But getting back to our own contest, Joe and I began the Pack Wars battle by laying down some much-needed ground rules. If you're interested in playing Pack Wars with a friend, you can refer to these guidelines or come up with your own. For our game, each player received an equal number of packs from the 24-pack box, meaning our contest consisted of 12 rounds.
Here's what we came up with:
The first-round winner would be decided by the MLB player showing the highest career batting average on his card back. With 16 cards between us, we had some reading to do. After scanning the career stats of each player, Joe prevailed with -- now get this -- current Cubs utility outfielder Freddie Bynum and a .286 batting average. My best player was well-traveled backstop Scott Hatteberg (now with the Reds) who had a .268 average. Granted, Hatteberg had 11 MLB seasons and 1,023 games under his belt compared to Bynum's paltry seven games with the Athletics last season (he went 2-for-7 in '05), but a rule is a rule. We said highest career batting average and Bynum had the better number. Joe walked away with all 16 cards from Round 1.
Round 2 would be decided by career home runs. After cracking our packs and scanning the career totals for each player, Joe emerged the winner again. His best slugger was 15-year veteran Vinny Castilla with 315 dingers. My best long-ball hitter: catcher Danny Ardoin, recently of the Rockies, with seven home runs over three part-time seasons. Ouch. No contest.
Maybe Round 3 would turn the tide for me. The category was most doubles in a career. Maybe Mike Lowell was hiding inside my pack? There was only one way to find out. But, alas, Round 3 wasn't for me either. I even got excited for a moment when I saw Cubbies outfielder Jacques Jones (189 doubles). But after I made my announcement, I looked across my desk to see Joe grinning. He beat me again; this time it was with current Nationals slugger Alfonso Soriano (199 doubles). Joe's stack of cards was only getting higher: 48 cards to zero. Double ouch!
Surely my luck would take a turn for the better in Round 4? Think again. With our qualifier this time being career runs scored, I was looking for any card back with a decent number of seasons showing. Texas Rangers outfielder Adrian Brown had eight years and 160 runs scored to his credit. But even that wasn't enough, as Joe edged me with Cardinals outfielder Larry Bigbie: 162 runs scored. Talk about getting one's clock cleaned. I felt like a punch-drunk prize fighter in the 12th round. I was barely standing. In fact, I was sitting. And we were only in the fourth round! Joe's pile had grown to 64 cards and I was just scrambling to save my dignity. Something had to go my way -- and soon.
And just then, something did. The category was career stolen bases. I pulled Dodgers outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. with 102 career thefts over nine big-league seasons. Joe's closest player was nowhere to be found. In fact, inside his eight-card pack, he had not a single player with even one career stolen base. I won! I actually earned a victory and eagerly scooped up the 16 cards from Round 5. Losing 64 to 16 is nothing to write home about, but at least it was a start.
Maybe the MoJo would keep going in Round 6. Career triples was the qualifier and Joe, as luck would have it, had plenty of them. He had two players -- two catchers, in fact -- with six triples apiece: Paul Lo Duca of the Mets and Milwaukee's Chad Moeller. My closest guy was Eric Bruntlett, a utility shortstop with the Astros, who's hit two triples over three seasons. Leading five rounds to one, Joe was starting to get cocky. And I really couldn't blame him. I was just glad I still had my desk.
Again, I thought to myself, something's gotta happen here. Something has to go my way. And just then, something did. In walked "Lady Luck," in the form of Liz Duffy, a co-worker who specializes in print catalogs. She asked what we were doing and we told her: "Playing Pack Wars." After we gave her a quick description of the game, she stood and watched Round 7. My luck would change all right, albeit not immediately.
Having played out the majority of offensive categories, we settled on career wins for Round 7. I pulled nine-game winner Kameron Loe, a 6-foot-7 right-hander with the Rangers, while Joe showed Chad Bradford, a 23-game-winning right-handed submariner currently hurling for the Mets. Leading six rounds to one -- and 96 cards to my 16 -- Joe pretty much locked up our battle in short order. Or had he? We still had five rounds to go, so anything was possible.
With Liz standing by, Round 8 commenced with us searching for the pitcher with the most career strikeouts. Was Clemens anywhere to be found? What about Curt Schilling? That's when the Baseball Gods smiled upon me. From my foil pack, out popped Blue Jays southpaw Scott Schoeneweis and his 437 career K's through last season. Surely this was enough to win. Joe scoured his cards once, twice, three times, and then laid down ChiSox right-hander Cliff Politte: 327 K's over eight seasons. It wasn't enough. I won. I was climbing back. The score was 96 to 32 with eight rounds in the book.
Since I had just won a round, I asked Liz to stay right where she was. She obliged as Joe and I went back to work. Since we had used plenty of on-field statistics through the first eight rounds, we decided to go for broke with Round 9. The category would be the tallest player in either pack. Why couldn't I pull Kameron Loe out now? Was the Big Unit lurking anywhere in the vicinity? I crossed my toes and hoped for the best. I pulled Mark Redman, the Royals' 6-foot-5 lefty, while Joe showed four players standing 6-foot-3 -- but no one taller than Redman. I won again.
Ballplayers don't live on sunflower seeds alone, you know? Round 10 would be decided by the big leaguer with the biggest waistline. As we rifled through our respective foil packs, we laughed at who would emerge as "the winner." And perhaps thanks to Liz's presence, I won again. With 220 beefy pounds coming from Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, I managed to squeeze by Joe's heaviest player, 210-pound pitcher Guillermo Mota of the Indians. With two rounds to go, Joe's lead had dwindled to 6-4. I still had a chance to pull out a tie.
In a category where I should have cleaned up -- I'm 5-foot-6 and Joe's 6-foot-2 -- I did just that. I happily discovered 5-foot-8 second baseman Aaron Miles of the Cardinals inside my pack, while Joe could only muster Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun, who measured in at a towering 5-feet-10. I narrowed the gap to 6-5 with one round to go. My office was buzzing. More co-workers came by to see what was happening.
With Liz patiently standing in place, the category deciding this competition would come down to the oldest player in either pack. And while my 44 years on earth beat out Joe's 38, his pack yielded the oldest player: Reds reliever David Weathers, born Sept. 25, 1969. The best I could do was Giants catcher Todd Greene, born May 8, 1971. Joe beat me by two years and two rounds, 7-5.
And while I didn't exactly clean up in this particular battle of Pack Wars, I didn't lose my shirt either. And my desk remains intact.