Jan
28

Review: 2K Sports MLB Front Office Manager (PS3)

By

We all think … no wait … we all know we can be highly successful Major League General Managers. It’s a piece of cake. Sign this guy, trade these guys for that guy, cut that dude, deal this guy for a bag of balls to free up money, so on and so forth. It’s never as easy as we make it sound, but most of us will never get a chance to find that out for ourselves. Until now.

2K Sports’ MLB Front Office Manager is basically the baseball version of NFL Head Coach. It puts you in the GM chair and bombards you with all the team building stuff every real life GM has to deal with. (Luckily you don’t have to deal with the shareholders or marketing people or politicians though.) Billy Beane and Brian Cashman both consulted on the project, and the game is true to life in almost every way possible. There’s waivers, the arbitration process, 40-man rosters, the Rule 5 Draft, no trade clauses, performance bonuses, Type-A and B free agents, unhappy superstars, pissed off owners, you name it.

As you can probably imagine, the game is menu heavy. You’re kept up to date on all the major news around the league via email, although you’ll have to dig around for the smaller moves yourself. Beane also acts as your “advisor,” emailing you with advice and instructions for some of the more complicated parts of the game. The filing system for the emails is a little stupid, but it’s not terrible. I’ve seen come complaints about the intricate menu system, but I don’t have any problems with it. I think it’s pretty easy to navigate, actually.

The backbone of the game is player development, just like today’s MLB. There’s six freaking levels of minor league affiliates (AAA, AA, Hi-A, Lo-A, short season and rookie) and the scouting network is insanely deep. You’re given a scouting budget and must allocate those funds as you see fit. You can “invest” in a long list of regions, including different parts of the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Australia, and the more money you spend the better the job your scouts do. Scouting Japan is an entirely different undertaking, as it’s more expensive but also more rewarding (because the players are ML ready). The Japanese posting process is in the game, so to land the next Dice-K you have to outbid the other clubs.

Let’s go through some of the other features bullet point style:

  • Build-A-GM: You create yourself, picking from a handful of body types, faces and wardrobes. You also select your background (i.e. lawyer, businessman, ex-player, ex-scout, etc) and each background type will affect your attributes. Lawyers are better at contracts, businessmen at negotiations, ex-baseball people at talent evaluation, and so on. As you progress you pick up experience points, which you can use to improve your attributes. If you do a crappy job, you’ll get fired.
  • 40-man roster: It is what it is. You have to manage your 40 man, making sure you protect your best young prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, the whole nine. You can designate players for assignment to free up spots, and bring up the whole gang for September call-ups.
  • Waivers: Minor league options are in the game, so if a player runs out of options he’ll have to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors. If you DFA someone, you have ten days to trade them before they go through waivers. The game only has irrevocable waivers, so if you claim a player not only do you get him, but you get his entire contract as well. I haven’t gotten far along enough to see if you can make waiver wire deals after the trade deadline. That would be cool.
  • Arbitration: As I said before, this is true to life. You can renew players with 0-3 years of service time for the league minimum, and after that (3-6 years of service time) you can hammer out deals or go to an arbitration hearing if the two sides are far apart. Super Two’s are in the game, and you can nontender a player if you don’t want them. You also have to offer a potential free agent arbitration to receive compensation picks.
  • Trades: The computer AI is the best I’ve seen in a video game. You can still get away with some heists, but for the most the computer will only trade for players it needs and give up players from positions of depth. In every other game you can make a trade and it’s done immediately. In this game you submit a proposal (or the AI does), the other party thinks about it, and if the deal is agreed upon, it takes a day to finalize it. There can be several counter offers and a negotiation can drag on for weeks.
  • Free Agency: As I said before, there’s Type-A and B free agents. One complaint I have is that I can’t seem to figure how to tell if a player you’re interested in is a Type-A, which sucks because I really don’t want to give up my first rounder to sign Frank Catalanotto. You can offer signing bonuses, team/player/mutual options, no trade clauses, and bonuses based on MVP & Cy Young voting, All-Star Game selections and LCS/World Series MVP Awards. You get the fifteen day exclusive negotiating window before your free agents can talk to other teams, and as with trades, negotiations can last for weeks with guys on the open market.
  • Stats: The game is chock full of nerd math. There’s BABIP, VORP, EqA, IsoP, OPS+, ERA+, Range Factor and loads more. VORP for pitchers is screwy though, so you can’t trust it. They just goofed up the calculation.
  • Player Ratings: They’re very accurate, easily the best I’ve seen in a video game. For players age 24 and younger you get present and future grades for their skills (age 25 and up you get just present grades), and everything in the game is based on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is super cool. I haven’t done too much looking, but the only 80 player I’ve seen is this guy. “Player morale” acts as team chemistry, so if you bring in the wrong kind of player the team will get upset and underperform.

