Unsurprisingly, MLB news has been slow since the current lockout started. The bright side is that even though a bucket of ice water got thrown on the hot stove, there’s a good opportunity to look more closely at things like the state of the Cardinals roster and organization, data collected from previous seasons and their implications, Hall of Fame cases, and altogether fun topics that might not get as much attention during hot-stove season. Still, the offseason is long enough as it is and with the lockout going on we’ll all probably need a few extra doses of baseball to get us to Opening Day in 2022. So today, I’m going to take a break from the Spin Rate series to recommend ways to get your baseball fix this offseason.
Ken Burns’ Baseball - Probably the most comprehensive documentary on the history of baseball, Baseball tells the full story of the game from its origins to 1992. You can find it on streaming platforms now as a collection of nine two-hour episodes with a bonus tenth and eleventh episodes covering the nineties through 2010. The Gashouse Gang, Stan Musial, and Bob Gibson get a good amount of screentime devoted to them, and the Negro Leagues and the integration of the game are also discussed at length. On top of all of that, there are a lot of great stories about timeless stars like Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Matthewson, and Walter Johnson, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Fastball - I watched this documentary a few years back and it was one of the more interesting documentaries I can remember watching. The doc talks about the evolution of fastballs and the different ways pitch velocity has been measured, from the times of Bob Feller to Aroldis Chapman, with the primary goal of trying to find out which pitcher in history threw the fastest fastball. The conclusion they come to probably won’t surprise you.
Anything from the 2011 playoff run - Pretty self-explanatory. Game 6 will never get old. Albert Pujols’ three-HR game in the World Series is also worth reliving, along with Chris Carpenter’s Game 5 duel against his friend and former teammate Roy Halladay in the NLDS. Any game with David Freese heroics is a plus.
Cardinals Off-Day Podcast - Most of you are probably familiar with this one. Former VEB writers Ben Humphrey and Ben Godar discuss current events regarding the Cardinals. New episodes were uploaded on off-days during the season (hence the name of the podcast), but episodes in the offseason will usually only come out when a big event in Cardinals news happens.
The Chris Rose Rotation - Chris Rose, formerly of MLB Network, sits down with a rotation of co-hosts including current players like Steven Brault, Miguel Rojas, and Lucas Giolito, and performs casual interviews with them and other current and former MLB players. It’s a really fun, lighthearted podcast. Jack Flaherty made an appearance on the podcast with former Harvard-Westlake teammates Giolito and Max Fried on April 26th, and another great episode is an interview with Todd Frazier from June 21st. These episodes air weekly and give some fun insight to what it’s like to be a pro baseball player.
Old Radio Broadcasts - Have you ever wished you could listen to the radio broadcasts from the 1934 World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers? (Pretend for a second the answer to that question is yes.) Well, you can! There’s a great collection of over 500 old-time radio broadcasts dating from 1934 to 1973 that includes a good number of Cardinals games. (I’m pretty sure someone from the VEB comment section linked that site a few years ago, so if that person is reading this, thanks for that!) Additionally, Don Zminda on YouTube has a really good collection of radio broadcasts, including every 1982 World Series game announced by Vin Scully and Sparky Anderson.
Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar - Not sure I need to go in-depth on this one, as VEB selected it for this offseason’s Viva El Libros book club reading. So give it a read and write down some points for the book club to discuss!
The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball by Tom Tango, Mitchell Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin - If you haven’t been beat over the head with enough numbers in my spin rate articles, this book is an in-depth look at optimizing everything in the game. How should lineups be constructed? How many pitchers should be in a starting rotation? What’s the best way to utilize platoon splits? This book has answers to all those questions if you can work through it.
Ty Cobb: a Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen - As a disclaimer, I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s one on my offseason reading list. Cobb has probably the most notorious reputation in the baseball legendarium. Most know him as a vicious racist and violent man both on and off the field, and that’s how he’s portrayed in Ken Burns’ baseball documentary. As often happens with most of baseball’s greatest heroes and villains, some of the stories about Cobb may have been exaggerated, and this book tries to separate the facts from the fiction regarding Cobb. If anyone in the comments has read this book, I (and others I’m sure) would be interested to hear your opinions on it and if it’s truly worth the read.
Video and Board Games
This last category may be a niche one, but there are some games that can scratch that baseball itch that the lockout might be causing. These can be a bit pricey, but they can offer some pretty unique experiences.
MLB The Show - This is the yearly game released by Sony and aims to give a simulation of MLB action (to varying degrees of success). It has a good number of modes, with the ability to play as real-life players, create your own player to play as, or play as a GM/Manager of an MLB team. I’ve been trying to rebuild the Orioles in The Show 21 and it’s a fun and tough challenge. The Show is available to purchase on both Xbox and Playstation consoles.
Out of the Park Baseball - OOTP differs from MLB The Show in that it puts more emphasis in management both from the front office and the dugout. I haven’t played it personally, but its systems seem more in-depth than the GM mode in The Show and its a fun simulator to try out different baseball strategies. OOTP 22 is currently available for PC and is $20 on the Steam marketplace at the time of writing.
Strat-o-matic Baseball - Strat-o-matic is THE baseball board game and is featured in the baseball Hall of Fame. This one can get expensive year-to-year if you want to keep the game up-to-date with current players, as new card packs come out yearly for current rosters. However, the game does its best to replicate realistic statistics from each player involved and by reviews I’ve seen is pretty accurate if the game is played over a full simulated season. My experience with this game is pretty limited, but it’s typically been well-received by the intended audience and seems like a baseball fanatic’s dream.
That’s the last of my recommendations. Hopefully, it’ll get us all through the lockout (and hopefully to Opening Day). If you have any additional recommendations, drop them in the comments so that we all can benefit, and Merry Christmas to everyone!