Three predictions for 2007: The Cardinals won't make it back to the World Series. Barry Bonds won't break Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. And a scrappy second baseman named Lou Kesten will impress Mets scouts, but not enough to earn a Major League contract.
The baseball calendar may just be starting, but I've already plowed through the 2007 season using two different console baseball games .
I can't tell you who wins the World Series — the two games didn't agree on the champ — but I can say that Alfonso Soriano is going to have a heck of a year at Wrigley.
But which baseball game is right for you? If you have an Xbox 360 , you only have one choice, "Major League Baseball 2K7." But PlayStation owners have a tougher decision between two pretty good titles, each with various pluses and minuses. Picking a favorite really depends on what you're seeking.
— "MLB 07: The Show" (Sony, for the PlayStation 2, $39.99): The highlight of Sony's (SNE) new baseball sim is "Road to the Show," in which you create a ballplayer from scratch and then try to work your way up through the minors and into the big leagues.
You experience only the plays that your character is involved in — any time you're at bat, on base or in position to make a defensive play — and fast-forward through the rest of the game, so it's easy to play through a full season in an afternoon.
It's a fresh, addictive challenge, and it's undeniably thrilling to come up to the plate with the game on the line in the ninth inning.
The core gameplay in "MLB 07" builds on the solid foundation Sony introduced last year, mainly with tweaks to the pitching mechanics.
The graphics on the PS2 are somewhat fuzzy and generic; the PS3 version won't be out until next month, and we expect it to take better advantage of the new console's more powerful processors.
Until then, however, "MLB 07" delivers a fast-paced, realistic version of America's pastime, with "Road to the Show" serving as icing on the cake.
Three-and-a-half stars out of four.
— "Major League Baseball 2K7" (2K Sports, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 , $59.99; Xbox, PlayStation 2, $29.99): The 2K folks have been turning out good baseball games for years now, but there are still a few kinks to work out.
The major issue I have with "Baseball 2K7" is that the pitcher's mound seems too close to the plate; pitches of any speed come in so fast that it's hard to judge whether they're in the strike zone before you start your swing. Newcomers should expect a lot of flailing strikeouts before they get the hang of batting.
Beyond that problem, "2K7" remains the slickest-looking baseball title. Players actually resemble their real-life counterparts: Dontrelle Willis has that crazy leg kick, while Jim Edmonds is a daredevil in the outfield.
The developers have also revamped the game's menus, making it much easier to make trades or otherwise tinker with your team's chemistry.
But a handful of glitches and a sometimes draggy pace — it's slow even by baseball standards — keep 2K from hitting this one out of the park.
— "MVP 07 NCAA Baseball " (EA Sports, for the PlayStation 2, $29.99): If you prefer the clank of aluminum to the crack of a wooden bat, "MVP" is the game for you.
It lets you choose from more than 150 college teams and play in more bucolic settings than, say, Yankee Stadium. In essence, though, "MVP" feels like a way for EA to maintain a baseball presence while it's waiting to win back the rights to produce a major-league title.
The major innovation of "MVP 07" is its "Rock and Fire" pitching system, which requires you to use the analog stick to determine speed, location and accuracy. It's a worthwhile companion to last year's analog batting system, and it feels completely natural once you get used to it.
Fielding and base-running still feel sloppy, however, and the overall presentation is drab and uninspired.