Mike Wilner is the Toronto Blue Jays radio play-by-play announcer for SN 590 THE FAN. Mike is also the commissioner of the THROW League which is a face to face local DYNASTY League Baseball Board version league established in 1987.
Q: DYNASTY League Baseball and its predecessor Pursue the Pennant are
celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. How did you originally find
out about Pursue the Pennant and what are your recollections of playing the
original Board game version?
Mike Wilner: I was introduced to tabletop baseball by my father, who created a very rudimentary version for me when I was very young. Basically it was a pair of six-sided dice with an outcome for each of the 11 possible rolls. “7” was a single, so there was a lot of offense. Then, when I was 11, we went to Detroit for a cousin’s bar mitzvah and I was introduced to the wonderland that is Toys R Us (it hadn’t moved into Canada yet). There, I found a tabletop baseball game called “Statis Pro” and went nuts with it. I did a full 162-game replay of the Blue Jays’ 1980 season (went 81-81, Dave Stieb had over 30 wins and Mike Willis threw 9 perfect innings of relief in a long extra-inning game).
Once that was done, my best friend in junior high introduced my to Strat-O-Matic and we had some great battles using teams from the early ’70s. Then, when I was 17, I walked into my local comic book store and saw a Pursue The Pennant display. It looked fantastic, so I bought it and loved it. I was blown away by the fact that there were 500 possible outcomes for both pitcher and hitter, that there were weather charts, that defenders were assessed ratings for both the ability to get to the ball AND the ability to field it cleanly once they did. It was sensational, an entirely different simulation baseball experience.
Great scoresheets, too. I still use them to this day – I have scored every Blue Jays game since 2002 on PTP scoresheets in the broadcast booth.
Mike Wilner; I like how easy the game is to play. I mean, you have to get the hang of it, just like anything, but once you do, a nine-inning game can be played in less than half an hour, which is great. It seems to be the most accurate of all the sim games out there – at least it takes the most things into account and the 1,000 possible outcomes on each roll of the dice (plus variable plays involving charts to which the results take you) blows everybody else away. The gameplay is second nature to me now, having been playing DLB for two decades, but I still think it’s pretty intuitive. The results make a lot of sense, baseballically, which makes it really easy to pick up.
Oh, the online version? Oops. It handles the charts for you, which speeds things up a little, and the ability to always still be able to look at the cards means that nothing is taken away from the strategical component. It, too, is quick and easy.
Q: DYNASTY League Baseball Online is the first and only real time Baseball
simulation that allows you to play and manage your series live as well as
the option to have the computer manager profile play the series for you.
What are your thoughts on how well the real time experience works and the
Mike Wilner: I really enjoyed it when I got the chance to take part in the media Greatest Teams League last year. It’s quick and easy, and the chat function with your opponent doesn’t get in the way of playing the game. I will always prefer the face-to-face experience, for sure, but when circumstances prevent people from getting together in person, the online version is a great substitute.
Q: Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball have always been known for
their high level of realism incorporating many subtle nuances of Baseball
that Bill James first popularized in his Baseball Abstracts. What realistic
aspects of DYNASTY League Baseball separate it from other Baseball
Mike Wilner: There’s just so much extra stuff. Separating range and fielding was big, I thought, weather and ballpark charts, intangibles ratings, the two things that go into a pitcher’s hold rating, so many things you can’t find anywhere else. Even which umpires have a temper and which don’t.
Q: I’ve had several Broadcast, Media and Front Office MLB people tell me
that they learned a tremendous amount about Baseball and each player¹s
strengths and weaknesses from playing both Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY
League Baseball. Have you had a similar experience and what have you
Mike Wilner: Oh, absolutely. There are a lot of fallacies revealed by the defensive ratings on DLB. Thanks to the game, I know which outfielders have a good arm and which are poor throwers, what kind of speed people have, what kind of defense they play, who should be platooned and who shouldn’t, all those things. The offensive stuff is more important, because it seems to be far less subjective than the defense (and I often disagree with some of the defensive ratings given to some Blue Jays, who I watch 162 times every year), but at the very least I’m pointed in the right way. Most importantly, DLB lets me study every player in the big leagues, so I can find out a lot about players I may only see once or twice in a season.
