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Royals Rumblings - News for November 1, 2019

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Happy Hosmer’s Mad Dash Day!

World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Five
Four years ago today
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Obviously, the big news of the day was the hiring of Mike Matheny as the next manager of the Royals. We already had one thread about the hire itself and another about his press conference. Max has a post queued up for later today with reactions to the hire so most of the links from the usual suspects are in there.

Brace yourself, but one of the parties didn’t pick up a mutual option:

Over at Royals Farm Report, Drew Osborne fired up the hot stove talking about what’s coming this offseason.

Dozier, Mondesi, Soler, Salvy, and Whit seem to be entrenched and capable of leading an offense to the promised land. Now we just have to get the right fit of players around them. Adjusting to the majors takes some time for guys and I wouldn’t be surprised to see several of Lopez, O’Hearn, Starling, McBroom, and Phillips become a more sure thing next year. Those who don’t will probably move on as the organization keeps working to find the right pieces.

Sean Thornton does his once-a-month post over at Bleeding Royal Blue, writing about Matheny and October baseball.

For the rest of the Royals news, we have Fansided:

Speaking of which...

I know it’s November 1st, but we’re going to pretend it’s still October for this part of Rumblings. We’re going to finish up this year’s series of “underrated” Royals wins. In the 2015 World Series, the Royals won the epic game 1 and Cueto’s game 2 masterpiece. The Mets would win Syndergaard’s “message” game 3 to get back into the series and set the stage for Game 4.

The Mets held a slim lead most of the game but then the 8th happened. I’m going to let Rany set this up:

But it’s not simply that the Royals wouldn’t have won Game 1 of the World Series without Gordon’s home run. It’s that his home run completely changed the course of the rest of the series as well. The Royals won Game 2 handily, 7-1, but the Mets won Game 3 handily, 9-3. But for some strange reason, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to go to Familia to pitch the 9th in Game 3, despite his team leading by six runs, and despite the fact that Game 3 is the only game in the Series in which you’re scheduled to play the next two days as well... If Familia pitched a meaningless inning in Game 3 of the World Series because he gave up a home run to Gordon in Game 1 – then think of the repercussions: Collins didn’t go to Familia to start the 8th inning in Game 4, when the Mets were leading by just one run.

-Rany Jazayerli

Clippard got an out but then walked twoand was pulled for Familia. He induced a ground ball that would have ended the inning but it went under Murphy’s glove and the Royals tied the game. They’d tack on two runs in the next two ABs and set up the Game 5 win.

Here’s the Game thread: World Series Game Four Thread: The Royals of Kansas City versus the Mets of New York. Also: (Over1) (Over2) (Recap). I’m particularly partial to this comment.

Today’s MLB section is just all cleanup from the World Series.

TV Ratings were not great for the World Series. It was the third lowest in history.

The Nats parade will be Saturday. I thought that in 2015, there was mention of a rule that it had to be 48 hours after the final game. Guess not.

I enjoyed this article by Matt Snyder, chronicling all the Nationals veterans who had never won a ring.

With tears in his eyes, Zimmerman succinctly summed up how his career lead to this moment.

”I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Well said, Mr. National.

Remember the 2014 Tigers (aka the team I was really happy the Orioles beat because that buzzsaw would have cut through the Royals)? All 5 starters in their rotation have now won a World Series.

This article lists all the artifacts from the World Series going to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Astros losing Game 7 cost Mattress Mack $13 million in bets. However, this was part of a hedge against a promotion he’s run the last couple of years where he refunds customers for their furniture of the Astros win the World Series.

Sadly, as this Tony Wolfe article as Fangraphs says in its title “A Defining Moment Slips Away From Zack Greinke”.

It was fitting that this is the way Greinke would dominate in this setting. Once able to average over 94 mph with his fastball and the former major-league leader in K/9 back in 2011, it’s well-documented that he is a different pitcher these days. His average fastball velocity dipped below 90 mph for a second straight season this year, and 37 of the 61 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title this year posted a better K/9 than his 8.07. And yet, he posted his best ERA (2.93) and FIP (3.22) since 2015, and his highest WAR total (5.4) since 2009. Armed with a broad array of off-speed and breaking pitches — some of which feel like they’ll never reach home plate — he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball, and in Game 7 of the World Series, the whole world got to see why.

Also at Fangraphs, Craig Edwards examines the decision making during the fateful 7th inning of Game 7.

