User Interview: Mike999

Q&A with noted WhatIfSports user Mike999

Five years ago, after reading about the site briefly in the paper, Mike999 ventured to WhatIfSports.com to view an NCAA "Tournament Tracker." What he found was a site devoted to sports history, simulation, strategy and competition. Mike999 became one of WhatIfSports.com's first users.

Today, the site has over 290,000 registered users and includes professional baseball, football, basketball and hockey as well as Gridiron, Hoops and the soon to be released Clutch Racing Dynasty games. With 250 leagues and 27 championships, Mike999, who has been active on the site longer than any other user, is also still going strong. WhatIfSports.com recently contacted its oldest acitve user to discuss the evolution of the site, SimLeague baseball, Reward Points, Ted Simmons, the DH, Whiteyball, pitch counts, Bob Milacki and theme leagues.

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

Mike999

It's my pleasure.

WIS

Who is Mike999?

Mike999

I'm 51, live in Florence, KY, am getting married March 11 and sell real estate for Sibcy Cline Realtors, a local real estate company, for a living. I grew up in Illinois, about 10 miles east of St. Louis, so I've been a lifelong Cardinal and Illini fan. I went to a junior college in the St. Louis area and then moved to the Cincinnati area in 1972 and went to the University of Cincinnati. I played baseball through junior college, but then had to retire due to not being good enough to advance to any higher level.

WIS

You have been an active user for almost five years now. How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Mike999

I was reading an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about March Madness and they mentioned a Tournament Tracker that you had just made available. So I signed up for it and found the site to be very interesting. SIM baseball was just icing on the cake.

WIS

Anything to say about the site on its fifth birthday?

Mike999

It's been a great site to come to, to just relax and have some fun. I've enjoyed it immensely.

WIS

What did the site look like five years ago?

Mike999

If I remember right, it was mostly matchups. My memory's kind of fuzzy on it.

WIS

What were you like at age five?

Mike999

I sure wasn't as sophisticated as the site is, that's for sure. Probably just a typical rambunctious kid.

WIS

How has it improved for the better?

Mike999

The number of different sports you can play. SIM Live is a great feature. Also, with the Reward Points Program and credits you can win, it's really a lot more affordable.

WIS

What changes haven't you liked?

Mike999

I really can't think of any that stick out.

WIS

You have played in over 250 SimLeagues with 27 total championships, 23 Tournament of Champions appearances and one Tournament of Champions victory. Talk about your greatest WIS moment.

Mike999

Probably being down 11 games with about 30 left to play and coming back and beating one of the top owners to win the division. That team went on to win my first championship. It was seemingly a long time coming and it felt good to get the monkey off my back.

WIS

Who are your favorite players of all-time?

Mike999

Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Ted Simmons were all favorites of mine. I got to meet Lou Brock a couple of years ago and was able to talk to him about his career, which was really great.

WIS

What are your favorite teams?

Mike999

In baseball, the Cardinals, in pro football the Bengals, college basketball and football would be the University of Illinois, followed by the University of Cincinnati, and if they ever start again, in hockey it would be the Blues.

WIS

Which coaches, teams or players, past or present, do you draw on for inspiration?

Mike999

When we started playing SIM baseball, none of us knew what we were doing. After stumbling through about 15 teams, I drew upon Whitey Herzog and his Whiteyball teams and drafted a team of pure speed. That was my first playoff team.

WIS

Did you play any sports growing up?

Mike999

Growing up I played everything I could. I played baseball through junior college, basketball through high school. Also I played some football, ran some track, and played tennis (although not on the high school team). Also, I golf.

WIS

Which SimLeague or Dynasty games have you tried? Which do you prefer and why?

Mike999

Mainly, I've just played baseball. I tried some pre-season football, but didn't pursue it any further. I wouldn't mind trying Hoops Dynasty if I could find some more time.

WIS

As a fan of baseball, what are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Mike999

I think they need a real commissioner, instead of a car salesman. If they can get the steroids out of the game and clean up the gimmicks (such as the league that wins the All Star game hosts the World Series) I think it will be a much better game.

WIS

If you had the power to be commissioner, what is the first thing you would try to change?