The game picks up in early November, not long after the end of the World Series and right at the start of the fifteen day exclusive negotiating window. The default rosters are as of this date, so CC, AJ and Tex aren’t on the Yankees while Pudge and Wilson Betemit are. You get to experience the entire Hot Stove League right from the get go. Team budgets are a little high, but not ridiculous. I’m using the Padres, and I have no reason to trade Jake Peavy; he fits right into the budget.

As you fufill your GM duties, you don’t get an opportunity to actually play the games. You can watch them however, and “manage” (make pitching changes, etc) as well. The games do go by quick; you can hammer out a typical nine inninger in ten minutes. That’s my biggest problem with this title; I enjoy playing the games, the pitcher-batter confrontations, getting a feel for who’s hot and who’s struggling, etc., and with this game you spend all your time building a team that you never get a chance to play with. Oh, and the soundtrack sucks.

MLBFOM is available for PS3. Xbox 360 and PC, and it’s for die hards only. If you’re a casual fan, you’ll likely be bored by all the mundane details and frustrated by the lack of excitement. Since everything in the game is in terms of the 20-80 scale, let me give this one a 55 for enjoyment (solid avg) and a 70 for detail (well above avg). With that said, I’m trading this game in for MLB 09 The Show as soon as it hits shelves in early March.

Categories : Reviews

117 Comments»

  1. ive been intrigued by the game for a while… but ive read several reviews on it saying if you are into the whole “actual baseball gameplay” thing then its probably not the game for you

    most likely ill rent it and see for myself what its like… but if you are getting rid of it in 6 weeks then that doesnt sound like a huge endorsement lol

  2. kane says:

    The regular games do come with a GM option (The 2K series, Idk about Show) but not as in depth. (No arbitration, no typed FA’s, etc) Anyways if you want to play as your fave team just wait for the next baseball game.

  3. Raul says:

    thank you for the review. I’ll grab it for sure

  4. pat says:

    Awesome review mike. My biggest concern with this game is regarding the AI. As far as you can tell does the computer take into account the contractual aspect of a trade? Like if a kid isn’t even arbitration eligible would you be also to trade him for a superstar with only one year left on a monster deal? I can’t think of a real world scenario so ill just make one up. Say Bobby Abreu is rated a 65 or whatever and is on a 1 year 16 million dollar contract. Now timmy lincecum is also rated about 60 or 65 but is going to be under team control for the next 4 years at a reasonable price. Now the ratings are the same but if you look one level deeper (age, contract, team, control, etc.) everything would make lincecum 100x more valuable. Would that be shot down or could it be accepted?

    Also, it really wouldn’t surprise me to have an import/ export function in later versions of MLBFO and the mlb 2k games so you can build your team in FO and play the games in 2k8.

    • Mike A. says:

      I haven’t made enough deals to notice if contract/service time status factors into decision making.

      I’ve been trying to trade McLouth for Hughes (The Francessa Special) but they don’t want any part of it.

    • Jamal G. says:

      No, these bastards value their kids and contracts in trade proposals. Hell, just now I tried to dump Mike Cameron’s contract (I stupidly signed him to a 2-year, $19M deal in hopes of him being a stopgap for the A’s Carlos Gonzalez, but he has shit the bed thus far) by offering him to the Royals for second basemen Jason Smith (he isn’t arb-eligible), but after initially accepting the deal, the Royals canceled the deal because of budget concerns.

      • Mike A. says:

        Heh, the Brewers traded Cameron straight up for Carlos Marmol in my career.

        Wang was nontendered. I made a good offer, but the damn ChiSox beat me out.

  5. Jamal G. says:

    … let me give this one a 55 for enjoyment (solid avg)…

    You n00b, “solid-average” is a beefed up 50 grade – 55 is “above average”.

  6. pat says:

    Oooh and are the minor league rosters real names or just characters that look like the real players but with different names?

    Thanks Btw

  7. Mike Pop says:

    So, it didn’t meet your expectations huh? I’m going to go play it tomorrow probably when I go to my buddy’s house. I got to get myself a PS3.

  8. Tripp says:

    Tell me about the minor leagues more. Do they have actual prospects like Hughes, Jackson, and McCallister or are the minors from 2009 and on clearly made up?

  9. Doc says:

    How does any guy out of high school play video games? U hit trek conventions on weekends? Get a life

  10. Jamal G. says:

    You can still get away with some heists…

    Heh, you wouldn’t be talking about my 3-for-2 deal in which I (the A’s) dealt Dana Eveland, Bobby Crosby and Sean Gallagher to the Rangers for Taylor Teagarden and Ramon Vazquez, would you?

