October 23, 2006

Join Me (Hardball Dynasty)

Years ago, when I was just another sports-loving simpleton who had yet to discover the true beauty of baseball, basketball was my favorite sport. I bring this up today because yesterday afternoon I learned that the NBA season begins next week. Not only did that fact completely sneak up on me, when in the past I'd have been counting down the days, I found myself barely caring. I guess somewhere between becoming a full-fledged baseball lover and a part-time football writer, basketball fell off my radar.

Normally around this time I open up a fantasy basketball league and invite the readers of this blog to grab teams, but last year I found myself checking in on things less and less often as the season went on, to the point of not even knowing how my team finished (horribly, I'm sure). Rather than pull together a last-minute league that I'll probably end up ignoring by January, I'm going cold turkey and skipping fantasy basketball for the first time since I can remember.

But fear not, I have another option for those of you hoping to beat me in a fantasy-style league of some sort while the too-long baseball offseason drags on. Over the past year or so I've become addicted to WhatIfSports.com's "dynasty games," first with college basketball and recently with "Hardball Dynasty." It's by far the most in-depth baseball game I've ever played, complete with nearly every possible detail involved in running a major-league organization.

You grab a franchise, which includes a major-league team and five minor-league affiliates, and begin with randomly generated rosters filled with players who have varying skill ratings, salaries, and service time. Your task after that is to build the organization through trading, drafting, signing, and developing players. For those of us who grew up dreaming of becoming big-league general managers, it's the next-best thing.

There's a draft, free agency, international signings, trades, minor-league options, six-year free agents, salary arbitration, waivers, injuries, scouting, long-term contracts, and almost literally every aspect of running a baseball team that you could possibly think up, right down to setting your lineups for each game. I realize this probably sounds like some sort of a salespitch for WhatIfSports.com, but that's not how I intended it.

I have nothing to gain by promoting WhatIfSports.com. They aren't paying to advertise here and they aren't giving me a free team. The only reason I'm bringing this up is that I simply think it's an excellent product and have had a ton of fun playing the game for the past few months. The only problem I've run into is that some of the people in the league I'm in try to push iffy trades through the league office, don't negotiate deals in good faith, and just aren't the sort of people you'd want to be in a league with.

The other day I found myself thinking that the only thing keeping Hardball Dynasty from being perfect is the lack of good leaguemates. And then I had a mini-epiphany, realizing that every day a few thousand people stop by this blog and at least a fraction of them are the sort of baseball-crazy freaks who would love Hardball Dynasty as much as I do. So, rather than start up another fantasy basketball league, I'm creating a new "world" in Hardball Dynasty.

I'm taking the first of 32 spots and I'm fairly certain fellow Hardball Dynasty addict Will Young will grab one, which means there are 30 openings to be claimed. The cost is minimal ($15, to be exact) and I'm giving the product the type of endorsement I usually save for Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert, so I'm hopeful that we can fill the remaining spots with smart, friendly owners who will actively participate and generally just have a good time. I'm taking reservations beginning right now.

Once I have commitments for close to 30 franchises, I'll create the world and e-mail out the necessary passwords and other information. In the meantime, take a few minutes to check out Hardball Dynasty for yourself to see if it's the type of thing you'd be into. If you're the sort of person who spends free time on things like keeper leagues, pondering which minor-league free agents the Twins should sign, and reading this blog, then I can almost guarantee it is.

If you're interested, drop me an e-mail to claim your spot. (If you're not interested, then I apologize for today's boring entry and urge you to come back tomorrow for something more palatable. Oh, and feel free to talk about non-Hardball Dynasty stuff in the comments section.)

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