When the seventh inning began, the Astros’ chances of winning the World Series looked good. With a rolling Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole available out of the bullpen, and closer Roberto Osuna fresh, the Astros had a clear path to getting the final nine outs and celebrating a title for the second time in three seasons. It didn’t work out that way. The Nationals rallied, the Astros were defeated, and A.J. Hinch’s decision making merits some scrutiny. Bad outcomes can cause us to believe the decisions that led to those outcomes were poor, when that isn’t always the case. Let’s take a look.

Finally, Gerrit Cole wears a Boras Corp hat in postgame and says a farewell to Houston. Suffice to say, I think he’s going to get paid.

So, uh, Deadspin. Their turmoil was mentioned in Tuesday’s Rumblings. But I think it’s come to a head in the last day-ish so let’s see if I got this straight.

Here’s the story, as I understand it.

  • Billionaire Peter Thiel helps Hulk Hogan sue Gawker for releasing his sex tape. This is either revenge for being outed by the publication, settling a personal grudge, or some other reason like a crazy libertarian taking a swipe at one of the few remaining places with a working union. That’s a pretty crazy place to start, right?
  • Gawker and its associated properties are bought up for pennies on the dollar by Univision and languish for a few years before they spin it off to a private equity firm for even cheaper. I think we can all guess how this turns out. Some people are fired/resign.

”The managing partners—all of them men, white, and members of the one percent—agreed to buy this company at a steep discount, and to bring in another white male one percenter as co-owner and CEO”

  • Obviously, this doesn’t go over well with a staff that’s known as irreverent. Naturally, they take to their publication to report to the public on what’s happening with their company. Again, some people are fired/resign.
  • This week, they leaked an internal memo that told them to “stick to sports”. The current CEO fired an editor and most of the writers have resigned.

Farewell to one of the most unique voices in the business.

Gawker Media is dead, of course. But it’s not dead because it failed; it’s dead because it was murdered by a vindictive billionaire and there existed no legal infrastructure to protect it. When Gawker was murdered in a terrifying blow to freedom of the press, a shocking number of other journalists said the site deserved it: They should have had more decorum, should have been less rude, should have placated the right people instead of making fun of them. What those journalists didn’t say, and what they still don’t say, was that Gawker made journalism better through inspiring new publications and through pushing the legacy ones to be more interesting. They don’t say that Gawker unionizing made conditions better across the industry. And they don’t say that the company’s websites were consistently profitable and beloved by readers, that the business model—publish stories that people wanted to read, supported by advertising—worked exactly as it was intended to.

I’ve been doing this Rumblings thing for, looks at posting history, going on 3 years now, and, well, astute observers will recognize that I’m not very good with this music thing. My music tastes are pretty limited to 80s arena rock and 90s alternative rock. I have some appreciation for some older rock and maybe the cream of the crop for a couple of other genres but I live in a pretty narrow band of the musical spectrum. So, unless you wanted a Fridays to just be a rotation of Van Halen, Metallica, AC/DC, popular grunge bands of the early 90s, Weird Al, or a handful of other artists - well, that’s how we end up with video game Fridays.

As we’ve reached the end of the baseball season, we often lack for subjects to talk about. So, rather than do my usual video game music thing, I’m going to combine it with a writing prompt. And one of the surest ways to get conversation going on the internet is to talk about music. It gives everyone a chance to A) Find people who like similar music and discover new bands from like-minded fans, B) Tell other people their music sucks, and/or C) Let hipsters be hipsters.

So, I picked up NBA2K19 for the Nintendo Switch because, well, it went on sale for $3. I’m sure the basketball engine is the best on the Switch because, well, there’s not a lot of competition. But I haven’t played a minute of actual basketball as I’ve spent all my time doing the whole front office thing and simming my way through seasons to find holes in the front office algorithms. That’s what everyone does, right? ...right?

So, from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty easy to build a mediocre team because there are always a number of teams, especially early on, willing to trade 1st round picks for scrubs you picked up off the scrap heap for the league minimum. And this happens even at the highest difficulty settings. Not sure why that is. Eventually, you can pyramid your way to better players (trade 2 decent for 1 good, 2 good for 1 very good, etc), though those at the top of the stack are mostly untouchable. The computer has a couple of other weaknesses in that it poorly judges future potential of players, can’t manage the cap well, and is way too willing to deal players from a position of strength (i.e. if they have 2 good PFs, they’ll practically give the slightly weaker one away).

