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Royals Rumblings - New for August 2, 2019

Just 145 shopping days until Christmas. Did your GM get you what you wanted?

Royals v A’s
Zack in the black and blues!
Photo by Don Smith/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Fortunately, Rumblings have been done by some folks who are not Max don’t usually do them. This means all of my fun, off-the-beaten path stories aren’t sniped by Max and the late OMD (oh wait? he’s not dead? good for him!). That’s fortunate as both The Athletic and those slackers like Alex Duvall at Royals Farm Report took the day off after a busy trade deadline (around baseball, anyway, even if not in Kansas City.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, Clint Scoles is now at Royals Academy. Two recent stories from him are below.

He writes about Brett Phillips’s minor adjustment that may get him to the majors.

Luckily for Brett, he has a caring mother who tries to help her son when she can and in this case, a small gesture of sending out an ax handle bat may have changed his career in a huge way. It was that discovery of holding the ax handle bat which requires one to hold in their fingertips instead of the palm that made Phillips realize he was holding his normal bat incorrectly. A previous thumb injury had him reverting to holding his bat further back in the palm of his hand in his top hand, this adjustment naturally tilted the barrel of his bat downward as he came through the zone with the bat. An adjustment to holding it back in his fingertips allowed him to hold the barrel upward on a plane through the zone longer.

He also does a roundup of the Royals international signings.

When I started reporting about international signings some eight to nine years ago a draft seemed light-years away but Gonzalez says that reps and teams are more open to it now than at any time in his career. While that might be true it’s still up to the player’s union to sign off on any changes and agreements. With Alfred chairing the international committee that will make proposals to the commissioner and union the Royals will be in the know for any changes while he says the scouting staff is ready and able to quickly change should a switch to the draft take place.

Jeffrey Flanagan at puts a bow on the trading season for the Royals.

What’s next?: A lot of evaluation. The Royals will view the next two months as auditions for who they believe is part of the core of the future. The organization knows it has part of the core for 2020 in place in shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, Merrifield, third baseman Hunter Dozier, second baseman Nicky Lopez, Soler, catcher Salvador Perez (back for 2020 after Tommy John surgery), possibly Gordon (contract expires after this season), center fielder Bubba Starling, right-handers Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, Duffy, and so on.

No feature stories at The Star today, but some lighter fare.

Pete Grathoff covered Burlington Bee Malcolm Van Buren striking out 5 in an inning!

Van Buren managed to strike out five batters in just one inning, thanks to two dropped third strikes. Elizabethton’s Seth Gray struck out to open the inning and Parker Phillips fanned, but he reached on a dropped third strike and a throwing error by the Royals’ Jesus Atencio. Matt Wallner then struck out, as did Trevor Jensen, but Jensen reached on a wild pitch. Anthony Prato followed by drawing a walk to load the bases. Van Buren escaped the jam by striking out Will Holland on three pitches.

He also noted that Zack Greinke has a chance to finally beat the only team he never has: the Royals. He lists Greinke’s history against Kansas City, as well.

Greinke has at least one win against the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball, but he is 0-2 with a 3.24 ERA against the Royals, allowing nine runs and three homers in 25 innings pitched. It’s a small sample size, of course, but it’s an interesting quirk. Also of note: all four of those starts have been at Kauffman Stadium.

Sam McDowell chronicled three former Kansas City area players who were traded on Wednesday.

The Tigers acquired former Shawnee Mission East pitcher Joey Wentz from the Atlanta Braves and former Lee’s Summit West right-hander Alex Lange from the Chicago Cubs; and the Tampa Bay Rays traded former Blue Valley pitcher Ryne Stanek to the Miami Marlins, according to multiple reports.

Joe Posnanski can’t help but talk about the Royals, which is good for us. We get a Joe two pack yesterday.

One is about Zack and has an awesome Greinke story:

OK, one Greinke story! When he was in Class A Wilmington as an 19-year-old, he purposely threw with LESS velocity. This was really, really weird — just about every kid in the minors tries to light up the radar gun to impress the club. But Greinke, who had the arm to throw mid-to-upper-90s in those days, kept throwing 89, 90 and 91 mph fastballs, not unlike the way he throws today. Thing is, he was absolutely dominating with that 91-mph fastball. He began his career 7-0 with a 1.02 ERA and a 9-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

That’s when the Royals general manager Allard Baird called to check in with Greinke. He’d heard that Greinke was worried about his velocity and wanted to make sure that the kid didn’t change anything. “So,” Baird began, “I understand you are worried about your velocity …”

Greinke — and remember, he was 19 years old at the time — interrupted. “No sir,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I’m worried that YOU might be worried.” And then he said this: “I can throw 94 and have a 2.50 ERA. Or I can throw 91 and have a 1.20 ERA. That’s up to you.”

