MLB 2K11's Pitching Perfectionists Want It Done RightS

About two weeks ago, someone uploaded a video purporting to show the final inning of a successful perfect game in MLB 2K11 which, if legitimate, will claim a $1 million prize offered by 2K Sports. In it, the player throws nothing but high curveballs, a strategy that wouldn't get you out of the first inning of a real game, but evidently an exploit in this one.

As the community waits to see if 2K Sports will confirm it as the winner, signs point to it being rejected. But as was seen in last year's contest, the existence of a video claiming to be the winner galvanizes the game's community against it. Most comments either brand the video a fake or single out some aspect that isn't compliant with the rules.

With a million bucks on the table, it's easy to understand that no one wants someone else to win.

Not the "Great Eight," a clan of gamers who joined up over the 2K Sports forums and have pledged to back their support of one another with a cut of the loot, should any of them win. Anthony Martin, 27, an unofficial spokesman for the group, says they've informally agreed everyone gets $10,000, with the winner, of course, keeping the $930,000 left over, pre-tax.

"It's not to say people don't want the money," said Martin, who says one group member has made it 8 and 2/3rds innings, one out from perfection, "but it's also about being the one who does pitch the perfect game, and represents this group."

But it's clear that, if they don't win it, they want it done the right way, and the curveball artist wasn't pitching as much as he was abusing a flaw in the game. Martin thinks it can be disqualified just for that reason, although the rules don't specifically address that.

"We're not really excited about how the guy handled his business," he said. "We don't think it was right, but if they deem him the winner, congratulations, he did something we can't do."

As 2K Sports has vowed to award the grand prize as soon as an entry is confirmed, the time that's elapsed here may mean the entry was rejected for any of several reasons spelled out in the rules, from eligibility (in certain states, this contest is against state law) to poor video quality, to something not shown in the four-minute clip, like a mound visit, or a pause.

Martin said the first weekend of the contest, which began April 1, he and others in the "Great Eight" were playing almost nonstop, nearly 16 to 18 hours on that Saturday and Sunday. It's tailed off significantly - no one's quit work or skipped important family functions - but not necessarily for a lack of interest. Contestants are required to use a game from that day's "MLB Today" selection, which serves up the real world matchups, starting pitchers, and starting lineups. The fact is there are fewer games on Mondays and Thursdays, but every team is playing on weekends.

He's gone to obsessive lengths to get an advantage - a legal advantage, but a leg up. The game features the Inside Edge-branded scouting service, which analyzes hitters' batting tendencies, strike-zone weaknesses, and where they tend to hit the ball. Early in the season, Martin picked Oakland against Seattle, a poorly rated hitting team, took screen captures of every hitter's Inside Edge report, arranged them in Photoshop and printed them out as a reference. Others in the group have done similar things.

In between they're on the 2K Sports forums, offering support, tips, trading anecdotes or laughing about the bad luck of a recent game. "Bloop hits, little hits up the middle," Martin said. "It's easy to lose focus. You can start to lose concentration after hours of staring at the same thing. This isn't something that you can lose concentration in."

One of the group, name of Chris, retired the first 26 Arizona Diamondbacks with Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez on April 1, the contest's first day. He was up at 3 a.m., Martin said, barely believing how close he was getting. "As you get into the seventh, you really start to come alive," Martin said. "I can only compare it to a national championship game (in basketball), standing on the line to make a free throw to win the game. Do you really have what it takes?"

Chris lost the perfect bid when he gave up a bloop single to a Diamondback pinch hitter. All that work for naught, at 3 a.m.

If nothing else, they've each made seven new friends through a video game they all enjoy, and are finding a competitive pride through it, rather than simply playing games by themselves. "It's a second challenge," Martin said. "2K Sports has given us the opportunity to win this challenge, but we're trying to take it a step further to say we're better than everyone else."