Ichiro Suzuki, longtime Seattle Mariner and certain Hall of Famer, retired after the Mariner’s Tokyo tour earlier this month. As such, MLB 19 is the first entry in this series without Suzuki on the roster; that’s how long he hung onto his career. It feels weird without him.
Suzuki and The Show paired well together. Both earned a reputation and high stature. Both reached a nadir and stayed there; neither seem ready to leave, but now one did. So The Show holds on, the pinnacle of simulation sports games – a Hall of Famer if a sports videogame Hall of Fame were to open – but often taken for granted, or like Suzuki, becoming a reliable background player. Madden and NBA 2K earn the attention. The Show isn’t “new” enough, they say, that scale of judgment only considering the foreground, not the fractional improvements.
Baseball is changing in subtle ways. As such, those incremental steps find their way into The Show. The sport is looking for speed, a way to enrapture a generation hooked on mobile devices (and that’s visible in The Show’s stadiums, people staring down at their phones instead of on-field action). The Show plays along. Between pitches, the camera pans around the diamond. Sometimes it’s an umpire cam, others it’s an outfield view. It’s possible to select a pitch or strategize during this time. No more waiting for a routine set-up, and even during pre-pitch cycles, something is happening, even if that’s only camera movement. Also, an entire season mode revolves around moments, not full games.
With full broadcast aesthetics turned on, The Show feels faster now. It moves differently, if only slightly. There’s no cost to its subtly. The Show is pure baseball, a celebration of this game, even into a mode that recreates moments from MLB’s greatest stars. Past meets future, a blending of the two that feels like the proper send-off to someone of Suzuki’s caliber.