  11. Build-A-GM: You create yourself, picking from a handful of body types, faces and wardrobes.

    All nude.

    Tastefully done… but definitely… all… nude.

  12. RCK says:

    You create yourself, picking from a handful of body types, faces and wardrobes.

    Can you be a woman?

  13. Brian Cashman is watching says:

    Dilemma: do you buy it now and play, or do you wait until the next version when there are new rosters and the kinks are worked out? Irrelevant for me, I don’t have a PS3 yet. Any thoughts of the computer version?

  14. Manimal says:

    Just curious, how many save files can you have? I was going to have 2, one thats yankees and one that is a sucky team so I can find out how long it will take me to win a world series(I was thinking Pirates or Royals)

  15. MrJigginz says:

    I have a question…I heard the price is only $40(THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!!!But seriously)…True?

  16. Mike A. says:

    Yeah, my team just broke up a no hitter with 2 outs in the ninth. Go Pirates.

  17. Jamal G. says:

    I can’t believe we got Andy Pettitte for less guaranteed money ($5.5M) than Jon Garland got with ‘Zona (reportedly, $6-8M).

  18. Pete Law says:

    I bought this game yesterday excited because its the first Baseball game out this year and I thought it would have somewhat updated rosters. Instead Rasner Ponson and Moose are in the rotation! The Brewers, Blue Jays and Angels all re-sign Sabathia, Burnett and Tex and pretty much as realistic as this game tries to be, you can’t realistically create the 09 Yanks in the Career mode. After periodically updating my The Show 08 roster with transactions and having played multiple games with CC and Tex in it, this game is not worth my time.

    I too will be trading this and the Show 08 for the Show 09 in March.

    I’ve also noticed stupid AI trades like the Nationals giving away Zimmerman, etc.
    Nice try 2K, you almost had me.

  19. matt says:

    Can anyone comment on how this game compares to PC based sim games like Baseball Mogul or OOTP baseball.

    • MarkJ says:

      Baseball Mogul is ok, but a little lightweight – OOTP is awesome, detailed and in-depth. Very stat heavy and graphics light though, so it’s not to everyone’s liking.

  20. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the review. I have been hearing/reading a lot about the game on a variety of places and ultimately the one reason why I won’t bother with it is the fact that you can’t actually play the games. I’m like you – I like to build the team but I want to play with it too, get a feel for how the lineup takes shape, who’s slumping, etc.

    At this point, if all of these things can be worked into the game (40-man rosters, waivers, arbitration, etc.) then why can’t some of them start showing up in the GM/Franchise modes of The Show or the 2K series games? Let us have total control while actually playing through our seasons.

    Finally, I’m in the extreme minority on this one. I have played both The Show and 2K for each of the past two years. The Show has a better presentation (announcers, in-game graphics (stats, graphs, etc.) are more interesting). Yet, personally I like the gameplay of the 2K games better. I have played both games fairly extensively and I don’t understand why people hate on the 2K games so much.

  21. MattG says:

    Can you get a league together with it? Maybe even start from scratch, with a clean draft? Or is it strictly one player?

  22. Jamal G. says:

    Hot damn, Larry Bowa basically refuted everything that was said about ARod in the upcoming book: http://www.wfan.com/pages/744514.php

    Oh, and he basically said anyone who gets on ARod for his playoff struggles are morons because of the small sample-size.

    Hmm, I wonder if the Dodgers would crumble if I take control of them and trade for ARod.

    • jsbrendog says:

      gar, i want a text version, i cant listne to dudes talking at my desk at work lol

      wow, so bowa and torre are looking at some interesting coaches meetings then now aren’t they?

    • UWS says:

      In unrelated news, Yankees are set to announce the return of Larry Bowa to their coaching stuff after Bowa was suddenly and inexplicably let go by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  23. Sean says:

    In past versions of games you have been able to download updated rosters and use those in the game. This would eliminate the early release date issue and allow owners to have the Yankee roster as it currently stands and Smoltz with the Sox etc…anyone that is already playing know if that is an option with these games if you have an internet connection or are using the PC version?

    • Btour99 says:

      True, but I think once you start your season/career etc, you are locked into the roster you began with. Obviously you can make trades and other moves, but the foundation for your player universe is the one you decide to start with. And earlier poster mentioned Mussina still being on the roster, but I think that is probably the default roster the disc ships with. If you download an updated roster (not sure when the first updates go live), you can start your career with the newly downloaded roster as your foundation.

  24. Colin says:

    Mike, can you start the season with a fantasy draft or do you have to choose a team and you’re “stuck” with their roster?

  25. Kered Retej says:

    How does the game compare with other games like Baseball Mogul and Out of the Park Baseball?