The other is about recent Royals pickup Erich Weiss, who he ties into (mostly shameless) promotion for his upcoming Houdini book.

I made a joke about this one on Twitter — it seems like about half the people got it. See Erich Weiss (well, technically, Ehrich Weiss, but close enough) was Harry Houdini’s birth name. That was his name until he and his friend Jacob Hyman read a glorious book called “Memoirs of Robert-Houdin,” the autobiography of the father of modern magic Jean Eugéne Robert-Houdin. Together, they added an I to the last name (which they thought was pronounced Hoo-DEEN”, rather than the actually “OOO-dan”) and, well, there is a whole fun chapter in the book about the name Houdini. Two, in fact.

Our only Fansided entry for today, Leigh Oleszczak explains why the “Final day of trade deadline uneventful for Royals

(ed note: this may have gone a bit long)

Eric Longenhagen, Fangraphs prospect guru, ranks all the prospects traded at the deadline. While not specifically about the Royals, I think it’s instructive to see where prospects rank versus their peers traded at the deadline. On the one hand, it feels like there’s way too much hand wringing about not trading Kennedy and cash not getting eaten, especially since he can still be traded this offseason. The return for Melancon was Tristan Beck who is thought of as a reliever in the piece. Still, he’s an FV 40 and higher than anyone the Royals got this trading season so there is reason for concern.

The Diekman trade was hard to find a comp for. Using the table Shaun put together yesterday about RPs traded at the deadline (realizing that just ranking by FIP- is an incomplete measure but we’re going to use it for shorthand here), I looked at every reliever under 100 FIP- (Diekman was 76). As I was looking through the list of prospects they were traded for, I felt the Royals got hosed. However, upon closer inspection, almost every reliever traded has years of control left: Nick Anderson, Sam Dyson, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Joe Harvey, and Joe Biagini. So it was a popular year for contenders to trade for (mostly) young relievers who have years left and give up decent but not great prospects for them.

Diekman is a free agent after this year. Literally the only pitcher on the list under 100 FIP- who was a rental was Daniel Hudson. He had a 91 FIP- and netted a single prospect: Kyle Johnston. Diekman returned two prospects (Ismael Aquino and Darion Blanco) and both were a couple of slots above Johnston so it seems like the Diekman trade was probably a good one.

The Bailey trade seems to back up the idea that maybe the Royals could have held out for a bit more if they waited. Tanner Roark and Homer Bailey were often mentioned in the same tier of SPs available for trade and both went to the A’s. Roark is better by a bit (93 vs 101 FIP- this season and much better the past two years) but also costs about $2M more the rest of the season. Royals return Kevin Merrell was only a 35+ and down by the Diekman prospects whereas Roark’s return, Jameson Hannah, was the lowest 45.

This has gone really long and I don’t have A/C in half of my house so I’m just going to list the listicles:

MLB trade deadline 2019: Grading the sellers, including a high mark for Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke haul” - Mike Axisa, CBS Sports (Royals grade: D)

MLB trade deadline: 10 offseason trade candidates, with Noah Syndergaard and a pair of Pirates back on the block” - RJ Anderson, CBS Sports (Royals note: Whit)

What’s next in AL Central after Trade Deadline?” - Russell Dorsey, (Royals: What’s next?)

Around, MLB there’s a lot, too, but they’re just getting listed, as well today.

The Atlantic League is proving that change can be hard for baseball players” - Hannah Keyser, Yahoo - This interesting story is about how being the guinea pig league for changes isn’t all roses.

Astros become World Series favorites in Vegas with Zack Greinke onboard” - Jack Baer, Yahoo - Somehow, the Royals do not make the list.

8 suspended as result of Pirates-Reds fracas” - Adam Berry, - Amir Garrett, who tried to take on the entire Pirates team, only recieved the 2nd longest suspension at 8 games.

