Remember baseball before the steroid era of the early 1990's? We may be heading back there with stricter drug testing and actual suspensions for violators. (Or we may not and the players will continue to find more advanced methods to enhance their natural talents.) There is now a way to experience the way things used to be.
The Sporting News runs an online version of Strat-O-Matic. Jeff Erickson, Joe Sheehan and myself have competed in an expert's league called SOMBOE on TSN based on the previous seasons stats. After losing in the finals with my Toronto Kimosabes last year I was eager to try out some new strategies. So when I saw that TSN were offering a free game, Strat-O 1986, based on the 1986 season, I had to give it a shot. In my opinion, 1986 was the absolute best year for playoff drama. You had great NLCS (Mets - Astros) and ALCS (Red Sox - Angels) with lots of last minute comebacks and extra inning affairs. And then a memorable World Series to boot.
I am not sure how long it is going to be free, but I jumped in with a few friends of mine from the Strat Fan Forum to give it a try. The way it works is you draft your team and prioritize your claims. You are not guaranteed to get everyone on your list, but if you miss out on someone you are given a player with a similar Strat card. Everyone has the same amount of money to spend, you just need to spend it wisely and build a team that compliments each other offensively and defensively while also playing well in the park you have selected.
I choose Dodger Stadium, which back in 1986 was a pitchers park. In the current time it plays as a slight offensive park, but back then there was more foul territory and it was tougher to hit home runs. The team I have will be much different after going through all my claims. But some of the interesting players on my team include:
Bert Blyleven - He gave up 50 HR's that year. How will he do with Dodger Stadium instead of the Homerdome.
Bob Welch - My man crush with Welch started when he struck out Reggie Jackson in the World Series. This was a great year for him.
Gary Carter - A stud defensively, let's see how he does with Dodger Stadium as his home ballpark while he still has some gas in his tank.
Alan Trammell - One of the few shortstops (Cal Ripken being the other) that actually have some pop in their bats. Solid defender as well.
Ken Phelps - Very good .926 OPS for the Mariners in 1986. He will be my cleanup hitter.
Donnie Moore - I had to grab the troubled California Angels closer. His demise, after having the Angels within one strike of the World Series, was a sad tale.
It should be a fun season. The games are played a series (three games to a series) a day. So if you are looking for a way to re-live the past then go and give it a try. Free is the magic word!