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MLB The Show 17 finally gives us baseball’s most graceful dance

The 3-6-3 double play.

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Here it is baseball fans. We've found Atlantis. I alluded to this in my review of MLB The Show 17 last week, but at last I can provide a confirmed sighting of a 3-6-3 double play turned entirely by the AI defense.

For those who don’t watch baseball, or score a game, that’s the play in which the first baseman deliberately ignores the force out immediately at his base, instead throws down to the shortstop to force out a runner at second base, and takes the return throw to make two outs without any tag.

As (N.C. State baseball hall-of-famer) Dan Plesac rightly observes, it’s one of the hardest double plays to turn. Yet I’ve seen this play in the benighted MLB 2K13, for God’s sake. Only now has this staple of baseball defense entered Major League Baseball's current console simulation.

Last week, I saw a 3-6-3 attempted in minor league play in Road to the Show (and I participated in several in fielding drills as a first baseman) but never have I seen the game's AI complete one until last night. It's a thing of beauty. Let's watch it again.

"The 3-6-3 will be in the game," Ramone Russell, the longtime designer and public face of MLB The Show, assured Samit Sarkar and me on a phone call back in February. "The game knows what is going on now, and it allows us to do so many more things.

"[In development] we saw thousands of animations that we had but you never see, because in every play [the fielder] had to get the ball out as fast as he could," Russell elaborated. Fielding, he said, was completely rebuilt for MLB The Show 17.

In past editions, the 3-6-3 opportunity presented such a complicated set of reactions to AI fielders that they were just hardwired to expect the pitcher to race over to first and complete the back end of any double play started by the first baseman. Well, the reaction timing for a user-controlled pitcher in Road to the Show sucks, unless one wants to waste a whole bunch of training points that can be better applied to the break on a split-fingered fastball. Even then a pitcher needs a lot of speed to get to the bag.

It would drive me crazy, killing myself to get over to the bag while the first baseman stood one foot from it, hands apart in that insipid ready-up posture.

As I said in the review, claims of a completely reworked this or that is the kind of thing I hear all the time about a sports video game, where the proof is going to be anecdotal at best and borne out over a long year. Here we've harpooned the white whale.

Chris Gimenez to Jorge Polanco and back to Gimenez, to erase Matt Holliday and Chase Headley. It’s baseball’s most beautiful tango, pure grace and concealed effort.

The next level of puzzles.

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