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Royals Rumblings - News for September 8, 2017

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Hurricane-themed Rumblings

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers
Lo, Danger Ox
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert are differing levels of unavailable.

With Mike Moustakas' right knee still ailing after he aggravated it on the basepaths on Wednesday, Royals manager Ned Yost opted to give Moustakas a half-day off on Thursday, inserting him as the designated hitter against the Twins.

But Yost was unable to use backup third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert for the second straight day because Cuthbert is dealing with gallbladder issues. Yost said Cuthbert's gallbladder is not inflamed, but Cuthbert is unable to keep down food.

On Wednesday Night, Foster Griffin threw a good game in the AA playoffs. Say, what’s he doing next Monday night?

Starting Game 1 of Texas League semifinals, Royals No. 6 prospect Foster Griffin allowing two hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings as Double-A Northwest Arkansas defeated Tulsa, 3-1. The 22-year-old left-hander posted eight strikeouts against two walks in the outing while throwing 60 of his 99 pitches for strikes. The postseason performance follows a breakout 2017 campaign in which Griffin pitched to a 3.35 ERA with 141 strikeouts while logging a career-high 161 1/3 innings (28 starts) across two levels.

The Royals get a lot of mention in Matt Snyder’s “Year of the Homer” article on CBS.

Moving onto the Royals, they seem right now to be a good illustration of how homer-happy this season has gone. With two Salvador Perez home runs on Wednesday, they now have 170 on the season. That breaks the Royals franchise record of 168, previously held by the 1987 team... They have set a franchise record for home runs, yet are tied for 17th in the majors in home runs this season.

Rustin Dodd charted the Royals path to 84 wins and, potentially, wild card 2.

For now, there is little margin for error. The Royals likely need a record of 15-9 or 16-8 over their last 24 to give themselves a chance. Every loss makes the math more difficult.

SI's Tom Verducci wrote about World Series hangovers and it’s still cool to see the Royals mentioned in that context.

Clubs leverage a World Series title to the max. What used to be an off-season celebration has become a year-long celebration, with special patches on the jerseys, constant video highlights on the scoreboard and individual marketing opportunities. It’s as if the championship season never ended, but plays on a loop through the next year.

The loser has no such external influences. Losers gladly and quickly turn the page. Royals manager Ned Yost tells a great story about his spring training camp the year after losing the 2014 World Series to San Francisco. When he wanted to end routine drills, such as relays and baserunning, his players overruled him and kept going; they wanted to work harder and longer.

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan talks a bit more about stealing signs and has a fun historical story.

After a dismal start to the season, Manny Machado is back to his old young self.

Pitchers are throwing fewer sinkers.

I figured I’d better throw in a story about the giant Equifax data breach.

Before we get into the next section, here’s Vox’s cliche “what we know” article about Hurricane Irma.

I hope you’ll indulge me a bit here. Unsurprisingly, a lot of my reading lately has been about different angles of Hurricane Harvey. You may just want to skip this section and get down to the song of the day if you’ve been inundated with stories about it over the last week or two. Here are a few of the more interesting ideas and articles I’ve run across:

