Keep up with the latest news, notes and developments with Fungoes, a daily journal for all things baseball that will last all season long.
AL Central: The RBI Baseball king
CLEVELAND -- Few people look more comfortable or content than Josh Barfield. Sitting on a plush couch in the Cleveland clubhouse with a movie on and a rain delay outside, the young second baseman is as relaxed as can be. Glaciers seem spry by comparison.
Until, that is, there's talk of RBI Baseball.
At my very mention of the 8-bit Nintendo game from 1987 -- and the Indians' recent 16-player, double-elimination tournament -- Barfield hops off the couch and approaches with a wide grin on his face.
"I've always got time to talk about my championship," he says with a laugh.
Only he's not kidding about his enthusiasm. A few weeks ago the Indians took their RBI Baseball obsession to the next level in the form of the tournament, with Jake Westbrook serving as de facto commissioner.
"I'm probably the worst player ever, but I still wanted to be involved with it," says the righty starting pitcher, who didn't play but kept meticulous brackets. "I just like to scream and yell at people."
The only ground rule: the AL and NL All-Star teams were off-limits, leaving Boston, California, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, New York (Mets), San Francisco and St. Louis up for grabs.
RBI Baseball was made 20 years ago and, surprisingly, there are still two active players in Roger Clemens and Julio Franco. But, for perspective, there are just as many current managers (Phil Garner and Willie Randolph), far more Hall of Famers (13 in all, from Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson to Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn) and plenty of other odd occupations, as detailed at Gantry's RBI Baseball page.
Westbrook and a few others players collaborated to seed the Indians' field of 13 players and three clubhouse employees, with eventual champ Barfield seeded only seventh.
"He's new to the team, and we hadn't really seen him play," says Westbrook. "He ended up rolling right through it undefeated."
But it wasn't quite so easy. Barfield, with Detroit as his go-to team, won all four games by one run, winning decisions of 2-1, 3-2, 3-2 and 3-2, with the final score a victory over Victor Martinez for the championship.
"Yeah, you make one mistake and someone can hit one out of the stadium," says Barfield, admitting to sweaty palms on the old school NES controller. "Victor's real good and I had to beat him twice. C.C. [Sabathia]'s good and I never like playing him. It got intense, but I found a way to advance."
The game of the tournament was between V-Mart (Minnesota) and Sabathia (Detroit) to emerge from the loser's bracket and challenge Barfield for the title. A costly error by Sabathia's shortstop, Alan Trammel, in the 15th inning paved the way for a 2-1 Martinez victory.
"He had runners on first and second," Sabathia recalls in no small amount of pain. "It was a ground ball to short, and he made an error. The next hitter got an RBI, but that would have been an inning-ending double play."
With the first tournament over, naturally the Indians reseeded the field -- Barfield, V-Mart and Sabathia as the top three seeds -- and have begun again.
Of course, his Indians teammates should have done a better job scouting Barfield in the first place. He's no run-of-the-mill gamer. In the offseason, he participated in the so-called Professional Baseball Gaming League, started by Johnny Damon, in which 15 pro ballplayers competitively play "Project Gotham Racing" in the offseason. Red Sox minor league reliever Craig Hansen won the inaugural championship.
"That was a lot of fun," Barfield says. "We played a couple matches a week online. And then we had the finals Super Bowl week down in Miami."
In the meantime, however, the Indians are plenty satisfied sticking to Tengen's late '80s masterpiece, RBI Baseball, rather than those fancy new games with their superior graphics and features.
"It's strange," says Westbrook. "It's one of those things where you've got all these new games out, the Wii and Playstation and stuff like that, but I guess [RBI Baseball is] just our generation's game."
Adds Sabathia: "It's the best game ever. It's easy to play. It's got all the guys in there with real names."
Well, most of their real names. The system allows for only six letters per name, so there's a bit of shortening, like Calvin Schiraldi's name being squished to "Schrld" and Brett Saberhagen's to "Sbrhgn." After all, vowels are just suggestions, right?
There was no official trophy awarded to Cleveland's winner, but Barfield has made due with own makeshift prize.
"Bragging rights," he says. "I signed the bracket and put it above my locker so everyone will see it when they walk in."
Labels: AL Central
posted by SI.com | View comments |
RBI Baseball ain't no Tecmo Superbowl!
Its funny that Sabathia said they have real names in there.... like the current baseball agmes have fake names or something.
Cleveland is the RBI Baseball and Tecmo Super Bowl capital of the world. Matt Suman, out of Lakewood, Oh, is the reigning RBI World Champion after a dominating championship victory over a game Dan Ridley.
I respect RBI Baseball, and I totally agree that the newer games, despite fancier graphics and control options, are inferior to the baseball video games of the past. However, the best game ever is not RBI but rather Baseball Stars 2! It's on the same old 8-bit NES system (not to be confused with the arcade version). Check the wikipedia page for it. I'll be contacting the Indians (and perhaps Damon) to inform, as I'm perhaps the best player worldwide.
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)