At the end of July 2014, emergency repairs initiated by Strike-O-Matic’s internal systems revealed the terrible truth of his mission from the future. He had not been sent back in time to help the Kansas City Royals get to the World Series. In fact, he had been sent back to prevent Kansas City from taking the pennant. This compelled Pat Burrell into taking desperate measures, making dramatic changes to the roster. They wanted the team to collapse in 2014, but without ruining the team’s public image or hopes for future seasons.
With this in mind, Burrell attempted to recruit the services of blogger Dave Cameron, but accidentally ended up retaining the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron. It was a mistake anyone could make, but particularly likely when the person put in charge of the deal was Eric Hosmer.
With David Cameron’s help, Pat Burrell retooled the team, trading a number of significant pieces from the ML roster. But more importantly, the team would be handicapped by some rather lineup decisions suggested by PM David Cameron after reading the work of blogger Dave Cameron. The team now looked something like this:
The Royals had some work–or lack therof–to do if they were going to miss the 2014 playoffs. They entered August with an 8.5 game lead in the AL Central. Blowing that lead and staying out of the two wildcard spots wouldn’t be easy. But with Jesus Montero catching, Bartolo Colon closing, and Miguel Sano at 2b for some reason…anything was possible.
August didn’t start out as Pat Burrell hoped. The first series for the new-bad-look Royals was against the Oakland A’s. Like their 2014-Prime counterpart, the A’s went into a swoon as soon as the trade deadline passed and the Royals were able to take the series 2-1. They even gained a game in the standings over the Cleveland Indians.
Next up were the Diamondbacks. Arizona took the first two games of the series, finally giving Burrell and the Royals the losing streak they so desperately needed. But that wasn’t enough. Burrell wanted the team to be swept and, hopefully, knocked into a downward spiral that, depressing as it might be, would save the world.
Strike-O-Matic was scheduled to pitch the last game of the series, but he had a worthy opponent on the other side of the field.
Dubya Bush was unique amongst the robot masters. In the early days of the transition from human players to robot players, most of the AI routines were based off of the playing style of retired human players. However, the pool of players willing to become immortal scabs and undermine the labor power of their successors was limited. MLB had to go elsewhere for AI routines to install in their robots.
As soon as MLB developed the technology to transfer the human mind into a mechanical body, other companies quickly licensed the technology for reasons both noble and nefarious. On one hand, the consciousness of various great scientists and thinkers were preserved so they could continue their work. On the other hand, Larry the Cable Guy was uploaded into LA-RRY the Cable Robot and continued his comedy stylings even into the post-apocalyptic hellhole of 2099.
One of the first orders of business was to preserve the minds of former United States Presidents. This wasn’t because anyone thought that the world really needed to keep them alive. It was merely a matter of efficiently using space. Since 1980, all presidential libraries had been equipped with a secret room to house a computer containing the consciousnesses of its patron, just in case the technology happened to be invented. Since it would be a shame for these secret rooms to wasted, the US Government contracted with MLB to begin safely archiving presidential minds.
The folks in charge of the presidential libraries failed to read the fine print on the contract and, when MLB came calling to use the mind of George W. Bush in a robotic baseball player, it was far too late to say no.
Dubya Bush was a submarine pitcher who, fittingly, threw from the extreme right. Of all the robot masters sent back to 2014, he struggled the most facing human opposition. In 2099, he’d been used in an extreme platoon role. He was a decent hitter as well as a pitcher, so whenever a left-handed batter stepped to the plate he would swap with another hitter/pitcher who threw lefty and played right field. These weird platoons were one of the few innovations that made robot baseball better than real baseball. Forcing him to face lefty pitching with his extreme right tendencies revealed some vulnerabilities in his repertoire.
As the season wore on, Dubya failed to adjust. His programming guaranteed that he would respond to adversity by doubling down and repeating the same mistakes. However, he still threw near 100 mph, could still devastate right-handed hitters with his confusing delivery, and was bolstered by the depressed offense of the 2014 season. Coming into the game against the Royals, he had a 3.50 ERA and a winning record.
The Royals went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning. A couple of fluke hits, including a triple by Paul Goldschmidt(!) in the bottom of the frame gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead, and it seemed as if everything was going to plan. That didn’t mean that the Royals and Strike-O-Matic couldn’t pursue some personal goals, however, and this happened during the fourth at bat of the game:
Riding high off of Strike-O’s milestone, the Royals put a man on in the top of the second inning. The next batter was Miguel Sano, one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He was a couple years away from the Major Leagues, but that didn’t stop David Cameron and Pat Burrell from promoting him and installing him at second base, which was hardly his natural position. Sano was a right handed hitter, and probably could have been fooled with a series of breaking pitches from the deceptive Bush. But we’re still talking about the guy who decided that Iraq should be invaded and then admitted he was the decider. So he threw a fastball.
Just like that, the game was tied 2-2.
To his credit, Bush recovered for a couple of innings. After the Sano HR, Bush settled down and controlled the Royals, even handling their left handed batters with ease.
In the bottom of the third inning, Miguel Sano proved that starting a completely green rookie can both give an advantage and take it away. Just when it looked like the game might settle back down into the pitchers’ duel it should have been, a softly-hit ground ball turned into this:
The error led to a three run inning and a 5-2 lead for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Once again, for a moment, it appeared as if everything was going as planned for the new-look KC Royals. But Pat Burrell and David Cameron had not crippled the team enough to prevent them from mounting a comeback. The lefthanded hitters in the lineup figured out Bush’s mechanics and timed him just right. They quickly tied the game, and in the top of the fourth inning, the Royals put the lead runner on third base with one out.
No one thought the Royals would really score the runner, though, because this was a National League ballpark and that meant that the pitcher, Strke-O-Matic had to bat. Strike-O stepped to the plate with the potential lead run at third base. Strike-O-Matic, a pitching machine, had no business at the plate. There was a reason he never considered joining a National League team. And yet:
That wast he last run the Royals needed to take the game. Strike-O-Matic would finally settle down, staying in the game two more innings and handing the game over to the effective relievers remaining in the bullpen. Bush would be replaced by Barry Zito, who had thrived in a long relief role this season for the Diamondbacks, but it was too late. The Royals pitchers wouldn’t allow another run, and Strike-O-Matic would be credited with the game winning RBI.
This should have been a moment to celebrate: Strike-O-Matic’s first career hit was a big one. But with the future of the world on the line, the Kansas City Royals needed to stop having moments to celebrate. They opened August 3-3 and .500 ball probably wasn’t enough to knock them out of the playoffs. Had Pat Burrell and David Cameron done enough?