  • A little slice of life of what it’s like to deal with flooding, insurance, and FEMA. It’s from a Reddit user who had flooding in Baton Rogue last year and wants to help Houstonians with the lessons he learned. It really cuts to the core of what more than 200K people are dealing with. The language is NSFW but, then again, so is the situation.
  • Because the rainfall was so widespread, there were a number of articles about how Harvey’s damage was more indiscriminate than many past hurricanes. It hit rich and poor areas alike, including a former mayor of Houston, as opposed to mostly doing damage to low-lying, low-income areas. Of course, those with more means will have an easier path to rebuilding their lives.
  • It’s easy to Monday Morning QB a disaster like this and Houstonians have lived with varying levels of flooding risks for years. An interesting (and ignored) proposal from the 90s resurfaced about an idea to build a giant conduit underneath Interstate 10 to carry water away from the west Houston reservoirs at a time when I10 was about to undergo massive reconstruction. Of course, there was no funding, it never was built, and the report serves as a chilling prediction of the flooding a couple of decades later.
  • How did regional grocery chain HEB keep running through the hurricane?
  • Five Thirty Eight says It’s Time To Ditch The Concept Of ‘100-Year Floods’. TLDR: A 100 year flood means that it has a 1% chance of happening in any given year and there’s a lot of guesswork involved. So, no, having a 1000-year flood (Harvey) less than two decades after a 500-year flood (Allison) doesn’t mean we’re good for another 1500 years now.
  • There are a number of stories talking about hurricane donations: what to give and what not to give. Yes, cash is best. Time and energy for cleanup helps a lot, too. However, you can actually do more harm than good. People want to help*, but giving impractical clothes, worn clothes, or untimely goods divert resources away from more efficient efforts.
    *There have also been a couple of articles about how people want to be short-term heroes not long-term caregivers after a natural disaster and the latter are much more important. However, I can’t find any at the moment.
  • Speaking of crazy tropical storms, let’s touch on a couple of “forgotten” storms that hit the Texas coast. In the Harvey vein, did you know about 1979’s Tropical Storm Claudette? It wasn’t even a hurricane but it dropped 43 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. That was in Alvin, Nolan Ryan’s hometown, and it’s only a little bit south of Houston. Check out this rainfall map.
  • Are violent windstorms like Irma are more your speed? How about the next year’s Hurricane Allen? It still holds a number of records like the highest Atlantic Basin sustained winds (190 mph), most intense August storm, longest time of any hurricane as a category 5 (though there’s a dispute about this versus a 1932 hurricane), and spawned the "costliest tropical cyclone-spawned tornado in recorded history". It hit category 5 three different times and is still in the top 10 for lowest pressure ever. It did huge damage and killed over 200 people in the Caribbean. However, the US was comparatively lucky. That's not to say it wasn't damaging, as it did over $630M ($2B+ in modern dollars) and killed 6. However, it hit a dry patch just before making landfall and weakened so it only made landfall as a category 3. It even ended the Heat Wave of 1980.

{/end Harvey talk}

In my last Rumblings, I talked a bit about Capcom, and their beginnings back in the 8-bit era. Today, we’re going to look at something a bit more modern, a franchise that prints money for Capcom now. It’s in the top 50 best-selling franchises of all time with over 40M copies sold and many gamers have never heard of it.

I have to admit I was a bit asleep at the wheel about the Monster Hunter series as I wasn’t aware of the first couple of games. However, it seems I wasn’t alone in the western video game audience. In fact, no Monster Hunter game has sold more than 720K copies in the US. However, they are hugely popular in Japan with a pair of PSP entries selling more than 4M copies! Yes, the PSP. Only 4 games on the PSP sold more than 1M copies in Japan. All of them had "Monster Hunter" in the title. The top 4 games globally for the PSP? GTA: Liberty City Stories, MH Freedom Unite, GTA: Vice City Stories, and MH Freedom 3.

For the uninitiated, no, it’s not a Pokemon clone. It’s actually a really souped up version of the Diablo-esque action RPG gameplay loop: hunt monsters to get better gear to hunt better monsters to get better gear to... you get the idea. After a few simple tutorials and fetch quests, you're thrown into the core gameplay: go to an area, defeat a large monster, and then hope the random number generator gives you the loot you need from the monster you beat. Each monster is akin to a boss fight in another game. The creatures are unique and require different strategies to beat them. In the best cases, you fight a monster that has one set of moves, then one that has another set of moves, and then one that has both sets. That way, you’ve incrementally been training for the challenge. There are a number of different weapon types and those all play differently from tank (sort of) to support fighter to ranged fighter. It's quite addictive and fun to play online with others.

However, there are some real weaknesses in the games, too. The story and characters are pretty much nonexistent. Some parts of the interface are good and intuitive while others feel half-baked. The learning curve is really steep and the information curve is even moreso - you're really expected to look up most of the information online. There are some points in the game where difficulty ramps up substantially. You have to chose between farming the previous easy areas for equipment upgrades or battle the problem monster repeatedly, getting better through iterative improvement. Both burn through a lot of time and in-game resources.

I almost quit the game about 20 hours in, but forced myself to play another 20+ hours to get past an early learning curve. Eventually, I put in more than 200 hours. My experience was uneven, much like the game itself: sometimes I'd catch on with a fun group online and hunt way-too-long into the night. Other times, I'd ask myself why I was still playing. It’s fairly easy to see the aspects that appeal as it a million seller to one audience and the make it impenetrable to another.

The soundtrack mirrors the quality of the boss monsters: well done and varied. Crazy monkey or insect-like creatures get tracks that sound like the jungle, a quasi-shark gets an icy Jaws-inspired theme, the song of the part-tiger/part-dragon Tigrex sounds like he is stalking his prey, and soaring dragons get majestic melodies (Gore Magala/Shagaru Magala). I went with one of my favorites, “Sparkling Blue Light”, which belongs to the Zinogre. The monster is a quick lightning wolf (dragon, because almost all of them are something crossed with a dragon). So, of course, it gets a fast, driving tune.