Q: You are the Commissioner of THROW, a draft league that plays most of its
games locally in the Toronto area. Tell us about the league, its players
and the appeal of playing friends and co-workers face to face with the Board
Mike Wilner: The league was founded way back in 1987, with just four teams. We each took a stock team (I had the Blue Jays and there were also the Expos, Mets and Pirates) and then drafted three players each from the rest of the set. I remember drafting Steve Sax, but I can’t remember my other two (Fernando Valenzuela rings a bell). Back then we were very liberal with the rules, figuring that just because a big-league manager didn’t, say, start Mark Eichhorn, didn’t mean that I couldn’t if I felt he’d help me more in that role. I wound up losing the championship in a seven-game series.
The next year, we expanded to 8, then later to 16 and to 24, collapsed back to 20 but got back up to 24 by the mid-’90s and that’s where we have been ever since. I have won the whole shebang seven times, no one else has more than two titles.
We reset the league at some point in the early 90s, allowing each team to keep six players (I kept Mussina, Thomas, Bonds, Ben McDonald and two other guys I can’t remember) and redrafting from there, introducing a contract system, financials and a rookie draft. I handed one of the other owners a sealed envelope that contained a list of the 24 players I planned on drafting and wound up getting 23 of them. I would have had all 24, but Don Mattingly was still available in the 10th round, so I grabbed him instead of Lonnie Smith.
Many of the owners in the league have been around for two decades or more, and we’ve seen each other through college graduations and first jobs, marriages, children, divorces, all facets of life. I can’t wait until our first second-generation THROW owner enters the league. I’m the only one of the original four still remaining, and I was in high school when we started this thing – who would have ever imagined that I’d wind up being a big-league play-by-play broadcaster? We have people from all walks of life – a few others who work in sports, a comic-book writer, a teacher, a claims adjuster, a squash pro. One of our former owners got a PhD from Harvard, another moved to Malaysia, another publishes a magazine on film and has made a movie that played in some major film festivals around the world. it’s really been an interesting group.
We still all play the board game, not the online version, and if we can’t get together in person we do it over Skype with an online dice roller. I try to get as many of my games in as possible face-to-face. I find it’s much more fun to sit down with someone, feel the dice in your hands and hear my kids ask me if one of the nerds is coming over.
September 28, 2011 arguably goes down in MLB history as the Greatest single day in regular season history with a finish so unlikely and so dramatic it seemed it was scripted from the writers of “24”.
Dan Johnson’s 2-out, 2-strike Home Run in the bottom of the 9th that capped off a seven run comeback vs. the Yankees and saved the season for the Rays. For Johnson’s heroics he earned a Clutch hitting situation rating on his new 2011 season DYNASTY League Baseball player card. It is very unusual for a non-RBI leader to earn a Clutch hitting rating, but it has happened before with Al Weis 1969 Mets, Tom Lawless 1987 Cardinals and Manny Mota’s 1977 Dodgers player cards.
The AL East perennial powers Boston and New York both failed to earn a JAM situation rating for their relief aces Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera. Papelbon lost his chance for a JAM with an unimpressive .273 BA with RSP/2 out. Rivera was not only mediocre with a .261 BA/.435 SLG with RSP/2 out, but got rocked with RSP at a .326 BA/.488 SLG clip.
DYNASTY League Baseball fans Dave Kerpen and Andrew Kaufmann debated the merits of the Mets R.A. Dickey chance for a JAM rating in the 2011 season player card set. What it came down to is that even though Dickey won only 8 games he was a candidate for a JAM rating because he was amongst the Official ERA leaders with his 3.28 ERA. Dickey earned his JAM rating on the basis of a .184 BA/.241 SLG with RSP/2 out.
The poster boy for a JAM rating is Tim Lincecum who dialed it up with RSP/2 out allowing a .115 BA/.177 SLG. Now THAT is a pitcher who can get out of a jam!
Carp JAM rating? This year a resounding YES for Cardinal Ace Chris Carpenter.
How could he not after besting Phillie Ace Roy Halladay in a Game 5 NLDS 1-0 duel of aces to end all pitching duels? A .236 BA with RSP/2 outs during the regular season helps too.
