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Royals Rumblings - News for September 4, 2020

It’s not been a normal year, but here we are in September and the Royals are reliably out of it

ALCS - Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals - Game Four
Who were you expecting from the White Sox? Tim Anderson?
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Edward OIivares, one of the players received in the Trevor Rosenthal trade, was added to the team yesterday and started in center field. The Royals DFA’d Randy Rosario to make room on the roster.

Olivares, the team’s No. 22 prospect per MLB Pipeline, appeared in 13 games for the Padres earlier this season and hit .176 with a .222 on-base percentage, one double and one home run in 34 at-bats.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said Olivares will likely play both center and right field. “He says his best spot is center field,” Matheny said. “We’re anxious to see him.”

At Royals Farm Report, Alex Duvall sets out to see if a “straight” fastball means anything. Warning: There are lots of charts and graphs.

You hear it all the time. “His fastball is too straight.” “His fastball has really great run to it.” “He gets some great arm-side movement to his fastball.” “He really needs to work on getting some movement to his 4-seamer.” It’s something that scouts and hitters and broadcasters and coaches and front office personnel have been saying since forever. I fell into this trap myself for the longest time. Whether it was as a pitcher myself, or when the Royals drafted Singer in the first round back in 2018, I always just assumed that having run on your fastball was better than throwing it in a straight line to your catcher.

It makes sense, right? The more your ball moves, the harder it is to hit. That’s why people throw curveballs and sliders. The pitch moves and therefore makes it harder to hit. The same logic ought to apply to fastballs as well, right?

No, actually.

Ian Kennedy was named the Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the Royals:

When COVID-19 struck, Ian Kennedy and his family immediately supported the Royals Respond Fund and the Home Plate Project through Big League Impact to provide food for families in economic stress.

Ok, this is cheesy (or should I have said “nutty”) but also kindof cool:

Speaking of cheesy but sweet, Royals Announcer Rex Hudler celebrated his 60th birthday on Wednesday and fans gave their best impressions of him.

This was the idea of FSKC’s Joel Goldberg and it was great. Royals Hall of Famer Mike Sweeney and catcher Salvador Perez also recorded messages for Hudler, who turned 60.

Here’s your daily dose of The Athletic (sub required):

Royals Blogs?

I don’t think I can top yesterday’s story about the minor leaguer traded for catfish, but let’s see what interesting stuff I can find around baseball.

ESPN has an ominous article entitled “Why MLB’s minor leagues as you know them will end Sept. 30” that catalogs the changes coming to MiLB.

“We were told very clearly if we didn’t get that thing passed, we would be staring down the barrel of contraction,” said Dave Heller, who owns four minor league teams. “So we were all supremely motivated to help MLB pass that legislation.”

Owners of teams such as the River Bandits and the Lugnuts walked marble halls and implored their representatives to support what was called the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner chipped in, saying he had met with several lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.It worked. The act passed, buried on Page 1,967 of a $1.3 trillion spending bill.

But then in October, word leaked out that big changes were coming to the minor leagues anyway. MLB was planning to reduce the number of affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 120. Some minor league owners felt betrayed...

Several other minor league owners declined to speak for attribution because they still hope their teams will be spared and they fear retribution from MLB. “They have all the power,” one said. “And they’re vindictive.”

The Mets paid tribute to Tom Seaver last night:

Far too young to remember Tom Seaver’s glory days, Pete Alonso and the New York Mets found a perfect way to pay tribute to the greatest player in franchise history.

Starting pitcher Robert Gsellman, his right knee already dirtied, led the Mets from the dugout onto the diamond at Citi Field on Thursday to face the New York Yankees. Every teammate who followed him had a smidge of dirt in the same spot along the right knee.

What better symbol to honor Seaver, the Mets icon and Hall of Famer whose classic, drop-and-drive power pitcher delivery was imitated by thousands of Little Leaguers in the 1960s and 1970s? When Seaver’s delivery was dialed in, his right knee often accumulated dirt over the course of an outing on the mound.

We mentioned the Roberto Clemente award above. The Pirates will all wear #21 on Roberto Clemente day next Wednesday.

“Our staff and players are excited to wear the number 21 with pride as we constantly search for ways to not only honor Roberto’s legacy but to keep his memory alive through our community actions,” said Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting. “We recognize what this moment represents for all of us within the organization, the Clemente Family, our fans, and the people of Puerto Rico. We take great pride in representing such a great ambassador of the game.”

Josh Hader has broken an MLB record with 12 straight hitless appearances to start the season, spanning 11 23 IP.

“He’s good at baseball,” Brewers star Christian Yelich joked with reporters.

With sports betting being legalized in Illinois this year, the Ricketts wasted no time:

On Thursday, the Chicago Cubs announced a multiyear partnership with DraftKings that includes plans for putting a sportsbook at Wrigley Field or in the Wrigleyville area outside of the park. The Cubs are the first Major League Baseball franchise to commit to opening a retail sportsbook on their stadium premises.