Mike999

The first thing I'd do is get rid of World Series home field advantage being given to the All-Star game winning league. Maybe give the home field advantage to the team with the best record, but never to a Wild Card team. Or just alternate it like they used to. I'd also start the weekend World Series games earlier to give kids a chance to watch them. I'd get rid of the DH or put the DH in both leagues, just make them both the same. It's crazy that the NL really has a disadvantage in the World Series, because their teams aren't set up for DHs. They use bench players in that spot. And I don't think the argument that the AL has a disadvantage when pitchers have to hit holds water. Hardly any pitcher hits well at all.

WIS

Who is on your all-time MLB team?

Mike999

Career wise, my starting lineup would be:
3B - John McGraw
CF - Ty Cobb
LF - Ted Williams
RF - Babe Ruth
2B - Rogers Hornsby
1B - Lou Gehrig
C - Mike Piazza
SS - Honus Wagner

The rotation would be:
Walter Johnson
Christy Mathewson
Greg Maddux
Bob Gibson
Closer would be Dennis Eckersley

WIS

Having played primarily in baseball, do you prefer open or theme leagues? If theme, which types of themes are your favorite and why?

Mike999

I like both for different reasons. In the open leagues, you usually get a lot of the top owners competing, so it's usually a tough league to win. But the themes are good, because you can play different players and use different parks. I probably like the time period leagues the best. Right now, we're playing a championship league, where you must have won at least 1 championship and have at least a 5000 rating. The average rating in the league is over 27,000. It's a very competitive league.

WIS

Have you founded any theme leagues? If so, please talk about that process and any of the quirks that may come along with it.

Mike999

I've founded many theme leagues. We've got a pretty good core of players that support each other's leagues, so the leagues don't sit idle too long. One of the problems is some of the newer owners pick off the waiver wire out of theme, so usually I say no to the waiver wire in these leagues.

WIS

How has SimLeague baseball changed over time?

Mike999

Salary caps have gotten bigger, salaries have changed and the newer owners are getting better, faster. Also, there are a lot more theme leagues to pick from.

WIS

You have success with each update. With today's SimEngine, how do you approach drafting players?

Mike999

Really, I approach the draft the same as always. I look at the type of league I'm playing in, pick what stadium I think best fits it and draft players according to the stadium and salary cap.

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams?

Mike999

I like 1901 Nap Lajoie, because he's reasonably priced and always does well. Even though he's listed as an outfielder, I put 1886 King Kelly at catcher a lot; he seems to outperform most catchers. Always a high BA and OBP and really doesn't kill you on defense. I started doing that when the SIM changed to allow you to put players at other positions.

WIS

Do you have any favorite players who have greatly overachieved from any of your teams?

Mike999

I usually get very good results from '96 Rick Helling, '50 George Spencer and '88 Bob Milacki, but you have to watch their pitch counts.

WIS

Have any players disappointed you by greatly underachieving?

Mike999

'68 Dave McNally used to do great for me in 160M leagues, but after the last release he's very mediocre. Any Sandy Koufax never seems to do very well for me.

WIS

How do you go about setting your lineups and pitching rotation?

Mike999

Usually speed at the top, power in the middle and high OBP as high up in the lineup as I can get it. I usually go for a 4 man rotation, sometimes 3.

WIS

How do you approach setting tendencies and pitch counts?

Mike999

For starting pitchers, I set them at 2 (for call bullpen) and 1 (for pinch hit) and when I set pitch counts I figure on 16 pitches an inning. Doing this, you can get the innings you need out of your starting staff and you don't overuse your bullpen. I usually set my starting lineup at 1 for sacrifice bunt and set base running and base stealing at what the player's capabilities are. I tend to go on the aggressive side with those.

WIS

What do you believe is the overall biggest key to success in SimLeague baseball?

Mike999

Drafting right is the biggest key and not having to rely on the waiver wire to fix your team. You can get very bad quickly if you go to the waiver wire a lot without a plan of what you're doing.

WIS

Do other users contact you often for help via sitemail? If so, what are some of the most frequently asked questions and how do you respond?

Mike999

I get users asking me how to set up their pitching and I tell them how I do it. Also, setting up pitch counts. Sometimes, I get questions about how to play different strategies or different ballparks. Always glad to help if I can.

WIS

Having seen them all, what users have proven to be your biggest challenge?

