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Royals Rumblings - News for May 8, 2020

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What day is it, even?

CTBC Brothers v Rakuten Monkeys - CPBL
The man with a SLG north of 1.000
Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

Mike Matheny was busy yesterday. There were only three stories from major news outlets about the Royals and all were about the Royals new manager (actually, it sounds like he had a Zoom press conference and everyone took different things from it).

Lynn Worthy had a story for the Star:

Matheny, who is in his first year at the helm in Kansas City, has made his presence a constant for Royals players, even as they’ve scattered around the country. Texts, phone calls, Zoom meetings ... players couldn’t avoid their new skipper if they tried.

“Every zoom meeting we have, he sits in on,” Royals pitcher Brad Keller said during a conference call last week. “He just kind of opens up the discussion and then kind of closes every meeting we have. ... He’s just kind of keeping us active, kind of keeping our minds on baseball.”

Jeffrey Flanagan wrote about it for MLB.com:

“That’s the one topic [MLB] hit us with last week when we had all the managers online,” Matheny said. “It was about starting the mental gymnastics of what it might look like even with a Spring Training 2.0. What can we do to have social distancing, how can we minimize the gatherings in similar places, whether it’s in the training room or weight room? Then, how can we spread out the workouts but still get the workouts we need to get done? Those are the questions we need to find answers to.”

And Dave Skretta penned a piece for the AP:

“He’s definitely reached out. It’s about the only thing he can do, honestly, reach out and sit and talk with us,” Keller said. “We go over some books — the ‘Legacy’ book he asked us to read. He sits with the pitchers in their meetings. Just keeping us active and keeping our minds engaged and keeping us loose. That’s about the only thing he can do.”

It’s not surprising that Matheny would recommend a book centered on self-improvement. After he was fired by the St. Louis Cardinals, where one of the biggest gripes among players was that Matheny was unable to reach them on a personal level, he spent a year mostly focused on himself. Sure, he was spending time as an adviser to the Royals, but Matheny also took classes in communication and read books about leadership and positive thinking.

We also got a nice, random story from a suburban Chicago newspaper. Kevin Schmit of the Daily Herald interviewed Nicky Lopez, who graduated form a local high school.

Hunkered down near Kansas City’s spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz., and rooming with Royals ace Brad Keller, Lopez anxiously awaits the restart of the season. They’re not allowed inside, but they can access the outdoor fields...

Encouraging news emerged this week when reports raised the possibility of games by July, but right now there are still too many unknowns. But if a return requires being in quarantine, that’s fine with Lopez. If it means wearing a mask while playing, that’s fine with Lopez. Like so many others, he just wants baseball back.

“It’s something that we all take for granted,” he said. “It’s crazy how something you love can be taken away so fast. “Tell me when and where we’ve got to go, and I’ll do it,” he said. “Whatever they need to do to get us going.”

ROYALS FARM REPORT HAS NEWS! THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Hayden House looks at the “Top 5 Options for Royals in 2020 Draft”. “Spencer Torkelson” is a funny name.

Summary: The best power bat in the draft, he has potential to put up Pete Alonzo type numbers in his rookie season. He should shoot up through a farm system because of his advanced hitting approach at the plate. One of the favorites at #1. If the Royals get him there should be no passing up.

Next up, we’re onto Royals blogs:


It’s May 8th so let’s see what’s on Today in Wikipedia History (still need a name for this segment).

Coca-cola is first sold on this day in 1886. It’s billed as a medicine and its two main ingredients were caffeine and cocaine. It sold for 5c a glass and was hailed by creator John Pemberton as a “cure for many diseases, including morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence.”

Local boy Harry S. Truman is born on this day in 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He had a famous catchphrase. What was it again? ”I don’t take responsibility at all?” No, that doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t sound Presidential at all. Also from Lamar: Wyatt Earp (1848.03.19).