It makes me wish for a good “fog of war” algorithm in franchise mode where you don’t know how good your scouts and coaches are - you have to determine that by results. You don’t know who is a good scout or a bad one unless you look at what the team has done in the past. Similarly, a bad scout will give you bad scouting information. That player who is really an “85 overall” looks like somewhere between 82-88 for a good scout, 80-90 for a decent one, and 75-95 for a bad one. Similarly, there shouldn’t be any overall rating like “82 overall” unless you personally create an algorithm to rate players. There’s some of that in the game in that a 75 who is good in your system is better than an 80 that’s a bad fit, but, by and large, an 85 is better than an 80 most of the time.

After a few seasons, you have the best non-untouchable players, your bench consists of the best recent draftees under rookie contracts, and you have the first round draft picks for half the league. It’s only half the league because teams can’t trade picks in consecutive seasons so you actually start running out of future assets to trade for (unless that rule is voted out at some point). You have all the best players and, even if your 15th player on the bench would be the best player on another team, they can’t trade you any picks because of the rules or stupid use of the cap. The only challenge is whether your 60+ win team will lose single or double digit games in the regular season, how bad you’ll be hit by injuries, and if you can survive every short series in the playoffs.

It’s been a fun diversion as I enjoy gaming the system. At the end of the day, these games boil down to arbitraging one computer against another and pocketing the talent difference for your team and that’s something I enjoy. I came out of it with two huge takeaways.

First, it’s really hard to program a CPU system that is challenging but not impossible. You can either program it with a chess-like algorithm where it’s super-predictive, knows exactly which pieces it has, picks all the players who will grow the most, predict what future picks might be available, and frustrate human players with the impossibility of beating a perfect system. Or you can cobble together a number of imperfect systems with some glaring holes that can always be taken advantage of.

Secondly, the first point is especially exacerbated by how star-driven basketball is. It makes me think of how many GMs would look better if not for the capricious whims of one star player or another. In baseball, even the best player in the league cannot completely change the fortunes of a team (see: Trout, Mike). If you have a system that finds those diamonds in the rough and turns them into regulars or semi-stars, that can sustain a franchise. In short, I think it’s a lot harder to judge who is a better GM in the NBA than MLB. And it’s why it’s hard to design an MLB video game where process doesn’t eventually win out despite baseball’s randomness.

Now that we’ve talked about NBA2K19, which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, we need to talk music. As you’re staring at rows of numbers, deciding who to draft, trade for, or whatnot, there’s a rotation of about 50 songs playing in the background. It’s mostly a mix of rap, R&B,and rock and I’d heard exactly zero of those songs prior to playing the game.

Here’s the part of this where I’m going to sound like even more of an idiot than usual (as we’ve established, music is NOT my forte). On the aforementioned soundtrack, I’ve stumbled across Fall Out Boy. Hey, I know: welcome to 20 years ago. But I remember them from the early 2000s sounding like a budget version of Green Day (who I didn’t really like either - but that’s pretty much from hating Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice). After poking around on Youtube and Wikipedia, it seems like “FOB” has two “periods”. The first is that punk period that I remember from 2003-2008. Then the band “takes a break” and doesn’t do any new music for 5 years and most people just assume they’re done.

But then they come out with a new sound that is more mainstream rock and sounds about as close to that 80s arena rock as I’ve heard in a while. In fact, I know that I’ve heard both “The Phoenix” and “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” at sporting events I’ve been to - I just had now idea who they were. I appreciate the ambition of naming a comeback album “Save Rock and Roll” and recording a dozen tracks that try to cover the modernization of the genre in various ways. The next album, American Beauty/American Psycho was pretty popular with the single “Centuries”. However, their most recent one, MANIA, sounds like it was a developmental mess and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them break up again (but our SotD below is from that album as it was on the NBA2K19 soundtrack).

So here’s where the (self-serving) writing prompt comes in. This has gotten me on a bit of a music kick for the first time in a long time since... (?) Guitar Hero was making the rounds? I know the conventional wisdom is that rock has been dying a slow death for a long time so maybe I’m asking for a unicorn. But I’d like to find some more music like this (I’d argue more like Phoenix/My Songs/Centuries than Last of the Real Ones, but I’ll take what I can get) - something with an uptempo driving rock sound that is fun to listen to loud.

Now, look, I know a post like this is a great chance for everyone to show their music hipster bona fides. But I’m looking for bands who are actually popular, have some legitimate production value, and/or can affect musical change. I mean, yeah, indie bands can be good, but I’d like songs that don’t sound like they’re recorded inside a tin can, a band that might get some radio play, and someone that might have some staying power. In short, I think I’m looking for more or less mainstream modern arena rock. Maybe that’s just a unicorn now as rock can’t produce big name acts anymore. But I’m going to ask anyway and let’s see what we get.

Here’s the aforementioned song of the day: