Of all the retro top 10 or top 5 lists I have done here at Operation Sports, this was by far the most difficult. With today's modern games incorporating a myriad player ratings, the playing field has been somewhat leveled in terms of skill differetiation. There was a time, however, when baseball games contained players so dominant that they were outlawed for generations to come.
With spring training already upon us, I figured it would be a fun idea to take a look at the top vitual baseball players to have ever existed -- or been created -- in video games. My criterion when putting this list together was that each representative had to be so overpowered that all his opponents cower when his name is mentioned.
When Ken Griffey Baseball was released on the N64, the Cleveland Indians were a legitimate powerhouse in real life. Surprisingly, a semi-average real-world Charles Nagy was a superstar in the game. In the hands of a skilled player, Nagy's mix of high heat fastballs and devastating off-speed/curveballs spelled disaster for even the most experienced batter. Helped by a powerhouse offense that provided plenty of run support, Nagy was a beast on the mound -- the mere mention of his name still makes me want to punch my buddies who insisted on using Cleveland every time we played the game.
No, not the hotel guy. For some reason, I was a big Mets fan as a kid. Because of this strange obsession in 1992, I would only use the Mets when battling against my fellow neighborhood peers for baseball gaming supremacy. Howard Johnson was a monster in RBI Baseball 4 -- it was impossible to get the guy out. HOJO would easily hit a home run per game, and his contact abilities with runners on base were second to none. My abuse of HOJO was so bad that my buddies and I actually held a vote in my basement during the summer of '93 to consider banning the RBI 4 Mets forever. Sadly, the motion passed 5-1. Guess who was the only one who voted against it.
Miami's Henter was the Greg Maddux of Bases Loaded. Sporting the lowest ERA of all the pitchers in the game, his ability to throw junk all game made opposing batters looking silly at the plate. This guy was a freaking legend amongst my buddies, especially to those who could not hit in the game. With Miami Vice being a staple of TV in 1988, my 7-year-old mind always envisioned Henter doing postgame interviews with a white blazer, magenta T-shirt and jeans. Long before LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, Henter was the King of Miami.
There's not a whole lot to be said about Babe; he was based on the greatest baseball player to ever live, Babe Ruth. Babe was a legitimate home run threat every time he came to the plate, and he could also hit for contact. Babe was one of the most dangerous 8-bit batters to ever pick up a stick.
While many will argue that Reggie Jackson was the best player in RBI Baseball, Will Clark easily wins that award in my book. A powerful left-handed bat, Will was an RBI machine (no pun intended). If you had runners on base, Clark was an automatic way to bring those players home via the long ball or a sharp liner to the gap. Clark may not have have been very quick on the basepaths, but how much speed is really necessary for a home run trot?
Artist's rendition of Brad Barnes.
If you played MVP 05's Owner mode, you should know who Brad Barnes is. Found in the Detroit Tigers minor league system, this 22-year-old, 5-star potential player became the most dominant outfielder in the game by the end of year one. Gifted with power, contact, speed, exceptional fielding ability, a rocket arm and a beard that would make Brian Wilson jealous, Brad Barnes was a six-tool player. After 10 years of playing with the Tigers in Owner mode, Barnes averaged 35 home runs a year, with a .350 average and over 100-plus RBI while hitting in the four hole. Now, if only the Tigers actually had a prospect as good as Barnes.
Speed kills, and the RBI Baseball 4 version of Rickey Henderson is the fastest virtual baseball player ever. Henderson was so fast in this game that he routinely beat out grounders. And I'm not talking about slow dribblers either, we are talking about hard grounders as well. As far as stealing bases goes, it was about as easy as it gets. Imagine my frustration when my beloved RBI 4 HOJO was banned by the neighborhood crew, yet the Athletics were not. It was a conspiracy I tell you.
Want to hit .500 in a season, shatter the home run record and knock in 200 RBI? Ron Gant did, then he proceeded to put up equivalent numbers in each consecutive season I played of EA's stellar SNES baseball title. Ron Gant was so awesome in this game that my friends refused to even pitch to him in multiplayer sessions. Never has another player been issued as many intentional walks in my virtual baseball playing career.
When I mentioned in my Top 5 8-Bit Baseball Games article that Bases Loaded's Agua was equivalent to Albert Pujols, many passionate Paste fans disagreed. I do, however, stand by my statement that Agua was more like Pujols than Paste. The reason I say that is because Paste was a combination of Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Jesus. Little else needs to be said, Paste was the greatest baseball player to ever put on his 8-bit cleats.
When a game is named after you, your virtual doppleganger better perform well. I can only imagine how happy the real Ken Griffey Jr. was once he realized that virtual Griffey was essentially an automatic home run cheat code. And when I say that virtual Griffey hit automatic home runs in this game, I'm not exaggerating. It's hard not to hit a home run with Griffey in this game -- he's that good. If you make contact with the ball, there is a 99.9999 percent chance it's a moonshot. I'm even convinced that if you were determined not to swing during an at bat, virtual Griffey would use his psychic powers to cause the ball to find its way over the fence before the last strike crossed the plate.
Christian McLeod is a senior staff writer here at Operation Sports. Having grown up in the '80s, he is a dedicated fanboy of classic 8- and 16-bit sports games. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @Bumble14_OS, talk to him on our forums via Bumble14, and challenge him on XBL/PSN at Bumble14.