Was it our fault? Did we expect too much from the re-introduction of online leagues in MLB The Show 20? After all, it’s been a few years now since the developers nixed their online franchise mode entirely, so were we crazy to think that it might remotely resemble what was already in place when it was last in the game? While any online league mode is certainly better than having no online league mode at all, it’s still been a little disappointing to see how its return to the game has been handled in such a simplistic and haphazard way. Sure, any major overhaul to the mode might now have to wait until next year’s game, but there are some pretty basic fixes and tweaks to certain aspects that could likely be implemented sooner rather than later, and they would make online leagues much more enjoyable than they are in their current state.
The Problem: One of the first big disappointments surrounding online leagues was the news that the only way to play the mode was with your Diamond Dynasty team or with live rosters. It’s one thing to not have the resources to program a robust franchise mode with progression and full minor league rosters, but is it too much to ask that we be allowed to use whatever rosters we like within the online seasons? As things stand now, it’s nearly impossible to field a league with a full 30 teams because good luck finding anyone who would want to control the Marlins or the Orioles when they’d have no real shot at competing with the top teams and no chance at building their roster through a farm system that doesn’t exist within the mode.
The Solution: If we were able to utilize custom rosters, we’d at least be able to circumvent the lack of any sort of fantasy draft within the mode by organizing our own draft outside of the game and then adjusting the rosters for each team before importing them into our league. This would allow people to build teams according to their own specific preferences, depending on whether they prioritize things like pitching, speed or power. It would also be helpful if they allowed league admins to alter the attributes for players across the league, thereby enabling people to attempt to manually replicate the kind of progression and regression that naturally happens over time since the game obviously won’t do that for us.
The Problem: Online leagues in MLB The Show 20 force you to use an open scheduling system that’s popular among some for its flexibility. In concept, it certainly makes a whole lot of sense. This way, you can play anyone in your league who happens to be online at any given time, making it easier for people to find games. But in practice, the same flexibility that makes open scheduling appealing also turns out to be its glaring flaw. Inevitably, a league will end up with teams of varying degrees of participation, meaning that some will have played a lot of games while others will have played very few or even none. It all makes for a lopsided league where no one is playing at quite the same pace.
The Solution: The remedy for this would be to simply have the game generate a very basic schedule where everyone plays one game at a time and when all in the league are finished with that game, it’s time to advance to the next game. The existing framework of having every team play against each other either once or three times (why you can’t play two games is beyond me but I digress) could still be utilized and all you would need to do is institute a system where the commissioner moves ahead to the next game once all games are played, just as so many people are accustomed to when playing in online Madden leagues.
If you’re looking for an immediate way to play that kind of fixed schedule though, there are a number of sites online that specialize in automatically generating schedules for sports leagues. All you’ll need to do is input the competing teams and they’ll be able to spit out a schedule your league can adhere to and play at a mutually agreed upon pace.
The Problem: It’s hard to understand the limitations behind how some vital stats can’t be tracked within online leagues. Obviously, it’s nice to be able to see how players fare over the course of their campaign and the game at least does this capably with hitters, allowing you to keep tabs on things like batting average, home runs and even deeper splits like how they’ve performed against right-handed and left-handed pitching. However, it’s the pitching stats where the mode really reveals its limitations, leaving out such important markers as hits and runs against. It’s almost even more frustrating to find that they allow you to see a pitcher’s ERA, but that number has apparently been rounded to the nearest whole number (like 3.00) instead of the more precise value you would expect from a sports game in 2020.
The Solution: Since you can find the same kinds of stats that are missing in online leagues being tracked just fine for players within Diamond Dynasty, there’s clearly no excuse for why these same basic calculations of integral measurables in the sport can’t be included in a different mode within the very same game. It’s hard to stay invested in your team’s successes and failures when you’re not even able to view some of the most important stats in gauging a player’s success at the position.
The Problem: Separating teams into divisions helps cultivate rivalries and fuels heated races with home-field advantage in the playoffs on the line. (Side note: the mode doesn’t actually designate who’s home and away for any games, so you’ll have to do that on your own as the person who issues the challenge to an opponent will automatically be the home team.) Yet another limitation within the “new” mode is that all teams are automatically grouped together in one giant division, creating an inelegant cluster of teams when viewing the standings and depriving the league of some added suspense during the season’s stretch run.
The Solution: If they were to add a simple management tool for commissioners to use that could assign teams to a desired number of divisions, it would immediately inject some much-needed order into the chaos they currently are forced to exist within. Smaller leagues could choose to only have one or two divisions while full leagues should be able to have a realistic number with all the teams where they are supposed to be.
Team Swapping & Deletion
The Problem: In a perfect world, the end of each season in online leagues should naturally lead to progressing to the next one as younger players improve and aging stars decline, but that kind of depth and complexity is not on display in MLB The Show 20. Instead, every season sees you restarting anew as if your league were undergoing some sort of metaphysical experience straight out of Groundhog Day. But the landscape of your league behind the scenes may change from season to season, as people come and go and others want to switch up the teams they’re using. Unfortunately, even though you can easily boot people from the league and replace them with either the default CPU or someone else, there’s no way to delete teams from the league or select a new team at the end of a season.
The Solution: With just a few more options at the commissioner’s disposal during the off-season, it would be fairly simple to give people the power to change the shape of the league a little more instead of being stuck in the rigid mold you selected when it was first created. Rather than being forced to regularly delete leagues and create new ones in order to allow members to change what teams they’d like to manage, it would make a lot more sense if admins within the league were able assume a little more responsibility in coordinating who will be competing and which teams they’ll be controlling. This would allow the next season to begin promptly without any hitches rather than having to send out invites all over again and wait for everyone to join.
As you can see, playing in the online leagues mode at this point is as much about finding workarounds to issues the developers didn’t have either the time or the resources to address as it is actually trying to win any games out on the field. Some of the problems are obviously larger ones you would expect considering this kind of mode has been away from the game for a while and the finer nuances of managing a franchise will need to be added in future years now that this foundation is at least in place. But the kinds of things outlined above are smaller quality of life adjustments that could hopefully be made on the fly so that we don’t have to wait another year to deal with the headaches and annoyances that are holding the mode back at the moment.