When I was last in America, I purchased the Strat-o-Matic baseball board game because I was intrigued. I have played, and enjoyed, the game so far. I know that I'll never play a whole season - I don't have enough time to do something like that. So I've been trying to figure out the best way to play my game.
Made-up teams seem like the best - because I have no interest playing with teams that have half of their players on other teams, thanks to trades, free agency and the like. Best to start fresh with whole new rosters. My initial plan - a 24-team league (to incorporate all the players in the game in 40-man rosters) would have resulted in more than 2000 games! (remember, I said I didn't have the time for that?). Then, when I was watching the opening weekend of Australia's new Twenty20 cricket league, it hit me.
Twenty20 cricket, for those of you who don't know, is a relatively new form of the game that compresses the sport from five days down to 3 hours. It's designed to be TV-friendly and appeal to a wider range of people. Purists say that it takes all the strategy away from the traditional game and reduces it to smashing the ball as hard as you can. Think of it as the Home Run Derby of cricket.
So this is my new idea: a fantasy world where, under the auspices of Major League Baseball, the existing Australian Baseball League (ABL) is transformed from a winter development league (a la the Arizona Fall League) into a way for the best players in baseball to stay in shape, make some extra coin, and enjoy the great weather. Over a two-month period (December and January), ten teams will play a 54-game schedule (six games against each other team, home and away). The top four teams make the finals, with best-of-one semi-finals and best-of-three finals (because spring training is soon upon us).
To save pitchers' arms, and in keeping with the sped-up, Twenty20-inspired feel, games will be six innings long instead of nine. Starters will be limited to three innings maximum, and four days' rest is strictly enforced. The ten teams will have a 40-man roster, but only 25 can be selected to be eligible for each three-game series. At 270 games in total, even if I only play one game a day, I can be finished by next year's World Series (and start the next season of the ABL on time).
As there's only six real-life ABL teams, I've had to add four new ones. Again, I took a page out of the Twenty20 league, which faced the same problem when expanding from six to eight. They responded by putting a second team in Sydney and Melbourne. Seems like sound reasoning to me. So here's the ten ABL teams, at least in my universe:
An existing ABL team, named after the Great Australian Bight.
An existing ABL team, of which there is nothing interesting to say.
An existing ABL team. Their mascot is a moustachioed cavalryman named Sarge
I put Melbourne's second team on the other side of Port Phillip Bay so that I could use Geelong Baseball Park, one of the nicest stadiums in Australia. The Baycats name is the actual name of the amateur Geelong Baseball Club, so I kept it.
The Clippers name was historically used by Queensland teams in the old ABL. The Gold Coast (which despite its name, is actually a large city) is home to the MLB Australian Academy. It seemed like a good fit to put a team here.
Name and logo shamelessly stolen from the Twenty20 cricket team. They don't play baseball in Tasmania, apparently, so I didn't have much to work with. Besides, I needed a purple team.
An existing ABL team. The Victoria Aces were the most successful state team in the Claxton Shield, aka the Stanley Cup of Australian baseball.
The most awesome real-life ABL team ever! Current champions. It will be hard not to rig the draft in their favor.
An existing ABL team. An artificial construction when the league re-launched in 2009, to be remedied with my second Sydney team
The NSW Patriots were the historic name for New South Wales baseball, but unlike the Perth Heat and Melbourne Aces, that history was abandoned when the ABL arrived in 2009. Placing a team in Western Sydney and giving it the "Patriots" name was a logical move. Let the rivalry begin!
I don't plan on bombarding you with fictional ABL updates. In fact, this may be the only post I make on the subject. I'm in the process of loading the players in the SOM set into my copy of Out of the Park baseball - purely to run a draft and stock the teams in the fairest way I know how. After the teams are set (OOTP can also build a schedule for me), I'll start playing them. Maybe I'll play the whole season out. Maybe I'll get bored. The fun is in finding out.
The six real-life ABL team logos are from the ABL
The Geelong Baycats logo is from Geelong Baseball Club
The Gold Coast Clippers logo is from the Columbus Clippers
The Hobart Hurricanes logo is from the Big Bash T20 cricket league
The Western Sydney logo is from AZTarHeel, an online OOTP baseball player