Growing up, Tony Hawk’s Underground was my favorite of the series. It built on the mechanics that made the Tony Hawk name synonymous with great games and gave it a narrative. Underground took the idea that a game doesn’t have to be just mechanics no matter the genre and ran with it. This mentality boiled over into other, more traditional entries to the sports genre. Madden 06 was the first of the series to have a career mode.  I attest that it’s the best the series has done to this day.

Career modes died out in a lot of series, or at least my interest did. They often suck. I forget what year of NHL it was, but I remember being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins. In roughly 10 or 15 games I put up better stats than Crosby or Malkin. I was outplaying not just the two best forwards on the team, but two of the best players in professional hockey. I was eventually sent down to minors for the rest of the season. There’s also the inverse issue that Madden suffers from. It’s so incredibly easy, even on high difficulties. I usually pick a WR or HB and every single game I’m breaking records. Even EA’s better outings like FIFA still have some terrible logic. For example my character leading the Premier League in goals but not being named to the US National team. It’s why I gave up on sports simulations for a long time. Until the past couple years, because story is the best thing happening to the genre.

Much of this is in thanks to two series. MLB: The Show and NBA 2K. Both of which receive plenty of praise each year and rather frequently push the envelope. Their career modes are a big reason why I’ve been getting back into the genre. The Show has long hung its hat on theirs to the point that “The Show” in the title is a reference to the name of the career mode. NBA 2K meanwhile has even had a Spike Lee directed story in 2K16. Though the quality is rather debatable, the attempt is what makes me happy because it’s bringing something to the table that I’ve not seen since Underground.

Wouldn’t you know it, competition breeds innovation which leads to quality products for consumers. EA took to refining one of their career modes for the first time in ages in last year’s FIFA via The Journey. In kind, Sony San Diego has heard what the fans want and intend to provide just that. In a recent PlayStation blog post they talk about how MLB: The Show 17 will be more like an RPG.

“This year, Road to the Show will now sprinkle in true-to-life interactions in a documentary-style presentation. As your career unfolds, you will occasionally interact with coaches, managers, representatives, and more, facing choices that can influence your future path and your road to the show. Your actions, their effects, and the narrator’s insights explore beyond not only your on-field performance, but also your off-the-field aspects of being a professional ballplayer.”

There are further details, which you can read here, but this alone has me quite excited. MLB: The Show already has an enjoyable core. Throwing a more “RPG” like twist on it all appeals to me greatly.

My favorite part of any sports game is the management. Knowing that The Show is taking on more of that in a narrative fashion is promising for the future of the series and the genre. Sports games are often, and rightfully, criticized for stagnation. Which is especially offensive in the yearly release business. Seeing the good done by Sony and 2K bleeding over into EA and in turn making Sony and 2K’s outputs evolve as well is an ideal situation for fans.

Also, Griffey as the cover athlete. Damn, damn, damn, god *** damn. I idolized that man as child to the point of playing baseball year round, wearing my hat backwards, choosing number 24, and even poorly trying to emulate “the purest swing in baseball.”