Paramount Pictures is founded on this day in 1912. It’s one of the “Big Five” studios in Hollywood. I just finished watching Picard this week on a CBS All Access free preview. It was fun, if for no other reason than because watching Patrick Stewart tool around onscreen is great. However, it’s this mix of “JL” being reminded that the idea of Picard was bigger than the man, even before he spent the last decade retired on a wine farm. Also, it’s as much space western than Star Trek with him as part of a ragtag and broken space crew. I’ve never been a hardcore TNG fan (more DS9), but a number of the callbacks even landed for me. The ending probably will cause some consternation with folks, too.

Also, anyone watched Discovery? Worth spending time on? We have half a month left on the free preview and the consensus seems to be that only the first season is really worth watching. But is even that worth watching if that would likely be what we spent the rest of the month on (again, we get maybe 1 show a month)?

Finally, let’s take a look at baseball birthdays. 2 old, old HOFers top the list: Dan Brouthers (played 1879-1904) and Edd Roush (1913-1931). Checking in at #6 on the WAR list is Royals great Dennis Leonard. Craig mentioned him a couple of days ago as a Royals HOF candidate.

Other former Royals include Steve Braun (before my time), 2018-19 Royal RP Wily Peralta, and backup C Adam Moore. I feel like I know most obscure Royals, especially from the last couple of decades but I didn’t remember him at all. Per this article from Matt, he played 4 games in 2012 and 5 in 2013. I remember all of the other names who played catcher those years but not him: Brayan (underrated) Pena, Humberto (stupid trade) Quintero, Manny (not Brayan) Pina, George (wasn’t there some story about him being a bad dude) Kottaras, and Brett (placeholder) Hayes. But not Moore. Don’t remember a thing about him.

FYI: I always worry I’m going to end up on a famous day and completely gloss over it. Like, say, “Happy September 11th! In 1565 the Turks ended their seige of Malta, BART began in 1972, and it’s Moose’s birthday! Hope I didn’t forget any important events!”


Let’s check in with sports and COVID.

Of local interest, Sporting Kansas City players were allowed to practice on Wednesday for the first time.

The other three teams to begin individual workouts at team facilities Wednesday included Atlanta United, Inter Miami and Orlando SC. The Houston Dynamo start Thursday morning.

Once Besler got the all-clear, he made his way over to the trainer’s table so his temperature could be taken. From there, he was allowed to take off his mask and gloves before sanitizing his hands and heading to the designated 37.5-by-60-yard space in which he’d practice.

Over in Europe, the top German soccer (football?) league, Bundesliga, will resume next Saturday with empty stadiums.

The country’s relative success in combating the virus has been attributed to early testing, a robust health service and strict lockdown measures that are now being loosened.

‘’That we’re allowed to play again boils down to German politics for managing this crisis, and the health system in Germany,’’ Seifert said. ‘’If I were to name the number of tests that I was asked about in teleconferences with other professional leagues, with American professional leagues, with clubs from the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball and others, and I tell them how many tests are possible in Germany, they generally check, or there’s silence, because it’s just unimaginable in the situation over there.’’

Meanwhile, my newly beloved CPBL, Rakuten Monkey superstar Chu Yu Hsien continues his assault on CPBL pitching with his 10th HR in the first 13 games of the season. Yes, that’s a league record as it’s pretty insane. His triple slash is .0483/.508/1.017. That is not a misprint. That’s not an 1.017 OPS, that’s his SLG. 59 TBs in 58 ABs: 10 HR, 1 2B, and 17 1B. Totally sustainable.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday as Eleven Sports Taiwan put one of the games behind a paywall but that caused some uproar and so that’s over as soon as it started. Probably not the best look when the city of Taoyuan subsidized it and the KBO is started this week on ESPN.

Both The Fubon Guardians (below) and CTBC Brothers will continue to have free feeds.

Meanwhile, the Brothers got their International shop online before any of the other teams. Here’s an interview(/ad) with their GM talking about that process.

But the big story out of the CPBL, if you tune into either broadcast (Guardians or Brothers) this morning, there will be fans! The Taiwanese CDC approved the plan to allow 1000 fans in seats. We’ll see what that looks like: probably like 10 to a section spaced far apart (aka “The Florida Marlin plan”). Of course, Taiwan has had about 20 new cases total (not per day, total) since 4/19 so they appear to have things as under control as can be expected.

