The Kansas City Royals wised up on Friday and gave Mike Sweeney what he wanted. Well, at least enough of what he wanted that he signed. So Mike Sweeney is now $55 million richer, and the Royals have him locked in for five years, as long as they manage to reach .500 in either 2003 or 2004.
Personally, I wish they’d signed him to a longer deal, but it could be that the second-greatest Kansas City Royal of all time didn’t want more than five years.

To celebrate, I headed over to Sports Mogul to see if there was a new patch to fix some bugs in Baseball Mogul 2002. And I found that Baseball Mogul 2003 is out. I downloaded the demo and played around with it. The free-agency model seems to be more realistic now, and the players aren’t as rigid in their contract negotiations, which may or may not be realistic. The computer GMs offered trades, some stupid, others inspired.

The game crashed as the July 31 trading deadline approached. My Royals were in second place, thanks to a couple of shrewd acquisitions. Predictably, with one more really big stick in the lineup, Mike Sweeney and Mark Quinn hit a whole lot better. It crashed as I was wheeling and dealing, looking for a catcher with a little bit of pop in his bat and maybe a veteran starting pitcher. I’d signed Bret Saberhagen and David Cone as free agents for old times’ sake, but they had nothing left.

At any rate, for 20 bucks, why not get the full version, I figued, especially since I could plunk down the credit card, they’d ship me the retail box in mid-April, and in the meantime I could download and install a 75-meg package?

I like the new version better than the old one. And of course the old one was good enough that I once deemed it a necessity of life. The new one adds a few features, like letting you set prices for concessions (so I guess I can do a 10-cent beer night like Bill Veeck did one year in Chicago), and it adds play-by-play, which is tedious during the regular season, but great for watching games like the All-Star Game and the World Series.

What can I say? For a baseball strategy nut like me, Baseball Mogul is really hard to beat. It would be nice if it would do some more statistics, so you could do lefty/righty platoons. These days, there are managers who decide who’s playing based on whether there’s a right- or left-handed pitcher on the mound, whether it’s a day or night game, home or road game, and whether the game’s being played on turf or grass. You think I’m kidding.

The other feature I wish it had was hirable managers. The only game I’ve ever seen that had that feature was Earl Weaver Baseball, which was popular more than 10 years ago.

But even with those shortcomings, it’s still an incredibly addictive game. I haven’t found a better baseball sim yet. And despite its bad first impression, it’s less buggy than its predecessor.