Mike999

One of my toughest competitors is TalonKarrde1. We have some of the most amazing battles between us and it doesn't matter what salary cap. I think he probably ends up on top more than I do, to tell you the truth. 7Yankees7, elbirdo and kjaskolski, among many others, are always very tough to beat.

WIS

Which users do you respect the most?

Mike999

Definitely all the top 25 owners, but I play 7Yankees7, mojolad, a'sfan and elbirdo the most in that group. Some of the owners not in the top 25, would be TalonKarrde1 and kjaskolski (who are just outside the top 25), SmokeyJoe and bighead24. They are always tough. There are a lot of newer owners that I respect a lot too, such as Foultip, legaldh, bierkieser and I've left out a bunch of them. Sorry guys.

WIS

Which users are the most fun to have in leagues?

Mike999

Always enjoy being in leagues with TalonKarrde1, 7Yankees7, mojolad, bighead24, Gary65, Foultip, legaldh, bierkieser, carlnault, kjaskolski, a'sfan, SmokeyJoe and a lot of other ones too numerous to mention. All of these guys are really good owners and are really tough competition.

WIS

Have you ever met any other users or site staff?

Mike999

No, I haven't. But I'd like to, if our paths ever cross.

WIS

Outside of a wealth of experience, what do you believe separates you from most of these users?

Mike999

Honestly, I can't think of much of a difference. All of those guys could beat me in any given league.

WIS

What is the best advice can you give to new SimLeague baseball users who want to succeed and have fun?

Mike999

I hear a lot of new users complain that the SIM is unfair to them. They just don't know what they're doing yet. My suggestion would be, watch what the top players do. How they set up their pitching, their lineups, etc. And just have fun. If you have a question about something, ask a top player. Most of them I'm sure would be glad to help. I would say too, that they need to draft their team and see how it plays out for the whole season. You can't tell how a player's going to do in the first 15 games, so don't go to the waiver wire a lot. Use it very discretely and have a plan when you use it. A lot of the new users in 160M and up leagues get worked up because Hugh Duffy batted .440 and he's only batting .340 on their team. They don't realize that he's facing the best pitchers of all time.

WIS

What advice can you give to new WhatIfSports users in general who want to have fun and get the most out of the site?

Mike999

Play the sport that interests you the most and really learn what you're doing.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of WhatIfSports.com?

Mike999

The camaraderie with other players. I don't know anyone personally on the site, but I feel I've made a lot of friends.

WIS

What is your least favorite aspect of our WhatIfSports.com? If you could change one thing about the site, what would it be?

Mike999

Probably just the arguing back and forth you get sometimes between players who don't get along. After awhile, you want them to just sitemail each other so you don't have to keep reading all the nonsense.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of SimLeague baseball?

Mike999

Putting the teams together and seeing if they win.

WIS

Based on user feedback, SimLeague baseball has been ever-changing since its inception, what changes have you seen that you liked the most?

Mike999

I think almost every change has been a positive one. I like the new format you have come up, in regards to how it looks. It makes looking at your starting lineup and pitching very easy. I also like, that I can put a Rogers Hornsby at third, for instance, if I like. I feel like there's a lot more control. Even though I don't play SIM Live, I like that you have it. A lot of people really enjoy playing it.

WIS

What do you think should be changed about SimLeague baseball?

Mike999

One thing I think could be changed for the better would be to change that you have to draft 15 players and 10 pitchers. If you could draft who you want that would be great, such as drafting 10 starting pitchers if you want, or, 12 pitchers and 13 players. Whatever it might be. Also, if you're in a theme league, if you could lock in the parameters instead of having to put them in for each player that would be great (WIS note: both of these features will be available with the next SimLeague Baseball release March 13th.).

WIS

If you were in one of our games, which sport would you play? At which position? And, how much would you be worth?

Mike999

I'd be in SIM baseball as a shortstop. And probably priced about $750K. Good field, no hit.

User Profile

LoginID: Mike999
Name:Mike
Age:51
Location:Florence, KY
Occupation:Real Estate Agent
Favorite Sport(s):Baseball, College Football and Basketball
Favorite Team(s):Cardinals, Bengals, Fighting Illini, Blues
Favorite Sports Memory:Cardinals winning the 1964 World Series vs the Yankees
Member Since:March 12, 2000
Greatest WIS Moment:Winning my first championship.
Motto:It ain't over, till it's over.

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