Brian Cashman sat in the back of a New York City bar last week as 2K Sports unveiled MLB Front Office Manager, the virtual world's latest attempt at making a professional's job seem doable for any willing know-it-all. For the general manager of the New York Yankees, it must have been like seeing his life flash before his eyes.
Designed to give users the true experience of running a professional baseball team, Front Office Manager allows gamers to take on the everyday duties of Cashman and his cohorts, from investing the millions upon millions on the A-Rods of the game to responding to players' constant whines and moans. The game will be released in January for XBOX 360, PS3 and PC gaming platforms.
"It's not like a layup -- you can't make lopsided deals because the artificial intelligence will not allow you to do it," says Cashman, who has worked for the Yankees since 1986 and been the GM since ‘98. "You have a chance to throw out different ideas, think outside the box. Every aspect a general manager has to deal with comes before you in this game."
Well ... almost. Those pesky baseball writers won't be hounding you all day and your shortstop's love life won't be splattered on the gossip pages every day.
But everything else, from reading traditional scouting reports to evaluating the quantitative Sabermetric tools via Bill James' friends at Baseball Info Solutions, is represented in the game. Other features include online fantasy leagues and regular advice from Celebrity GM Billy Beane of the Oakland A's and Moneyball fame.
"Just like in real life, the general managers get older and stressed out over time," says Cashman. "They get gray hair, they can get fat, they can look haggard as the season unwinds. I got a kick out of that, because that's true."
Not all woes of a GM are forgotten in Front Office Manager. See, they may not have the tabloids breathing down their neck, but the pressure is certainly there. There's pressure to successfully adapt to injuries. "All of a sudden as your season may be going around and your shortstop could blow his hamstring," says Cashman. "Do you pursue trades? Do you have a good farm system to support those injuries?"
There's pressure to make your Beane-sized budget work while Steinbrenner & Co. swim in money. "You have to choose how to invest internationally and on the amateur side," says Cashman.
There's pressure to keep up with deadlines -- "It's real-time so the free-agency periods are the same dates, the Rule 5 draft, the Amateur Draft is in June."
There's pressure to quickly comb through heaps of e-mails about your right fielder's groin injury and your first baseman's aching wrist. Luckily, the game does not come equipped with a BlackBerry.
But the real pressure comes from the race to win it all, to leave the other clubs questioning their every move throughout the season while you bask in the glory of a World Series title.
"All 30 GMs are in this to be the champion, and there's only going to be one," Cashman says, flashing one of his finger-breaking, diamond-encrusted World Series Championship rings. "And the other 29, no matter how close they got, they fail to meet the goal."
-- Nicki Jhabvala