On one hand, MLB The Show 16 is the best, most advanced baseball video game ever created. The visuals are stunning, gameplay is improved, and the level of authenticity — from the meticulously recreated ballparks to the celebrations and facial hair of the players — is unmatched. But the game is also a valuable tool for understanding baseball. Through its breakdown of matchups, deeply sourced player ratings, and modes like Road to The Show, which simulates the path a ballplayer takes to get to the majors, MLB The Show gives fans real insight into the sport, how it’s played, and the strategies used on and off the field.
MLB The Show 16 is available today for the Sony PlayStation, and last week we talked with Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer about the game, how it improves his real-life play, and how the Royals are preparing to defend their World Series championship.
When you get the game, how long does it take for you to check out your rating? Is it the first thing you look at?
Being a player, that's the first thing everyone wants to look at, to see what you're rated and see how your attributes are looking. I know a lot of guys, as soon as they pop the game in that's kind of what they like to do in the first part, is go through their team, go through their lineup, and just see who's rated where and see what teams stack up nice against the other ones.
How accurately are you rated? Is it right on? A little off? Unfair?
No, it seems pretty fair. I think that's the cool thing they do in the video game to make it realistic, they have pretty much break downs from the past season and with all the numbers going into it, that kind of makes up your attributes for the following year. So it's definitely a fair system. I think the biggest thing is that you want your guy to be able to hit homers on command in the video game. Playing the video game a little bit already, my guy, when he gets his pitch, he doesn't miss it. So that's all you can ask for from the attributes side of it.
Does seeing how you perform in the game, does it push you at all to change anything in your real-life game or work on anything
Yeah, it definitely does. I think going into it, you definitely know kind of where your ratings will be at, where your more weaker ratings will be and where your stronger ones will be. I think it's something we all work on. Obviously, being a hitter, the righty-versus-lefty breakdown is definitely one of the biggest things, I think, that goes into it. Especially nowadays, the way coaches and the way lineups are based off platoon systems now, I think having the ratings the way they are definitely gets the fan more knowledgeable of how the game's played today when it comes to the lineups being made based off of left-right combinations.
During the season, how much time do you get to play video games?
During the season you get a lot more time than you would think — especially with how you have the ability to take your system on the road. They have portable TVs that you can bring with you and hook up. Going on the road and having to be up early the next day, I know a lot of guys like to get in the room early and wind down with either TV or most guys on my team have their system. So a lot of guys do play during the year, believe it or not.
Is Kansas City your go-to team? Do you have to fight with family and friends to get the Royals?
Yeah, that's always the team I pick whenever one of my little cousins come over and they want to play and it's head to head. But as far as when I'm by myself, I think the Road to the Show is something that I always play and I find myself playing a lot more than just head-to-head games. It's kind of like starting your career all over again and having the ability to play in the high school showcase and then see what team drafts you and go through the minor league systems. It just gives the fan who doesn't know anything about how it all starts and how guys get to the big leagues, it gives them an idea of how hard the grind is to get there.
Is there a player you like to play as when no one's looking?
This year, there's new innovations and new celebrations that go into the game. Everyone, obviously, saw the year that [Josh] Donaldson had last year and he has those cool home run celebrations that he does as soon as he hits home plate. I think that's one of the cool things that fans will like this year. Bat flips and certain celebrations when guys hit home runs play a key factor in getting the fans to lock in and enjoy the game. And I think that's one thing that this year's game has done real well. For the top home run guys, it's got a lot of their home run celebrations and what they do when they hit it and then when they touch home plate and stuff.
The conversation about bat flips and celebrations is growing all the time. Where do you come down on it? Do you think that guys should play according to the unwritten rules of the game? Or are celebrations something players should be cool about doing?
I think celebrations and stuff that's going on now, I think it represents a new era of baseball. I think guys are just showing passion for the game. I think when you have a guy that does something and looks toward his dugout and tries to get his team fired up, as a teammate or a player, you love that when a guy's doing that on your team. From an opposing team's standpoint, I think guys don't have a problem with it until a guy tries to do something to show up your team or maybe direct it to a specific player on your team. Then, I think, it's drawing a line or crossing a line. But as far bat flips or as far as any of the celebrations go, when they're trying to get your team fired up and it's not trying to show up anybody else, I think there's no problem with it.
Right. And baseball can be kind of a slow game, so for fans — and especially kids — a celebration or anything that gets them excited or more into what they're watching should be OK.
Yeah, definitely. It makes the game exciting and it makes the game have energy, like you said. Baseball is nine innings and games can get up to three, three and a half hours, and when you're late in the game there and it's the seventh or eighth inning and a guy gets a big double and fist pumps and starts yelling toward his dugout, I think as a fan of that team or as a fan of the opposing team, either way you look at it it gets you fired up and it makes you want to be glued and want to be locked into that game that much more, as opposed to a guy hitting a double in a big situation and just kind of stonefacing his teammates or just kind of standing there on second base. So I definitely think it draws more attention to the game and it definitely gets a lot more people into the game, as well.
Going into this season, what was it like for you and the team to head into the offseason and then spring training as world champions?
It was special, especially the way the season before had ended. We were a run away, 90 feet away, from our goal and the ultimate goal as a baseball player. So to just have that opportunity and to have another chance to make another run like that with a majority of the same guys on the team was special. And I think that the fact of what we showed as a team, the character we showed to rebound the next year and basically accomplish every goal that we set out to accomplish last year as far as winning a division, getting home field advantage, and working our way throughout the whole entire run in October, I just think it speaks volumes for the guys on our team and speaks volumes for our organization and the people who are running it.
How was the experience of playing in the World Series in 2015 different from 2014? Was there a different vibe in the locker room? Was it more relaxed?
Yeah, it was definitely a different vibe. I think the first year, everybody was so excited to get there and didn't know what the World Series had to offer and, basically, how everything worked during the World Series as far as the first couple of media days and just all the attention surrounding the games. I think the first year we definitely enjoyed every minute of it. We really didn't know what to expect heading in. But that second year, I think we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into. We knew the schedule and pretty much how everything worked out. I think, most of us, we definitely still enjoyed everything that came with it. But I think, at the same time, we did what we had to do and treated it more as a business trip as far as knowing what we had to get done and knowing what kind of business we had to take care of.
Heading into 2016, is prepping for this season any different than in years when you weren't champions?
No, I think the preparation is always the same. I think the outlook in this year's season is definitely a different one. Either way, a lot of teams during the regular season are going to be gunning for us. We won the American League the year before and obviously being world champions this year, we play a majority of American League teams, so they're going to be gunning for us either way. But that's one thing that makes our group so special. We welcome that challenge. And I think we realize that we're the team to beat in the American League this year, and that's the type of chip we're going to have on our shoulders when we're playing these games this year. We're going to know that we're the best team in the American League and we're the team to beat.
How do you keep that chip on your shoulder the season after you win it all and keep yourself from slipping into a post-championship slump?
I just think, we realize that we have the same majority group of guys back. What we've done the last two years, we've accomplished a lot. But, at the same time, what we can do this year and where we can put this team as far as the history of the game, I think there's so much more out there for us to get. I don't think there's been many teams to win back-to-back, or to make it to the World Series three years in a row. So I think we all realize what's out there for us to get and we realize that there's a lot more for us to accomplish as a team.
Photos: Sony (gameplay), Christian Petersen/Getty Images (Hosmer in real life, trophy)