Beer in the bullpen? The Red Sox cleaned house after the season becaue the clubhouse chemistry had gone awry. The starting rotation of Beckett, Bucholz, Lackey and Lester all got slapped with a D intangible rating for their Boston beer party.
Mark Buehrle staked his claim on this generation’s version of Jim Kaat with an A+ Range rating and 90 Error rating. Buehrle ranked #1 in the Fielding Bible Plus/Minus leaderboard for pitchers with a +4 score to his right, +2 in the middle and 9 runs saved.
Troy Tulowitzki (A/100/-5) earned an A Range rating on the basis of his excellent 5.05 Range Factor (1st) and his solid Fielding Bible +10 score. Error 100 ratings are historically rare and Tulowitzki’s .991 Fielding pct. got him the top historical rating on the scale. Tulo’s player card is a true gem topped off by his -5 Double Play pivot rating which was earned on the basis of his #1 ranked DP pct. of .681.
In the AL, Brendan Ryan (A/70/-5) ranked 1st in the shortstop Fielding Bible rankings for the second year in a row with a +22 Plus/Minus.
It’s rare that a rookie would debut with an A range rating, but that is exactly what the Angel’s Mark Trumbo (A/70) did ranking 1st in Fielding Bible Plus/Minus (+11).
Washington’s Rick Ankiel continues to not just impress, but to put himself in the pantheon next to Clemente in terms of throwing arms. Ankiel’s 7 “kills” and 9 runs saved ranked him 1st among all CF. MLB scouts also graded Ankiel’s arm an 8 on their 2-8 scale. Ankiel (B+/90/-4) earned a very rare -4 throwing arm rating in 2011 in both CF and RF.
Atlanta’s Michael Bourn continues to be as menacing as Jason Bourne – only Michael does his killing on the basepaths. Bourn scores a 10 Baserunning rating and top tier lead (7/6/2) and steal (8/7/1) ratings at 2nd/3rd/Home.
The new DYNASTY League Baseball 2011 season player card set is available for DYNASTY League Baseball Online right here right now and available in the original Board version format at the Ticket Window.
New to Pursue the Pennant and it’s successor DYNASTY League Baseball? DYNASTY League Baseball is an extremely realistic Baseball simulation game that has it’s roots in the original Pursue the Pennant board game that debuted in 1985 and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Hobby Games of the last 50 years.
In the DYNASTY League Baseball Online Greatest Teams leagues you will choose from one of 76 of the Greatest Teams in Baseball history and then Manage your team in a 12 team league that is divided up into AL and NL Divisions of 6 teams.
1) You will have fun learning Baseball history
Instead of reading about Baseball history in the process of managing your team and playing other great teams you will learn who the great historical players were and why they were so great because you are playing against the likes of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Stever Carlton, Tom Seaver and Dizzy Dean.
2) You will learn how Major League scouts evaluate a players “baseball tools” and the strengths and weaknesses of the greatest baseball players of All-Time.
3) You will learn offensive strategies by managing real MLB players.
When should you steal, hit and run, take the extra base, pinch hit, pinch run, sacrifice bunt and suicide squeeze? What is the best lineup and batting order for my team? When should I platoon vs. left-handed and right-handed pitchers and with which players?
4) You will learn defensive strategies by managing real MLB players.
When should you warm-up a relief pitcher, bring in a relief pitcher, bring in a defensive replacement, throw through or cut-off a throw, bring the infield in, set the infield corners in or call for the intentional walk? What is the best pitching rotation for my team?
5) You will learn which Major League ball parks are hitters or pitchers parks and the various outfield and foul territory dimensions.
As you play out your season you will be playing in historical ball parks from every era in Baseball history.
6) You will learn how a players fielding range, fielding percentage, throwing arm, double play pivot and catcher’s handling of pitchers effects various plays.
7) You will learn how power hitters, contact hitters, high on base hitters, clutch hitters, spray and pull hitters effect each at bat.
8) You will learn how control pitchers, ground ball pitchers, fly ball pitchers, strikeout pitchers, pitchers who rarely walk the lead off batter, pitchers who rarely give up HR with runners on base and pitchers who are tough in jams effect each plate appearance.
