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The second half of the season
As we all know, a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, but I can see the finish line in the distance as I open the fifth installment in the Road to Release for iOOTP Baseball 2011. Last time, I played until the All-Star Game, and this time I’m ready to tackle the second half of the season. Let’s start with a quick peek at the standings, where I’m 3 games behind the Rays in the AL East. However, I’m ahead in the wild card race by a half-game over the Royals.

To view the wild card standings, just scroll down:

If I want to make a second-half push for the division crown, I’ll need to look at possible ways to improve my team. First, I check out my team stats:

The team pitching looks good: I dominate my division. The batting side tells a different story, though:

Okay, so it’s not my offense that carries me — every team has an imbalance between hitting and pitching, and right now my Red Sox are more like the 1982 Cardinals than the 1927 Yankees. (But, hey, both teams won the World Series, right?) My next visit is the Lineup Screen, where I can see which positions could use an upgrade. iOOTP has a trading deadline, just like in real life, so I can expect some wheeling and dealing over the next couple weeks.

Looks like I have a weak spot in center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is a good example of iOOTP Baseball 2011’s depth: As you can see below, Ellsbury hits only .259 against right-handed pitching. That's bad, especially since Ellsbury should have an advantage against RHP because he bats left-handed. I take a closer look at his split stats this season:

That's the beauty of the game engine in iOOTP Baseball 2011: it works as real major league baseball does: a lefty batter will do better against RHP and has a hard time against LHP. In Ellsbury’s case, he gets killed by LHP with his paltry .152 average.

So now I look on his Profile page:

He's only 27 years old, and after a injury-shortened 2010 campaign, his 2011 season has been ugly. He has the potential to be a good major league center fielder, but not this season. Notice also that he’s unhappy. I take a closer look at his morale by tapping View and then tapping the Status/Morale option:

He is angry about his own performance, which is negatively affecting his overall morale. I talked before about how important morale is in iOOTP and this is a good example of that: a young player struggling at the plate and then trying too hard to come out of the slump.

A look at my active roster shows that Ellsbury’s possible replacement, Mike Cameron, is unhappy too (remember, he wants to be traded). So my plan is to use Cameron in a trade to get a temporary replacement for Ellsbury.

You have different ways to approach trades. One is by checking the League News screen for trade rumors that are always swirling around:

Player from your team can demand trades (like Cameron), and you can receive trade proposals from other teams.

Additionally, you can look around and initiate trades with other teams. I start to shop around Cameron but the answerer is always the same:

Nobody wants an old, overpaid player who does not perform well. Oh my, I have to reconsider. So I exchange Cameron with Ellsbury in the lineup and simulate a few days. Maybe I can find a decent upgrade for the lineup (a catcher would help) closer to the trading deadline.

Fast-forward a few days and the standings look better (I’m just 1/2 a game behind Tampa Bay), but my solution with Cameron does not work out: he is only hitting .192 since I inserted him into the lineup. During the last few days, I’ve also kept an eye open for trade rumors and saw this:

Scott Hairston could be available, and he’s putting up good numbers this season (better than Cameron and Ellsbury, which is not that hard at the moment):

I tap View and then tap Contract, where I see that he’s in the final year of his contract, so I have just to pay the reminder of it for this season:

His batting ratings look good too:

And as a nice bonus, he can play center field:

I open the Action menu in the bottom bar and tap Trade for Player.

Trades in iOOTP can have up to 3 players on both sides, so you can construct typical trades, such as a good player for a couple prospects. Since I want to trade for Haiston, he is already placed on the right side and I can now add players from my organization to make this trade happen. The Trade Summary window gives you an idea of both teams’ weaknesses, so you can tailor your offer accordingly.

You always can ask for the number of players from your team that would make the other team accept the trade, but be careful: most of the time this will favor the other team!

The Mets have a weakness in their bullpen and since Hairston wants to be traded (and will be a free agent after the season), I won’t offer too much. Reliever Aceves is a good candidate:

He is an average reliever but not good enough for my active roster. He is unhappy with his situation in the minors and will most likely never play for the Red Sox.

The Mets are willing to do the trade, but my manager thinks we can get a little bit more out of this. I look at the Mets’ minor league roster and try a promising shortstop prospect:

Maybe he will never develop into a star player, but he is only 19 and with 3.5 stars as potential, he could become a decent utility infielder for the Red Sox.

