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A strange season of Cleveland Indians baseball in Out of the Park 17

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A year that started with a young player being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ended with a postseason sweep.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

If you're not familiar with the Out of the Park Baseball series (usually abbreviated to OOTP by the cool kids), allow me to explain in a few ways.

1) It's like Strat-O-Matic, but powered by modern computing architecture rather than dice rolls.

2) It's like Dino Park Tycoon, but if the dinosaurs could be tracked by statistics and were occasionally injured.

3) It's a simulated baseball universe where you can do anything you want. Even terrible things like this:

No, I'm not insane. We'll keep Frankie and forgo Frenchie.

Needless to say, I've spent a fair chunk of my free time in the last five years playing OOTP. It's a fun little playground to try out experiments. For example, what if I built a lineup with nothing but power-hitting first baseman, regardless of their fielding abilities? What if I give the Rockies nothing but extreme fly-ball pitchers? What if I forced Bryan Shaw to pitch literally every single inning of an entire season?

Yes, it can be fun to test out little theories and torture various players, but everyone once in awhile something incredibly bizarre or intriguing happens in the game. Once, Drew Pomeranz missed an entire season after nearly disemboweling himself trying to escape his mistress's house through the window. Another time one of my pitchers took a line drive to the head and retired in his prime. In my latest playthrough with the Indians — an attempt to build an honest-to-god dynasty — things have taken a pretty weird turn.

I'm not really sure what to do. How quickly is this going to affect his performance? How long can he continue to perform at the highest level? Should he take back the promise he made to Abbey and run for a second term? Is it wrong to trade him and hope that the AI of the other teams doesn't "understand" what might happen to his ability?

At the same time, how could it be any worse that what happened to Grady Sizemore?

I know that I can't betray Naquin, so I've made the decision to keep him on the roster as long as possible. In this particular baseball universe, he's the bona fide starter in CF for the Tribe, alongside Michael Brantley and Bradley Zimmer. I'd like to document what happens over the course of his career. One last note before we dive in: I'm playing as GM only, so be please direct your complaints about lineup construction and pitcher usage to Digital Tito.

I went ahead and simulated the 2017 season, making sure to keep Naquin in the lineup. You'll notice I've made a couple of trades here and there to upgrade the team. My other focus has been extending popular players; I brought back Napoli and extended Santana on team-friendly deals. It's led to a pretty bizarre outcome for the team, in general. For example, the Indians finished 2nd in attendance despite the average ticket price rising $13.

I have no idea what sort of voodoo magic I'm working with here, but it's awesome. As for the team itself, here are the statistics they pulled down for the season.

With this performance from the team, the Indians marched to a 96-66 record and won American League Central. You will notice that Tyler Naquin doesn't seem to be feeling the effects of MS at all. Who knows? Maybe our center fielding friend has a course of relapsing-remitting MS, and the remissions will be long enough for him to post incredible seasons. In the meantime, the outfield of him, Brantley, Zimmer, and Mike Papi is borderline unfair. My only gripe with the way that Tito managed things is that he maybe dipped a little too deep into the bench to let guys rest. I didn't exactly expect Napoli to get 63 starts given his numbers. I'll chalk it up to the value of veteran leadership?

Now, the postseason

Oh. Okay. I guess that's fine, then. How did our friend Tyler Naquin fare throughout the series? 1-11 with a single. No RBI, no runs scored.

As many around baseball have pointed out, the playoffs are stupid and random when compared to the 162 game slugfest that it follows. This appears to be no different in the simulated world. Still, I want to get Tyler Naquin a ring before his inevitable decline begins. Will the game continue to document his struggle with the disease, or is it just a random event that fired and isn't actually altering his ability to play? Here's a sad thought: maybe it already is, and Naquin's fine 3.5 WAR year in CF is a shell of what it could have been.

Even the digital baseball gods are cruel.

Look for an update later on this week; I'm hoping to power through a couple of seasons, this time around, and perhaps continue to inexplicably sell 40,000 tickets every night.