Trail and LEGO Island are two of them.)
So to steal a page from Bill Simmons’ playbook, it’s time for the first (and only) annual Backyard Baseball Trade Value Rankings! Here’s how it works: I’ll rank, from worst to best, the most valuable characters in Backyard Baseball. In this scenario, we have to imagine that players can be traded for each other. For example, if Jocinda Smith was #10 and Stephanie Morgan was #11, a team would trade Stephanie for Jocinda, but not Jocinda for Stephanie.
A quick self-written FAQ before we begin:
Why not Backyard Baseball 2001? Because no other Backyard game is as good as the original.
Why not another Backyard game? I can’t find any others.
Are you really writing this column? Yes.
Wow. That’s awesome. I know.
How did you determine the rankings? Each Backyard Baseball character is ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 in four different categories: Hitting, Running, Pitching & Fielding. I analyzed these categories, played the game and took my personal thoughts into account for a very scientific yet equally unscientific way of determining the rankings.
We’ll do this as a three-parter, with players 31 through 21 today, players 20 through 11 tomorrow and the top 10 on Wednesday. Let’s roll…
Group A: I Award You No Points, And May God Have Mercy On Your Soul
31. Jorge Garcia (Hitting 2, Running 2, Pitching 2, Fielding 2)
What exactly is the point of Jorge Garcia’s inclusion in Backyard Baseball?
It can’t be to have a Hispanic male character – there’s Pablo Sanchez. It can’t be to have a nerdy-looking kid with glasses – there’s Dimitri Petrovich. There’s simply no reason for Jorge Garcia’s existence in this game. His nickname is “Bonkers” – and quite honestly, that’s the worst possible nickname for Jorge, as there’s nothing “bonkers” about him. He’s the only player of the 31 in the game without a single 3 in any ranking. Jorge adds nothing to your team, and should never be picked under any circumstances.
Group B: Short People Got No Reason To Live
30. Reese Worthington (2-3-1-3)
29. Ronny Dobbs (3-2-3-2)
28. Vicki Kawaguchi (1-4-3-4)
It’s a general unwritten rule of Backyard Baseball that the shorter you are, the worse you can field – similar to Whiz Khalifa’s preconceived notion that “the bigger the bill, the harder you ball”. I think. Anyway, these three players are examples of that. You can more or less throw the fielding marks out the window, because any pop-up to one of these three players will not be caught.
So what do they do well? Reese’s strike zone is small enough that he’ll walk a decent amount, and his speed is solid, but that’s it. Ronny’s supposedly a 3 at pitcher, but his only above-average pitch, location-wise, is the heat. In a game with Ronny, I threw three heats, two of which were launched over the fence and one of which was nearly a home run. On easy mode. And Vicki’s one of the game’s fastest players – but she can’t put the ball in play unless you bunt. Her 3 rating at pitcher is also deceptive, as her only good pitch is the slowball (a Kawaguchi special).
(One last note on Ronny – Ronny is a boy, apparently, which I was never really certain about. Think about it. “Ronny” could easily be short for “Veronica”, and he has a gender-neutral look. Not to be sexist, but he also cries when he strikes out, which puts the whole ordeal in doubt. I’m a little concerned about this, as you can tell.)
Group C: “Well, They Can Hit, But…”
27. Kimmy Eckman (3-1-2-2)
A few things about Kimmy Eckman:
- Her bio tells us she’s obsessed with chocolate. Way to go, Humongous Entertainment – get those kids started with obesity at an early age!
- “Kimmy” blows up my spell check every time.
- Kimmy hits decently well. There’s some sugary pop in her bat.
- …and she provides absolutely nothing else of substance. Fielding? Atrocious. Running? Molasses-esque. Pitching? No one with a 2 rating is worth a salt in pitching in this game.
26. Dmitri Petrovich (3-3-1-2)
This may prove to be an unpopular ranking, but the best thing about Dmitri is when he licks his finger and holds it up to test the weather. His power comes and goes in spurts, but he’s nowhere near worthy of that 3 ranking in running. In fact, he’ll be tired out by the fifth inning if he gets on base a couple of times. At least, unlike Kimmy, he can catch the ball.
Group D: General Mediocrity
25. Lisa Crocket (2-3-3-2)
There are a few good things about Lisa: her right and left hooks and her fielder’s arm. But she’s a mediocre hitter and not all that great of a runner. Also, her nickname is “Mad Dog” and she’s a jerk to everyone. Three cheers for youthful harmony!
(Side note: how ridiculous is it that every character in the game can throw, essentially, a curveball AND a screwball with the left and right hooks?)
24. Marky Dubois (3-1-3-3)
Marky does have some opposite-field power in his bat, coming from a default closed stance. He can also pitch in spurts, though he tires out quickly. Marky’s hurt by two main factors: he might be the slowest character in the game, and he’s certainly the dirtiest. For crying out loud, the kid’s holding a frog when you go to draft players! He’s the Jeff Foxworthy of Backyard Baseball.
23. Billy Jean Blackwood (3-2-2-2)
Billy Jean’s not a bad choice if you want a bottom-of-the-order hitter to bang out some hits in the gaps. She’s also better than the 2 rating would indicate in the field, since she’s approximately eight feet tall. Careful, though – according to Backyard Sports Wiki (obviously reliable), her stats get worse when she’s on the same team as Marky, who has a crush on her! ZOMG YOUNG LOVE!
22. Gretchen Hasselhoff (2-3-3-1)
One of three fielders with a 1 rating in the game, Gretchen is actually pretty capable wherever she plays. She’s a good pitcher with strong hooks and doesn’t run out of “juice”, or pitcher stamina, too quickly. But there’s nothing wildly above-average here.
(Side note 2: Backyard Baseball’s “juice” meter and ability to get “more juice”: a purely coincidental precursor to steroids, or just ahead of its time?)
21. Maria Luna (3-3-1-3)
For one of the game’s myriad three-foot-tall characters, Maria does have some decent power – when she puts the ball in play, that is. Get ready for a cavalcade of foul balls straight back to the nonexistent screen!
Tomorrow: we’ll run through players #20 through #11. Please leave any concerns or thoughts in the comments below, and here’s hoping you don’t take of any these rankings personally.
Not that personally, anyway.