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Royals Rumblings - News for March 23, 2018

Opening Day is next week!

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It has a lot of blue? That’s all I have to link this to the Royals
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The baseball news floodgates have opened as news outlets are getting into the best shape of their lives for the baseball season.

This week at HOSMER REVIEW, the KCStar’s Vahe Gregorian explains “Why not over-extending for Eric Hosmer will help the Royals now and later”.

His place in the Royals’ ascension from the ashes to World Series champion is commemorated in general manager Dayton Moore’s home, where a framed and dirt-splotched No. 35 jersey from Hosmer’s 2011 major-league debut marks the pivot between gearing for the future and engaging it that the Royals called “Operation Flip The Switch.”

Now it’s tempting to view Hosmer’s departure for San Diego as something like “Operation Dim The Lights.” But failing to secure the one player among the core four of free agents who the Royals most coveted as a stabilizing link to their future was a blessing in disguise.

Gregorian also writes about Ned Yost being what the transitioning Royals need:

Between a widely anticipated Royals plummet as they transition into rebuild mode and his own plunge into a near-death experience in November, the offseason might have been a tempting farewell phase for manager Ned Yost.

New KCStar Royals beat writer Maria Torres writes about Billy Burns’s work with Rusty Kuntz:

For Burns, it’s a renewed focus on footwork that’s improved his game most. Repositioning his feet at a 45-degree angle from the first-base bag keeps his left knee pointed toward second instead of toward the shortstop. It makes it less likely for him to pop out of his stance, helping him to keep the load in his thighs before he breaks off the base.

Rounding out the Star’s baseball coverage, Pete Grathoff posted a trio of lighter stories about the team:

He did a “Where are they now” with the 9 former Top 100 prospects from the BFSITHOW

He noted that BP’s win total for the Royals actually went down 1 win after their mini free agent spending spree:

Since then, the Royals have signed third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Lucas Duda, outfielder Jon Jay and relief pitcher Justin Grimm to major-league contracts. Curious as to how these moves affected the Royals’ PECOTA projection, I took a gander at Baseball Prospectus’ standings, which are updated daily, and saw the Royals are now expected to win 65 games and finish behind the rebuilding Tigers and White Sox.

Finally, he looks at some Royals-related food promotions for this year. He starts it off with a mention that will warm the cockles (or maybe that’s just a clogged artery) of those who remember the mid-00s Royals:

Royals fans of a certain age can remember a time when they could get a dozen free Krispy Kreme doughnuts when the team had 12 hits in a game at Kauffman Stadium.

Fangraphs’s Rian Watt has been going through positional power rankings. For example, shortstop was posted Wednesday. Spoiler: The Royals were closer to the bottom of the list than the top.

I don’t mean to be unnecessarily harsh about Escobar. He could definitely outlift me and beat me in a 50-yard dash he started at the 100-yard mark. But he really can’t hit compared to most of his major-league peers, and there’s no reason to think that he’ll start to hit now. When his contract is up at the end of the season, the Royals would be well served to start looking elsewhere at shortstop.

In Wednesday’s Spring Training game, Salvy was hit by a pitch and “jokingly charged the mound”.

For generic national stories, the AP ran a Royals preview yesterday that was picked up by a number of outlets like USA Today:

Either way, there is reason for optimism at Kauffman Stadium that was probably absent at the end of last season, when the Royals slumped in the second half and missed the playoffs. The fear that manager Ned Yost’s club would revert to the 100-loss teams that became standard for so many years has been replaced by the belief that, even if a rebuild is due, it may not be too painful.

The Yahoo staff published their AL Central preview. Below is their “how they can win” for the Royals:

Kansas City Royals: The departures of Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer don’t hurt that much, because Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler jump into the re-vamped Royals’ core. Not only that, but Alex Gordon turns back the clock to post a vintage slash line. Danny Duffy stays healthy and reaches the 200 inning mark. Jake Junis goes from a guy you’ve never heard of to a guy who is surprisingly decent when pitching against your favorite team.

CBS’s Mike Axisa picked up the Alex-Gordon-to-the-minors story and helped dispel those rumors:

That didn’t stop Yost’s comments from getting misinterpreted on social media as Gordon going to the actual minor leagues come Opening Day. I can understand the confusion -- how many fans know how minor-league camp works? -- but no, that’s not what Yost meant. He’ll go to minor-league spring training for a bunch of at-bats, if necessary. He won’t go to Triple-A in April or something like that.

KOK finishes up their trio of minor league interviews with Nicky Lopez. Earlier this week, they talked to Chase Vallot and Ryan O’Hearn.

Q: Many Royals infield prospects see playing time at more than one position. Has anyone talked to you about moving to second base in the future?

A: “For the future, my position, whether it is shortstop or second base is unknown. I have played a lot of shortstop since I have gotten drafted, but when I got moved up to AA, I began to play more second base. No one has really talked to me about what I might be playing in the future, but I just want to play, so I really don’t mind what position I play. As long as I am on the field.”