ESPN has began their broadcasts of the KBO. It’s been universally agreed upon that the Royals of the KBO are the Hanwha Eagles. Of course, that means none of their games are on ESPN this week.

Over at Yahoo, Leander (um... this is going to be a cut-and-paste job) Schaerlaeckens declares “Take notes, MLB. The KBO has some pointers for making baseball more fan-friendly”.

But there’s so much more fun to be had. Korea’s bat-flipping artistry is well-documented. Yet it doesn’t end there. Korean baseball also leads the way in weird glasses. Fans sing and chant in unison. Cheerleaders hype the crowd. Players scrub each other’s backs in the showers.

They have coordinated mascot dances. There are fire-breathing robot dragons, even though they have nothing do with their team or its mascot.

Each player doesn’t merely pick his own walk-up song – no no. Special theme songs are composed for them and they’re amazing. The atmosphere, above all else, is generated by the crowd itself, rather than being orchestrated by a PA system as spectators are tamely shepherded through whatever “fan engagement” is expected of them.

Regular baseball not good enough for you? How about Finnish baseball?

I wasn’t sure if Finland had baseball, since one of the two Finns with us didn’t know much of anything about the game. But when I asked if they needed help understanding, one of them proudly told me that this was nothing.

“This is like a slower, boring version of Finnish baseball.”

Excuse me, what?

It turns out that in the early 1900’s, a Finnish dude named Lauri Pihkala came up with a ‘stick and bat’ game that resembled baseball in the very loosest of senses — but was faster, more chaotic, and infinitely more fun.

How about MLB? Are we getting any closer? Well, sort of. While our numbers as a country continue to plateau-ish, MLB is readying a proposal to put in front of the MLBPA. There are still a lot of wrinkles to iron out, but it’s... a step (just like a lot of our virus mitigation here).

Although a significant number of hurdles remain and some industry leaders believe June and July return dates are overly optimistic, ownership’s approval of a plan and dialogue about specifics with the union would mark two vital steps toward baseball’s return from a season so far delayed six weeks by the coronavirus pandemic...

Already, dozens of players are working out at team facilities around the country, according to sources, and the possibility of holding a three- or four-week spring training at teams’ home stadiums appeals to a number of stakeholders. After entertaining the ideas of quarantining all players in Arizona or using three- or five-city hubs to hold games, there is momentum toward the league trying to play games in home stadiums, sources said.

The complications could be manifold, whether due to a coronavirus breakout in a city or the risk added by traveling, but the logistical concerns aren’t nearly as acute as they would be with the building of hubs. Three player representatives, who have been sending updates to the union’s rank and file, believe the union would be more receptive to such a plan because players could spend half their games at home and with their families.

But will all players even want to come back?

Speaking to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo on Wednesday, Boston Red Sox right-hander Collin McHugh says the risks associated with playing baseball during the COVID-19 pandemic might not be worth it to those with preexisting or underlying conditions, stating “you can’t tell a guy to risk his life and the life of his family and the lives of anyone he chooses to be around to come play this game.”


So, you want to review video games? You love playing video games! You get free games! You might even get paid! Sounds great, right? FYI: it’s not all smiles und sunshine. FYI: this works the same way for baseball, too (just don’t let Max see this or he’ll withhold my Pop Tart rations... kidding, of course!). I think I’ve mentioned that, in the distant past, I wrote for a small gaming website. It was fun and I’m glad I did it, but I thought it would be interesting to talk a little more about what that experience is like (keeping in mind this was almost 20 years ago).

Hey, there’s a chance you get to review good game! I mean, really, Nintendo doesn’t need your help to hype the newest Mario Kart. They have advertising companies they pay to do that. So your chances of getting a AAA title to review in the first place are pretty small in the first place.

