With baseball on indefinite hiatus, we here at Yahoo Sports MLB decided to have a little fun. We can’t watch real baseball on TV, but we can still play it … with a twist. We’ve decided to run some experiments using “MLB The Show 20” to simulate some unique baseball scenarios. This concept is lovingly inspired by Jon Bois’ Breaking Madden series.
Barry Bonds is the single-season home run king. Like it or not, it’s true. No player has ever hit more home runs in a season than Bonds. At the end of the day, 73 is a bigger number than 70 or 61 or whatever number you’ve rationalized in your head.
While you may think I love alienating my readers with my first sentence, that’s not the case. I know there are legitimate reasons why people don’t want to tout Bonds as the single-season home run leader. Throughout his career, Bonds was connected to steroids — though never tested positive — and was considered a jerk in the clubhouse. Away from the field, he was accused of domestic abuse by at least two women.
In the batter’s box, Bonds was quite possibly the best player any of us will ever see, but it’s tough to mention his accomplishments without noting his laundry list of negatives.
What if we didn’t have to do that? What if we tried to set a new single-season home run record? What if we didn’t just beat that record, but we obliterated it? What if we found a way for a single player to hit 100 home runs in a season?
Yes, you read that right. We’re not just looking to set the record, we’re looking to demolish it. Let’s face it, 74 is a lame number anyway. You know what’s not lame? A round number like 100.
The task: Create the baseball GOAT and see what happens
Through all the simulations I’ve done, no “real” hitter has ever come close to hitting 100 home runs. Even the players who feasted on my pitching staff made of Mike Trouts couldn’t do it.
But all those players had one thing going against them: They weren’t the perfect player.
In order to hit 100 home runs in a season, I need to create the absolute GOAT. I need someone who is a 99 in every single stat. I need perfection.
But choosing the form of the home-run destroyer can’t be taken lightly. I wrack my mind to try and think of a person most befitting of the GOAT title. I need a competitor who has risen to the top of their profession with skill, savvy and grace. I need a titan, someone who can serve as a shining beacon of light to inspire generations forever.
So I created Guy Fieri.
As far as I’m concerned, Fieri is the GOAT. His entire brand is promoting small, local businesses, he’s currently working to raise money for restaurant workers affected by coronavirus and he once officiated 101 gay weddings. He’s as good a candidate as any for this task.
I give Fieri a perfect 99 rating in every single stat. I give him Johnny Bench’s batting stance since Fieri grew up in Ohio and appears to be a Reds fan. I put him in No. 68 because that’s what he wore when he threw out a first pitch for the team. While you’d like to think he asked for 69 and was told that wouldn’t be appropriate, it’s more likely Fieri was given 68 because it’s the year he was born. Did I do a deep dive on Fieri’s history just so I could make a player in his image? Goodness, no. I already knew all those Fieri facts before I started.
In order to give Fieri the best shot at mashing home runs, I need to put him on a good offensive team that can turn over the lineup and give Fieri as many plate appearances as possible. Congratulations, Minnesota Twins, you just got a new first baseman. And to ensure Fieri gets the most opportunities to go yard, I bat him leadoff.
The season begins: This plan needs some work
Through six March games, Fieri only has 1 home run. Through April, he only has 8. Nelson Cruz actually has more. Fieri’s numbers are tremendous. He has a .458 on-base percentage and a .685 slugging mark, but the home runs aren’t there. In fact, Fieri can’t even top Cruz in home runs by the end of the year. Cruz leads the league with 57 homers. Fieri ties for second with 46.
By all accounts, it was an incredible year. Fieri led the league in batting average, doubles, runs, steals, walks, on-base and slugging. While all that seems promising, the walks might actually be a bad thing. I want Fieri to swing as much as possible. A walk is good in real-life baseball, but it’s a wasted plate appearance in this experiment. It’s time to make some adjustments.
The season begins again: Plenty of swings, no results
In an effort to make sure Fieri swings as much as possible, I lower his plate discipline down to zero. He’s a free swinger who makes contact with everything. He’s basically David Eckstein, but good.
Through May, Fieri leads baseball with 27 home runs, and it looks like we’re going to set a new career high. Inexplicably, Fieri hits just five home runs in June. By the end of the season, he sits at just 44 home runs, good for fourth in baseball. Fieri didn’t just fail, he got worse.
With two simulations under my belt, and no results, I need to do something drastic in order to get closer to my goal.
The season begins yet again: Enter the Mayors of Flavortown
Look, I love Minnesota. I’ve been to Target Field, I’ve seen the movie “Fargo” and I’ve eaten a Juicy Lucy. That practically makes me a citizen.
But I’m getting rid of the Twins and I’m demolishing Target Field.
This is a necessary step toward hitting 100 home runs. I need to put the Twins in a more homer-friendly park, and the only way to do that is to replace them with a custom team and make that team’s home park the Polo Grounds. The left field porch is just 279 feet away, which should give Fieri a chance to pick up a few cheap homers.
With that in mind, meet the Mayors of Flavortown.
What you see above is a meticulously-crafted Mayors of Flavortown uniform. I’m responsible for every part of it except the logo, which was designed by a PlayStation user named BigDuckletts24. It was the logo that appeared on the search function when I looked for “Fieri.” I don’t personally know BigDuckletts24, but I am forever grateful for his commitment to Guy Fieri. Not all heroes wear capes.
Everything about the Mayors of Flavortown uniforms were designed with a purpose. The black uniforms with the orange stripes represent Fieri’s well-known flames shirt. The orange stripes are an homage to the flames. The gold wristbands represent Fieri’s self-proclaimed “bling,” or the many rings he takes off any time he has to put his hands in dough.
Despite looking impeccable, Fieri struggles at the plate, hitting just 44 home runs. I restart the season again, but this time I give Fieri no bunting ability and adjust his plate discipline to 40. I don’t want him swinging at terrible pitches and hitting singles. I want him to be selective enough to drive the right pitches.
On our fifth try, we’re in fantastic shape. Through June, Fieri has hit 32 home runs. He’s on pace to top his previous career-best. Then he hits just two home runs in July. Fieri finishes the season with 53 home runs. It’s his best result so far, but that doesn’t mean much. He’s still 20 home runs off Bonds’ record.
It’s becoming clear that I need to make some more drastic changes, but just for the hell of it, I decide to move Fieri to the American League East, where playing in friendly visiting ballparks might help. To do this, I get to live out one of my own fantasies by erasing the Tampa Bay Rays from existence. That prevents me from being completely frustrated when Fieri only hits 47 home runs. In a last ditch effort, I go back to the season Fieri hit 53 home runs and lower the game’s difficulty to “beginner” in hopes that might make a difference. Fieri hits 42 home runs.
The season begins. Yes, again: Time to sabotage my opponents
It’s time to start breaking things. I haven’t even come close to the real major-league record so desperate measures need to be taken. The Chicago White Sox need to have the worst starters in baseball.
I’ve decided to adjust every White Sox starter’s stats down to zero. I’ve justified this narratively by telling myself virtual Guy Fieri sent every White Sox starting pitcher a lifetime supply of Donkey Sauce. Everyone knows too much Donkey Sauce is a bad thing.
Note: The real Guy Fieri would never stoop to this level. He has integrity.
The results are promising. Fieri gets through the first season with 61 home runs, which is a new career-high. Oddly, the game treated the White Sox pitchers as mostly normal. Players were subbed out as usual and even turned in some solid games. It was nothing like the Trout experiment, which was a special kind of hell, apparently.
Knowing that we’re getting closer, the entire American League Central gets the Donkey Sauce treatment. Every single pitcher on the roster gets their stats — except for stamina — adjusted to zero. Fieri hits 62 home runs.
The season begins for the final time: We’re breaking this record, dammit
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Virtual Guy Fieri looks over the Mayors of Flavortown schedule, circles every team and sends all those club Donkey Sauce for the 2020 season. In other words, every pitcher Guy Fieri faces will have all their stats except stamina adjusted to zero.
Between 12 and 13 players on 20 teams need to be adjusted for this to work. The process takes days. I have second thoughts about making Clayton Kershaw a terrible pitcher, but I remind myself that I’m just making the playoff version of Kershaw. I’m not even sure I had to adjust J.A. Happ’s stats, so that was nice. I’ll be honest with you, I forgot to do the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen. I was too far into the process to correct that mistake, so I gave them the worst pitchers in their organization.
This is it. This is the final time I’m going to run the Fieri simulation. If Fieri can’t hit 100 home runs with every pitcher barfing up Donkey Sauce on the mound, it’s never going to happen.
Through April, I know this was a good call. Francisco Lindor leads baseball with 28 home runs. Fieri has 17. He’s not leading, but at least the plan is working.
It takes until July for Fieri to surpass Cruz as the home run leader on his own team. By the end of July, Fieri has 55 home runs, which ranks fourth. Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros has belted 64 home runs. That’s the highest figure I’ve seen in “MLB The Show 20.”
At the end of August. Alvarez has 71 home runs. Fieri has 66. Alvarez becomes the first player to break Bonds’ single-season home-run record during a Sept. 8 game against the Los Angeles Angels. A week later, Fieri not only breaks the record, but surpasses Alvarez for the season-long home-run lead.
With three games to go, Fieri holds off Alvarez for the crown. He hit 81 home runs, a far cry from the 100 I promised, but it will have to do.
The season ends: What did we learn?
Congratulations, you just spent 10 minutes reading my Guy Fieri fanfic. That’s a terrifying realization, huh?
Whether Bonds was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs or not, hitting 73 home runs in a season is an incredible feat. Look, “MLB The Show 20” is a video game, but it tries its best to be realistic. I ran this simulation nine times and only broke Bonds’ record once. Getting to that point required Fieri hitting against the equivalent of a bunch of No. 4 starters on a Little League team.
Like it or not, Bonds’ record of 73 is going to stand for a long time. That is, unless Guy Fieri considers a career change and starts taking a truckload of steroids.
Previously in this series
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