9) You will learn how fast and slow basestealers, baserunners with good and bad instincts effect steal attempts and taking the extra base. You will also learn how important both a pitchers ability to hold baserunners and catchers and outfielders throwing arms are.
10) You will learn about Baseball statistics and why they are important in evaluating players and making managerial decisions.
Do you know what OBP and SLG are, how they are calculated and why they are one of the best offensive indicators? Baseball is more than just physical tools it is a cerebral sport where at times the smartest teams and players can beat a more physically talented team.
Thank you to all of the great fans of Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball for 25 fantastic fun years of playing!
Some of the history is captured at the DYNASTY League Baseball reviews and feature link with a new column just added “Yanks Control Board Meeting” from Michael Bauman of the Milwaukee Journal and MLB.com that left us all smiling.
We are celebrating 25 years of Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball during the AT&T Park Tour Tournament Express September 11-13. Your invitation to this amazing event is at the DYNASTY League Baseball League link.
If you are on Facebook, you can read about the AT&T Park Tour Tournament event at the DYNASTY League Baseball Fan page.
The Tour Tournament leads off Friday, September 11 from Union Station in Los Angeles, CA with connections from San Diego, Anaheim and Santa Barbara where we will board Amtrak’s Coast Starlight premier train with first class accomodations and private roomettes.
If you live in the San Franciso bay area there is an opportunity to join us on Saturday, September 12 for the Tour of AT&T Park, Greatest Teams bracket tournament and Dodgers vs. Giants game.
All of you native Giant and A’s fans in the bay area we want you to join our group coming from Los Angeles!
If you live in other parts of the country please contact us so we can help you connect into Los Angeles or San Diego.
As our on-board chef prepares breakfast, we’ll watch some of the most spectacular scenery in the USA roll by in the Dining car. After breakfast, we’ll head to the one of a kind Pacific Parlour car (the only passenger Parlour car on Amtrak) accessible to first class passengers only and ideal for gaming. In fact, it has a cabinet of board games. The Pacific Parlour car will be serving appetizers, wine and cheese so prepare to be pampered. This doesn’t even happen in the Legend seats at Yankee Stadium!
Our Greatest Teams tournament will allow you to select from any of the great teams. I’ll be on the tour tournament event of course and will be skippering the 1985 Cardinals. You’ll have your chance to play me with your favorite greatest team as well as all the other fans on the trip which will be some of the top competition.
On Saturday September 12 we’ll head out to AT&T Park for a tour. On your behind-the-scenes ballpark tour of sensational AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, you will get to go places only the players and staff go including:
The Field Warning Track
Indoor Batting Cages
The Visitors’ Clubhouse
The Press Box
The Luxury Suite
Ballpark Features and Views
After the tour, we’ll be starting up a local mini-Greatest Team bracket style tournament right at AT&T Park that DYNASTY League Baseball fans from the Bay Area can join in with the group from San Diego and Los Angeles.
The tournaments will include play with the Board version, Windows version and the debut on the new Online version using the Giants Wi-Fi broadband wireless network at AT&T Park.
After the tournament our group will see the Dodgers battle the Giants at AT&T Park.
At the league page there are links to recaps of previous tour tournaments which have some incredible stories to be told.
Stadium Express are just a few of many stories. Above, Dan Treuden (middle) and Mike Mack (right) join me with the Green Monster looming behind before the hurricane hit on the Fenway Park Oympic Stadium Express Tour Tournament.
AT&T Park Express Tour Tournament includes:
– Greatest Teams tournament
Team selections are at this MLB.com News Blog:
– Round trip first class rail fare with private roomette and chef prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner on both Friday and Sunday.
– Two nights San Francisco Hilton Garden Hotel
– Tour of AT&T Ball Park
– Club Level ticket to Giants vs. Dodgers September 12, 2009
Double occupancy: $448
Tour, Tournament and Game only on September 12 for local DYNASTY League Baseball fans in the Bay area: $124
Space is limited…
Team selections on first come basis.
Deadline for reservations is Monday June 15, 2009
Call 561-494-2711 or email email@example.com
See you in September!