Next up, you need to be the person picked to review said game. Now, your Editor in Chief is going to get first pick of the games. After all, he’s the one with industry contacts, begging for games to review, so it’s only fair. But if it’s opened up to everyone, you need to quickly claim it or else you’re out of luck. Everyone who writes for the site loves games and everyone will try to snatch up something that saves them $50 they were going to spend anyway. On top of that, a common practice for larger games was to get a review copy - it would be sent a couple of weeks before the game dropped but would only be part of the game, not the whole game.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever reviewed any big name games that weren’t games I had purchased and was reviewing 6 months after release just to fill a hole in our review library and/or to get a story in for the week.

But let’s say you snag that big game that you’ve been hyped for months about. How are you going to review it? Savor it and enjoy it? Write a review 3 weeks later after you’ve had a chance to think about it? HAH! No way. BLITZ THROUGH IT IN 2 NIGHTS! Make sure you get far enough along to be able to check a bunch of gaming review checkboxes. How was the gameplay? What about the graphics and music? Those you have a pretty good sense for in the first few hours.

But how about plot? Really liked the plot for the 10 hours you got to play and endorsed it greatly? Cool. Hopefully it doesn’t have a Lost-esque ending or you’ve sent people down the wrong path. Gameplay get repetitive after 20 hours? Maybe it takes 25 hours for that overworld music to make you want to throw the controller. These are all things you’re likely not going to have time to capture in your review because you won’t have played it enough. But (a handful of) people may be relying (in a small part) on your review to help them make their purchasing decision.

Which reminds me: Why were you given a free copy of the game to review? Because Activision believes in journalistic integrity? Because EA wants a fair and impartial review of their umpteenth iteration of Madden? Of course not. You were given a free copy of a game to help them sell more copies. That it is. Someone in their marketing department thought your little website might sell at least 1 more copy of the game than if they hadn’t mailed you one.

And that has a chilling effect on reviews. You ever notice how rare it is for a game (or movie) to get less than 5/10? I mean, sure there are some really fun ones like the infamous Superman 64 review on IGN.

As far as storyline goes, straight from the game’s instruction booklet we are informed that, “Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen have disappeared — they’ve been kidnapped by the malevolent powers of Lex Luthor and Braniac, who have brought them into a virtual reality version of Metropolis.” Not exactly an epic tale, but it sure beats Titus’ previous explanation for the game’s graphic flaws — namely that a thick screen of fog present in the title was in fact “Kryptonite fog” deployed by Lex Luthor himself to destroy Superman.

Right.

Imagine if all developers explained their game’s visual limitations in storyline. “No, no — those are not jumpy framerates you are seeing. Superman is merely drunk, which also blurs his vision considerably.” Or maybe, “You’ve got it all wrong, that is not clipping. Superman is simply using his X-Ray vision to look through the walls.” While it would certainly make for some interesting story additions, it would most likely also rapidly ruin the gaming industry.

But, really, why would a company send you a copy of the game if you’re just going to pan it. In fact, I know this will come as a shock, but if you review games not to a company’s liking, they’ll stop sending you games. It’s the eternal press dance of raw truth vs access. For instance, IGN can make fun of some small publishing house’s games every once in a while. Heck, most companies know when they’ve done well or done poorly and they don’t expect you to give every game a 10 (though they wouldn’t turn it down). But sometimes you have reviews that end something like “Die hard Spider-Man fans will probably find elements to enjoy in this game”. But, of course, we all know that’s polite Midwestern passive aggressive for “Only a 6 year-old Spider-Man fan is going to put up with the crap gameplay in this one”.

So, in short, most of the time, you’re being assigned a random game you’ve never heard of from a company who you have to tread delicately around and you get to slog through it. That said, there are still little gems to pleasantly surprise you.

For instance, I remember a game for the DS called Horse Life. You could tell where my mind was when I named my young horse “Gluey”. But then it turned out to be a cross between Nintendogs and The Sims with some Elite Beat Agents-esque gameplay thrown in. It was actually pretty fun and, obviously, not something I would have picked up if I hadn’t been assigned to review it.