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MLB The Show: Franchising the Nationals

Playstations 3's MLB The Show 2013 has an interesting "Franchise Mode", where you can take the role of a GM and/or FM of a Major League team. I finally got around to trying it out last night, and naturally I put on my Rizzo hat and took the reins of the 2013 Nationals.

The mechanics are relatively straightforward: as the team General Manager, you have a team budget, which you can apply to paying players, coaches, and scouts of varying quality. You can move players up and down in the system, and you can assign them each a specific training regimen to improve specific facets of their game. You scout and draft players. And of course you can initiate trades, sign free agents, and send off the dead wood in your organization.

I didn't do a whole lot to start off my career as faux-Rizzo. Probably the biggest thing was to attempt to designate Henry Rodriguez for assignment, with the intent to outright him to Syracuse. Turns out a there was no need: for whatever reason, the players in their live online roster apparently start fresh with options -- I could just demote him. My Opening Day 25 was thus: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Haren, Matthews, Duke, Storen, Clippard, Soriano, Stammen, Ramos, Suzuki, LaRoche, Moore, Espinosa, Lombardozzi, Desmond, Zimmerman, Harper, Span, Bernadina, Werth, Tracy, and... Eury Perez. (One other flaw: the online roster did not include Anthony Rendon. I was pretty annoyed about that!)

For the field manager part of the game, you can set lineups and rotations, of course, and you can control most every aspect of the game that one could conceive of as a manager: pitching strategies versus individual players, individual defensive positioning, bunts, steals hit-and-runs, and the like. You can also ignore most of that and just let the system automatically do these things for you.

I played one full game as the FM: Opening Day (night, actually) with the Nationals hosting the Marlins. The pitching matchup was Stephen Strasburg versus Ricky Nolasco, as we anticipate. My lineup was close to what we expect of Opening Day: Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, and Strasburg.

The game itself didn't go well. Stras got pretty much beaten up; Espinosa was terrible in the field; Zimm and LaRoche didn't come close to getting hits.

It started off well enough. Stras got through the first three innings allowing a pair of singles (to future Nats-menace(?) Juan Pierre) and striking out five. The Nats got a single in the first from Span, but he was immediately doubled off, and Harper singled but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Typical. They got on the board in the third when Espinosa reached on an error, stole second as Strasburg struck out, and scored on Span's second hit of the day.

It was all down hill from there. Stras carefully pitched Giancarlo Stanton to lead of the fourth (my bad), and gave up a four-pitch walk. Justin Ruggiano hit the next pitch over the scoreboard in right. It only got worse. Stras walked the next hitter (Stammen gets up to stretch), Espinosa booted a grounder, and Dobbs hit a three-run homer. Another walk, another double-play grounder thrown away into the left-field corner by Espi, and Stras was done. Stammen came in and gave up a gapper to Pierre, and the game was officially a laugher. Final score: 10-1 Marlins. Let's hope this is not any reflection of any possible future any of us experience.

I enjoyed most of the first foray into the franchise mode, but there was one thing I don't think I'll get over any time soon: On the first pitch on Opening Day, Matt Vasgergian asks Steve Lyons what he thought about The Shutdown. Lyons replied in no uncertain terms that he thought it was a bad idea, blah blah blah and that it could have been done better blah blah blah. It was a bold -- and annoying -- decision on San Diego Studio's part to include that in the game. But, it was probably accurate for purposes of what we'll have to endure come the start of this season.

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