I got a funny little feeling that if you’re reading this, you also loved EA Sports’ MVP Baseball 2005. It’s one of the most popular baseball video games of all time, and there’s an entire online community dedicated to continuing to upgrade the PC version. I won’t lie to you, I played MVP ’05 on PC for several years after the game went dead, refusing to move on to MLB The Show.
Well, in 2018 I decided to give in and get The Show when I bought my PS4. Frankly, it’s an excellent video game. But I still have love in my heart for the long-departed MVP franchise, and while giving some thought to my “Ryan Remembers” idea I determined that it’s the most appropriate thing for me to remember in this inaugural column. So a few weeks ago, I went digging through my basement shelves and dusted off my gigantic book of CDs, DVDs, and video games.
After flipping through so many Futurama DVDs and ancient NBA Live games, I found my PS2 version of MVP Baseball. Fortunately, it still was functional. Come with me on my journey through time and experience my first season in Franchise Mode with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Upon checking some old memory cards, I realized that I had a few updated rosters that I had purchased online well over 10 years ago. I don’t recall all the details, but there was a guy who updated PS2 rosters for MVP for $5 plus the cost of a memory card. You just had to give him your address and he’d mail it to you. At any rate, I decided to roll with the 2007 rosters with accurate prospects all the way down to Single-A.
I had no real particular reason for choosing the Devil Rays for my franchise. As a kid — or younger person, since the game came out when I was 19 — I always had played as the Cubs. For this project, I wanted to use an American League team so I could have a DH. Why not the Rays? Sorry … Devil Rays? Bonus points that I could utilize their sweet 1998 throwback jerseys.
After setting the rules and picking my team, I ended up with the No. 8 overall pick in my franchise draft. Here are my draft results, including all major leaguers chosen and notable minor leaguers.
Rd 1: Albert Pujols – 1B
Rd 2: Francisco Liriano – LHP
Rd 3: Felix Hernandez – RHP
Rd 4: Adrian Beltre – 3B
Rd 5: Andy Pettitte – LHP
Rd 6: Cole Hamels – LHP
Rd 7: Carlos Marmol – RHP
Rd 8: Billy Wagner – LHP
Rd 9: Zack Greinke – RHP
Rd 10: Matt Murton – OF
Rd 11: Jonathan Papelbon – RHP
Rd 12: Nick Markakis – OF
Rd 13: Rick Ankiel – OF
Rd 14: Fernando Rodney – RHP
Rd 15: Brandon Phillips – 2B
Rd 16: Ben Zobrist – SS/UT
Rd 17: Dioner Navarro – C
Rd 18: John Danks – LHP
Rd 19: Kerry Wood – RHP
Rd 20: Corey Patterson – OF
Rd 21: Troy Tulowitzki – SS
Rd 22: Miguel Montero – C
Rd 23: Andrew Miller – LHP
Rd 24: Chris Denorfia – OF
Rd 25: Ryan Braun – 3B
–Edwin Jackson – RHP
–Andrew McCutchen – OF
–Carlos Gonzalez – OF
–Ian Stewart – 3B
–Kurt Suzuki – C
–Gio Gonzalez – LHP
–Brandon Morrow – RHP
–Johnny Cueto – RHP
–Lorenzo Cain – OF
–Clayton Kershaw – LHP
–Jeff Samardzija – RHP
Immediately, I made a few trades to better shape my roster (with fair trades turned on, so there would be no temptation to take the easy road). First up, I sent Pujols, Phillips, and Jackson to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, and Kip Wells. Next, I traded CarGo, Stewart, and Travis Ishikawa to the Oakland A’s for Joey Votto and David Freese. Finally, I banished Braun to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Montero in exchange for Yadier Molina and Hunter Pence.
My team was complete. On Opening Day, my team faced off against Carlos Zambrano and the Toronto Blue Jays with the following lineup:
Unfortunately for my Devil Rays, Big Z was lights out. Adam Everett hit a three-run homer off Liriano in a 4-1 Blue Jays win. Things didn’t get much easier in the month of April. Marmol was mostly very good, but wild as usual. In a game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox walked off with two outs in the ninth thanks to a wild pitch from the hard-throwing right-hander. Overall, the Devil Rays were 13-11 in the month and 1.5-games back of the Jays and New York Yankees in the AL East.
Things turned around a bit in May, with the team putting together a 17-12 record. But again in June, it was a struggle right around .500. On June 22, Greg Maddux went to the mound for the Yankees and tossed a 2-0, complete game no-hitter against us. Marmol, who had been so good early on, was now getting lit up on a regular basis. So, I did what any reasonable general manager would do: I made a deal. I sent prospects Miller, Pence, and Chris Volstad to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Francisco Cordero.
The deal was a watershed moment in my season. The Devil Rays were 22-5 in July before stumbling to a 13-15 record in August. Throughout the summer, minor changes were made to the team. Zobrist eventually moved into the lead-off spot and Hamels went down to Triple-A. For the most part, Wells and Britt Reames rotated with other journeymen to take the fifth rotation spot behind Liriano, Pettitte, Hernandez, and Greinke. After the Cordero trade, things settled down in the bullpen. Papelbon, Wood, and Morrow were the primary middle relievers, with Rodney and Wagner setting up Cordero in the ninth.
The Devil Rays regained form with a 19-9 record in September and October. All in all, we were 98-64, AL East champions and 14 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles at the end of the season. Here are some of the interesting player stats:
–Votto slashed .334/.449/.498.
–Ortiz hit 30 home runs.
–Markakis hit .294 with 20 homers and 42 stolen bases.
–Murton hit 24 home runs with 90 RBI.
–Patterson slashed .295/.316/.468 with 57 stolen bases.
–Hernandez, who was sent down to Triple-A for a few weeks after a rough start, rebounded with a 17-3 record and a 4.10 ERA in 167 innings pitched.
–Liriano was 16-5 with a 3.90 ERA in 198 2/3 innings.
In ALDS, we hosted the Kansas City Royals and won in five games. The Devil Rays actually were trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 and staring at possible elimination. But Murton hit a single with nobody out, and then with one out Beltre launched a walk-off, two-run homer to right field.
In the ALCS, Tampa Bay took on the Orioles — winners of the AL Wild Card. It was a hard-fought series, with the teams splitting the first two in Florida as well as Games 3 and 4 in Baltimore. The Orioles went ahead 3-2 in the series, but the Devil Rays were able to bounce back and win the series in seven games.
That put my team in the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After the first two playoff series went the distance, the Devil Rays were able to put this one away in just six. Murton exploded for seven home runs and a .674 slugging percentage in the playoffs, taking home the MVP award.
The gameplay in MVP Baseball 2005 is still excellent, even for a 13-year-old game. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are classic as the game’s announcers, and the electic soundtrack featuring the Dropkick Murphy’s “Tessie” quickly takes you back to a time when the Red Sox had just broken their 86-year drought. I probably won’t go right back to playing MVP ’05, but at some point this winter I’ll probably head into the offseason and upgrade my Devil Rays franchise before moving on to season two.
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