  26. Sean says:

    Mike!! You missed my question. Can you update rosters through download like previous games?

  27. Btour99 says:

    I personally am waiting on the Show. So many minute details from player stances, to fielding animations, to light/shadow movement across the field during the course of play. There is over 9GB of audio on the disc – different audio for the different parks (roll calls at Yankee Stadium, etc), Rollins will get booed much more at CitiField than say Pujols will. A realistic physics engine, weekly roster updates for online play, Road to The Show mode, Franchise mode, Rivalry mode.

    The best part of it all is the deepmemory it has. Not only will it keep your stats over the course of a 30 year franchise or 20 year career, but it will also “remember” pitcher batter matchups from (in-game) months earlier. So lets say you start a franchise with the Yankees and in May game you hit a 3-run Home Run off of Josh Becket, if you face Becket again say in August (after playing some 100-odd games) the game will flash back and show you a replay of the May Home Run!! Simply amazing!!

    GAAAAHHH!!! I can’t wait for this game to come out!!

  28. Sean says:

    Great, that will eliminate those roster issues! The other thing I was happy to read in a breakdown of the game is that you do not have to worry about the stupid ass ticket prices, scheduling promotions, and cost of food. That just made the Franchise modes of games tedious and boring. GM’s don’t do that crap so I was very happy to see it was eliminated from FOM.

  29. Sean says:

    Btour99,

    yeah that does sound cool, and I like to play the games but I can’t sit there and play 30 years of games with 162 games a year! That is too much freaking playing. I find that I sim through games to be able to build the teams, so this game is right up my alley. I play Baseball Mogul but it does not have the features this game has (Rule 5, waivers etc..). It is pretty much development and then the free agency stuff with a standard draft. Plus you have those stupid food and ticket issues that I said I was glad were missing from this game. I love MLB The Shot but the franchise mode has those same features I think are a waste of time and not the responsibility of the GM. Very excited about this game!!

    • Btour99 says:

      True. I can see that. There are definitely times when it gets to be tediuos having to play every single game, but you can sim through one game, a week, month, or even season’s worth of games if you don’t want to play spring training, all 162, and then playoffs.

      However, arb, Rule5, and other GM/Front Office aspects are very cool, and you will not find that in The Show.

      I also read that FOM lets you manage any game at any level, where you can make calls for a bunt, hit’n'run, steal, double play, etc. This portion of the game supposedly looks pretty close to MLB2K9 in terms of graphics. so you get a little of the baseball playing side of things.

  30. Bill R says:

    As I mentioned once in a chat room my friend works for 2KGames as a tester and the games biggest flaw is that your players that you draft never get any better or any worse. If a player is drafted with poor abilities he stays that way even over the course of a 20 year career. Also their skills don’t diminish after 20 years either like we all know they would. When he brought this up to the developers they said the game was designed that way, which in my opinion makes no sense. So for that reason i will not touch this game because it’s stupid to have guys who can’t have a possibility of developing into great stars.

  31. Sean says:

    I really hope that won’t develop won’t decline thing is not true….I have not read anything like that in any of the reviews from game sites or from people who already have the game. Mike, any truth to this that you know of?

    • Bill R says:

      What more proof do you need. My friend works for 2Kgames and has been playing this game for 3 months now. I’m not lying to you. He despises this game.

  32. dave b. says:

    Out of the Park Baseball is light years better than this game. i have been a beta tester for OOTP the last 2 years and it keeps getting better.

    http://www.ootpdevelopments.co.....p-baseball

  33. Pete Law says:

    As far as updated rosters go, the first one is out and it lists December 12, 2008 as the start date. So if you were worried about Mike Jacobs being a Royal then you’re ok. Anything else after that, you’d be better off sitting on your thumbs.

  34. Brad says:

    Mike, are the rates of injury fairly reflective of real life. Games never get pitchers right

  35. NYFan50 says:

    Well, I bought this game for the PC today. Installed.

    My game experience goes like this:

    Launch Game. Immediate crash.

    It’s really quite a lot of fun…sigh. Anyone have the PC version and it’s actually working?

  36. [...] preventing me from partaking in endless hours of MLB Front Office Manager fun.  Mike A. over at RAB broke it down for you anyway if you have not read it already.  If you are looking for an in-depth review of the [...]

  37. [...] are just over two weeks away (!!!) and we’ve got plenty to talk about: Andy Pettitte, MLBFOM, whatever you want. See you guys at [...]

  38. sportznut says:

    I’ve been trying to decide on this game for a little while, wondering if I’d eventually get bored with it. I’ve always enjoyed the offseason parts of a Madden dynasty.

    You say the minors are in depth, but do they use actual prospects or are all the players “made up” names beyond the major leagues?

    That could go a long ways towards me actually purchasing this.

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