Frustrated Porcello smashes dugout TV monitors” - Ian Browne, - At least this violence was man on machine (sorry, Hokius).

Batters on pace to shatter MLB home run record” - ESPN News Services - Speaking of shattering things... homers 10% ahead of the pace of previous record high.

A few weeks ago, we talked about RPGs for the NES. The two big RPGs that people think of on that generation are Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. However, I also mentioned two of the forerunners for those in Wizardry and Ultima: Exodus. Today, we’re going to look back at the latter, the NES port of third game in the Ultima series.

For the record, this game made its mark on other systems much before the NES. It came out for the Apple, IBM PC, Atari, and Commodore in 1983. Per wiki: “Exodus featured revolutionary graphics for its time, as one of the first computer RPGs to display animated characters. Also, Exodus differs from previous games in that players now direct the actions of a party of four characters rather than just one. During regular play the characters are represented as a single player icon and move as one. However, in battle mode, each character is represented separately on a tactical battle screen, and the player alternates commands between each character in order, followed by each enemy character having a turn.” Beyond those innovations, it was also the first to have music, the first to feature Moongates, and the first game released by Origin systems.

However, this game had a huge flaw for an RPG: you couldn’t level up. Check out this walkthrough: “The quickest way to gain experience is to kill first level enemies (goblins, orcs, skeletons, and ghouls) using the Undead and Repel spells which will kill multiple enemies simultaneously, so make sure you choose professions for your characters that can cast magic (avoid Fighters, Thieves, and Barbarians). Speaking to the King to raise your level will only increase you HPs, but will not increase any of your other attributes and will make the enemies on the overworld harder, so it’s best to remain on level 1 until late in the game.“

You didn’t level up the “traditional” way with it just happening after battle or events. You had to return to the king and he would level you up. That actually is kindof a fun story mechanic, if you think about it: you go to the king and he levels you up like a knight. However, let’s let this walkthrough put it another way: “Now you must not talk to Lord British any more for new levels (even if you could). A lovely town! This sounds stupid, but you surely recognized that everything you get when gaining a higher level are Hitpoints and not Attribute-Points. And if you would level up any further the enemies would become much too strong for your still “low-attributed” characters”

The difficulty curve was stupidly steep. At level 1, you could kill most monsters on the screen with a single spell. The next couple of levels, things got harder. If you went straight to level 5 without grinding those first couple of levels extra hard, you were pretty much stuck - you’d die in pretty much every standard overworld battle and might as well start over. As mentioned, leveling raised HP but no other attributes. To do that, you had to go to a far away island (moongates), which had the super hard enemies, and do it there.

So, (IIRC) in summary, you had to grind those first level monsters like crazy to get enough gold to get the best equipment. Then you did even more grind for gold so you could raise your attributes. Then you went to the king and leveled up. You dodged all the unholy terrors that were suddenly super overpowered and stole a pirate ship. Then you went to the near-endgame island, dodging a lot of super hard monsters that were shrouded in a simple fog-of-war mechanic to get to shrines where it was super expensive to raise your attributes. Only then would your characters be able to equip that awesome gear, learn all the best spells, and you’d learn if you had made poor choices with which job classes you picked.* Fun! Actually, it was, as the world was really creative and expansive, but, man, learning some of those lessons the hard way was not!

*Actually, I don’t think that was entirely accurate and there was also something about not being able to level past 10 until you went into a dungeon and got an item but you’d better not do that before raising attributes as you’d be super dead if you did it too soon.

One other fun little note, presumably for the PC not NES version, per wiki: “At the end of the game, players were instructed to “REPORT THY VICTORY!” to Origin. Those who did so received a certificate of completion autographed by Richard Garriott.” I’ve tried to Google this a couple of times with no luck, but would love to see one if someone has better Google-fu skills than I do. This just speaks to how small and intimate the PC gaming crowd was at the time compared to today: you could send a picture (somehow) or email (which almost no one had) that you completed a video game and get a certificate of completion from the video game’s creator, who also is now one of the most famous video game developers of all time. That’s pretty cool.

I didn’t like any of the speedrun or walkthrough videos, so we’ll go with a song instead. The soundtrack is very 8-bit, which means short and repetitive, but the songs could be quite catchy and memorable. Here’s the song used on the title screen (and in dungeons) from a video with it on the title screen.