Baseball Mogul 2003 Review

Baseball Mogul 2003 is a game for those who dream of running their own major league baseball franchise.  While it allows you to set and adjust your team's lineup over the course of a 162 game season, it is primarily a financial model of the business of baseball.  Not only do you need to set your players' salaries, negotiate contract extensions, and sign free agents, you'll need to set ticket prices, establish a TV contract, and even choose the price at which to sell hot dogs at your games.  You may think that such a game would have strong appeal to both fans of financial sims and baseball aficionados, but the game has some issues which will keep it from capturing the imagination of either of these groups of players.

Fans of the game will be able to set their starting line-ups and pitching rotations, but unfortunately that's about the greatest degree of control you'll have over your team during the season.  For example, you won't be able to specify different line-ups when facing right-handed or left-handed pitchers, or choose between a four or five man rotation.  You can set some general strategy guidelines for your team to follow, such as the frequency of pitch-outs and hit and run plays, by adjusting a few sliders.  Once the season starts going, though, your team will pretty much play on its own.

During the season, you can let the simulation run anywhere from a game at a time to an entire season at once.  You also have the option to watch individual games played out in a play by play mode.  However, this is a passive activity as you have no control over any of the in-game decisions.  It's the sort of thing you'll use occasionally for big games and playoffs to generate a bit of a feeling of excitement, but it is hard to imagine that anyone would be able to sit and stare at the play by play for a full 162 game season.

The managerial side of the game just doesn't give you enough control over the action to make it exciting, but what about the general manager aspect?  Unfortunately, it falls short as well.  The first thing that you will need to get used to is the fact that the game does not use a dollar currency.  Instead it uses a point system that will require a period of adjustment to get a feel for.  When a free agent demands 15 points for four years, is it a ridiculous figure or a bargain? 

While I'm on the subject of free agents, the game provides a list of all of the free agents in the league at the start of the season, along with their salary requirement.  As long as you accept their asking price, you can sign any free agent you want.  There are no bidding wars with other teams or back room deals which leave you out in the cold.  There isn't much to the salary negotiations with free agents either.  You can accept their asking price, or adjust the number of years of the contract up or down, but that's it.  There are no negotiations or counter-offers anywhere in the process.  You won't be able to gamble by trying to low-ball a free agent hoping that he doesn't get an offer from another team.  Where's a GM to get his thrills?

The other aspects of being a GM are lackluster as well.  The farm system consists of a handful of AAA players that are randomly assigned to your team - you won't get enough of them to even field a minor league team.  Player development through the farm system is just not that much a part of the game.  You can once again use sliders to emphasize the development of players in specific positions, or to concentrate the development of batters and pitchers in different key areas.  However, there is no feedback as to how these sliders really affect things.  Does maximizing every slider produce better players?  How are other areas hurt when one is emphasized, and by how much?  The game leaves these questions unanswered.