Do what you will with this quote from Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Rangers

“MLB actually has someone just walking around the hotel to make sure we don’t do anything,” Kiner-Falefa told The Fan. “Just based off previous teams and what they’ve done and how it affected the season. So MLB has been very strict. It’s almost cooler to be at home because you can at least do a little more and have some people around.

“But when you’re on the road it’s almost like prison. You can’t leave your room. Even if you go down to the lobby (you’ll get in trouble). I think for us this year, the physical part’s been okay, but mentally it’s starting to wear on a lot of people. (I’m) just curious how far this can go on.”

It’s been a couple of weeks, but this week there’s no birthday and no hurricane so time to back to what we were talking about a couple of weeks ago. I had started talking about Final Fantasy IX (it’s even in the URL that I forgot to change) but then I scratched that and did Final Fantasy VIII first. So, this week, let’s look at FF9.

Like FF8, I haven’t played it about two decades as it came out in 2000 so I’m going off of some hazy memories. I was never that entrhralled with FF7 or FF8 as a dystopic future mixed with brooding anti-heroes was not my idea of a good time. So when Square’s giant marketing campaign announced something to the effect of “The Crystals are back!”, my retro RPG heart began to flutter.

It’s interesting, looking at its place on “Best of Final Fantasy lists” - it’s squarely in the middle of most. The same ones always litter the bottom of the list: some of the Famicom entries, a couple of the poorly received recent ones, an MMORPG or two, and maybe a controversial ranking or two to gin up the clicks. But then FF9 usually finds itself somewhere in that middle tier with maybe FF4, FF5, and some of the better received more recent entries. But occasionally, you’ll see someone who loves it as the perfect blend of old school Final Fantasy and the modern neo-Playstation Final Fantasys. And that’s what I really wanted it to be.

Unfortunately, what I felt was pretty well summed up by David Smith at IGN (who nonetheless gave it a 9.3):

What’s a little unnerving about FFIX is that, after several Final Fantasies in succession, you can start picking out the Tinkertoys. What I mean is, you can see the plot and character elements being recycled from previous games. This is obviously something I can’t talk about in detail, but there are elements obviously drawn from VI, VII, and VIII all through the plot of IX, and if it hadn’t been eight years since I played IV, I could probably pick out a few common threads there as well...

FFIX is uncomfortably familiar in terms of narrative structure as well as narrative content. Like the previous PlayStation FFs, and to a lesser extent the series in general, events progress in a particular way - up until the wide-open rose-smelling sections on the third disc, you move predictably from chapter to chapter of the tale and don’t deviate particularly far from your path. Lengthy sections of the game up through that point are thoroughly noninteractive, too, as you tap the X button through scenes of dialogue or wander about towns looking for the particular characters and items that will push the plot forward. On a larger scale, you battle your way through part of the plot, get the ship, sail to the other continent, explore more of the plot, get the airship, encounter the pre-climactic bits, get the run of the world to build up your levels and equipment in preparation for the final battle, and then proceed to the endgame. The previous sentence could describe VII, VIII, or IX with equal precision.

Final Fantasy could go on forever re-creating its particular spin on the traditional heroic quest, and it would be a success every single time, but I can’t help feeling as if something that features this kind of majestic visual craftsmanship ought to host a story built with equal care. I recognize the value which these conventions hold for both Square and the series’ legions of fans, but in the words of a great philosopher, overspecialization leads to death. There’s going to be a point one of these days where the formula won’t necessarily work anymore. There will come a day that beauty will finally prove to go only skin deep...

Eh, probably just me getting old again. The fact of the matter is that there has never been a Final Fantasy that delivered less than your money’s worth of adventure - not now, and probably not ever - and I can’t see any Final Fantasy fan experiencing any disappointment at the end of their experience with Final Fantasy IX. Its conclusion may not be the most original you could conceive of, but it’s no less satisfying for that. Perhaps I just need to sit back, relax, and remember how I used to feel when I played these games. It was a long time ago, and I was a rather different person then, but reliving the good old days is more than half the point of FFIX.

I mean, I’ve always been a tidbit cynical but I was only in my early 20s at the time and that’s just too young to be that way about something you love. But having played all of the US-released Final Fantasies to that point (FF1, FF4, FF6, FF7, and FF8), I knew exactly what he felt. I wanted it to be an homage and an opus, but everything felt just a little stale, a little too derivative. For a friend of mine, it was his first Final Fantasy, and he still loves it to this day. I wish I could have gotten that. Maybe if I play it again, I can get a different nostalgia rush. Honestly, I should play all 3 of the PSX era again and maybe I’d be more forgiving. But I just remember the game disappointing me and that was sad because I wanted to like it so much.

Ok, onto the soundtrack. This was Nobuo Uematsu’s last soundtrack as the solo composer for the series. He has said it is his favorite in the series but it doesn’t review as well as some of his other soundtracks. Much like the rest of the game, it can be viewed a couple of ways. He remixed a number of tracks from previously in the series. Is that a loving throwback or a cheap knockoff of the original?

“Melodies of Life” is considered the official theme of the game. It’s a vocal version of the game’s overworld theme “Over the Hill”.