After I finish filling out the trade, I get an immediate response. Since we’re so close to the trading deadline, the reaction is quick; otherwise, I would have to submit the offer and wait a few days. The Mets accept the deal, so I can now finalize it. After the deal is done, I put Hairston on my active roster and insert him into the lineup. Then I continue the game ...

August has more injuries in store for me: Hairston has a trip to the disabled list (great) and starting pitcher Lester misses at least one start. But that is nothing compared to the injury suffered by Scutaro, who will not see any more playing time this season:

After I reactivate Hairston, I lose Wakefield for a few weeks and Dice-K for rest of the season. Right now I have the best record in the American League, but I have to overcome the injury crisis and make it through September.

On my way to the playoffs, I handle a few more contract extensions: Gonzalez and Papelbon sign new deals, but David Ortiz is destined to leave Boston as a free agent because his contract demands are just too much.

At last I reach the finish line and make it to the playoffs!

Now I switch back to day-to-day simulation as I prepare my team as well as possible for every game. I will play out games that could bring a decision, but that’s just my preference. You can simulate the playoffs or play out every game; it is up to you.

I win my first game against the Tigers, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory:

Oh, the happy times of a major league manager.

The second game against Detroit goes to extra innings, but I manage to win it, 2-1 ...

Trivia question for you guys: who went 2 for 4 and score the winning run in the 11th Inning? I always have to smile at the small things that make iOOTP a great experience (Hint: his name shows up a lot in this article).

I play out game 3 and finish the sweep on a 3-hit masterpiece by Beckett and Papelbon.

to the next round, this time against the Angels ...

I lose the first two games in Boston as my offense, riddled with injuries, stops hitting the ball. In Game 3, it looks like more of the same but I have a big inning, scoring 11 runs in the 7th, to win the game 11-1 (as a side note: Beckett throws another gem and has now a 0.59 ERA in the post-season).

In Game 4, the bats go silent again (just 4 hits) and I lose the game. To top it off, starter Lackey suffers another injury. I take over in Game 5 and manage an easy win to bring the series back to Boston. Due to injuries, I have to go with Tim Wakefield, and as you would expect from a knuckleballer, the game is a wild one. But I get to Angels starter Weaver early and hang on for a 13-7 victory.

Wow, the series is tied and we have a game 7. Both number one starters get the call: Dan Haren against Jon Lester; the winner goes to the World Series, the loser goes on vacation. Maybe it is just a game, but boy, I'm nervous.

You would expect a pitching duel, but neither starter has his best stuff: neither makes it to the 5th inning and both bullpens have to send in anyone they have. Despite 3 errors in the field, I take the game 12-9! To be honest, I don't care because I’m headed to the World Series.

I will play the St. Louis Cardinals. They had no problems, needing just one game more than the minimum to reach the World Series. They’re fresh and bring their number one starter to Game 1, whereas I’ve lost one starter (Lackey), my number one guy started in Game 7 of the previous round, and my bullpen is totally exhausted. But hey, Beckett will start, so everything should be okay ...

... or not. I finally run out of steam and luck. When Beckett ran into trouble in the 5th inning, I kept him in to give my bullpen a rest. Bad decision — I wish the CPU made it so I had someone to blame.

I also lose Game 2, so again I'm down 0-2 in a series. With Lester back on the mound and a solid outing from him, I manage to win Game 3. For Game 4, I decide to use Beckett on short rest and this time I have it right: Six strong Innings from him and another 3 hits from Pedroia (who has a .450 average in the playoffs) and the series is tied at 2.

In Game 5 I can bring Lackey back to the mound and his return is strong. But the story of the game is again Pedroia: he goes 5-for-5 and now hits .492 in the playoffs. There were even MVP chants during the game. (Okay, that was me; luckily, I play at home and not in a public place).

When I start Game 6, I'm pretty nervous, but the game is smooth and I never feel like I could lose it. An easy 10-1 victory and I bring a turbulent season to a happy end: a World Series title is in my hands!

The next article will center around the offseason: awards, arbitration, free agents and maybe some winter trading. But for now, let's close with my final season score. It's not a top score because I won the title with the powerhouse Red Sox. Do it with the Pirates and you can take the score over 1,000!