KCKingdom’s Leigh Oleszczak looks at what Clay Buchholz can bring to the Royals.

Royals Blue’s Zach Hodson makes his predictions for the 2018 Royals “Infield Experience”.

The omnibus spending bill worming its way through Congress includes a provision to exempt minor league players from minimum wage laws. Owners don’t have to worry about overtime and can pay the players at little as $13,200 per year “irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities”.

Last, but certainly not least, BPKC’s Darin Watson continues his march through the “50 Greatest Moments in Royals History” with #10-6. As has been the case the last couple of times, these are all from October, a mix of 1980, 1985, and 2015.

As we bid adieu to The Best of Royals Review (until the offseason), we leave you with one of my favorite FanPosts: I Quit As A Royals Fan (Mad Lib).

Porcus’s brilliant Mad Lib may help you cope with the upcoming season (or quit the team altogether). Some of the commenters beautifully built upon his post, such as Jon Morse’s brilliant “replace Farnsworth” “with a pitching machine”.

This Friday’s Rumblings is a giant pile of bad timing. By next Friday, the Royals will already have played Opening Day and we’ll all be overreacting. Similarly, I’m going to dig into Ready Player One a bit early because the movie will be released next Thursday. It looks like we’ve already discussed it before at least once (probably more but, lol, SB Nation search engine). However, we might as well hit it one more time before the movie comes out.

As I only recently “read” the audiobook, it’s interesting watching how the attitude has gone from one of great praise (AV Club, NPR) to one of derision (The Ringer, AV Club again, whoever The Outline is) in a few short years.

The book certainly has significant plusses and minuses. It’s about as page turner-y a book as I can remember reading. My wife and I listened to it on our commute and there were a number of days when we both wanted to get into the car as soon as possible to see how things turn out. The dialog feels mostly natural, which makes sense as author Ernest Cline started with screenplays.

Conversely, the prose isn’t strong (and in some parts, laughably bad) and the dramatic plotting is uneven. The tension ramps up quickly and drops off suddenly as he struggles to balance the drama in the real world versus in the virtual world. He burns through action movie plot after action movie plot in a way I haven’t seen since the first season of 24. However, he always has another one ready. There are other problematic aspects like how our main male character deals with the main female character and some laughably bad stereotypes (both gender and ethnicity). But, frankly, most future action movie scripts bestselling books have some measure of this (all of Dan Brown’s female characters, for instance).

I think the two biggest complaints beyond those are more existential in nature and get at the core of the book. First, many argue that the book is just a giant pile of pop culture references that monetize nostalgia. I think that’s a bit unfair as I feel the nostalgia hangs off the plot tree rather than the other way around. Is the plot somewhat generic? Yes. But it feels unique in the way it uses the 80s pop culture to help drive the plot. To me, it’s not just nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake* . And this defense is coming from someone whose age isn’t exactly in the book’s wheelhouse: I’m a few years too young for the core audience so many of the pop culture references whistled right past me or did not resonate.

*Without having read it, I don’t want to be too harsh. But it really sounds like his second book completely rips off The Last Starfighter and Ender’s Game but justifies the wholesale theft by winking at the audience and acknowledging that’s exactly what it’s doing. That seems a bit more problematic.

The second aspect I have a bit harder time with. The book basically exists as Cline’s fantasy answer to “if I could build a perfect world that idealized 18 year old me could succeed in, what would it look like?” So many of the plotting and character design decisions were transparently made to answer the question of “how can we construct a situation that the main character can win”. I mean, most books start with a core premise and work backwards, but this is the most blatantly self-serving and egotistical core book theme I’ve ever seen. Even the aforementioned Dan Brown is trying to share pop science with his readers.

As for the movie, the previews make it appear as if Spielberg kept the nostalgia porn aspect of the book alive but didn’t follow the plot to the letter. This was necessary as, like almost any book, large parts of it would be boring or unfilmable. This has fans of the book up in arms. Others are just put off by the premise or look of the movie. Personally, it would be nice to see Spielberg get back to his 80s prime. I can’t think of a good 80s time capsule movie since the turn of the millennium so that would be welcome, too. I’ll probably go out and see it at some point but expectations are not really high.

One of the challenges in Ready Player One involves the main character playing a “perfect game” of Pac-Man.

If you have reflexes like I do and can’t get past level 5ish on a good day, then you might think the game goes on forever. However, that’s not true: The game essentially breaks at level 256 and that’s all the further you can go as a player. The last level is a glitchy and half-garbled end of the game. It looks quite interesting if you’ve never seen it before (about 10 seconds into the next video).

Below is a thorough (albeit somewhat dry) explanation of what happens when you reach the final playable level of Pac-Man and how and why it breaks:

For the music today, we’re going to cheat and steal from Super Smash Bros (WiiU). It has a great Pac-Man compilation as part of its soundtrack: