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Royals Rumblings - News for October 8, 2021

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The Postseason is more fun with the Royals in it, but it was also more exhausting

MLB: SEP 28 Indians at Royals

Andrew Benintendi and Kris Bubic were named Royals Player and Pitcher of the Month for September/October.

Bubic, 24, pitched to a 2.20 ERA (8 ER in 32.2 IP) and .193 opponents’ average (22-for-114) in six appearances (5 starts) from Sept. 1 through season’s end, which ranked third and sixth, respectively in the American League. He pitched into the sixth inning in all five of his starts and allowed no more than two earned runs in any of them

MLB Network talked about Salvy’s season and MVP case. Pete Grathoff at The Star had more about their conversation:

“I look at things that are so hard to do and Salvador Perez, what he’s been able to do as a catcher in Kansas City, is worthy of consideration,” Showalter said. “We know that Ohtani is going to win and rightfully probably so. But Salvador Perez, take a picture, because you’re not going to see a catcher do this again in your lifetime.

Speaking of Salvy, got a minute?

The Royals A-ball Quad Cities River Bandits picked up some accolades yesterday:

Here’s some Royals adjacent news:

How about a Zack Greinke story?

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is starting a new campaign around Buck O’Neil called #MyBaseballMemory.

John Tuberty at Tubbs Baseball Blog with a wonderful blog post about the history of the
Kansas City home run crown. It even made a Fanshot (a fan what?).

On April 6, 2017, Bob Cerv passed away at age 91. Nearly six decades after clubbing 38 longballs for the 1958 Athletics, Cerv still held the Kansas City major league home run record. Coincidentally, during the subsequent 2017 season, third baseman Mike Moustakas appeared to be on pace to easily break Cerv’s mark by going deep 25 times before the All-Star break. Although Moustakas’ home run pace slowed down after the Midsummer Classic, he managed to tie Balboni’s franchise record with a three-run blast on September 1. Moustakas failed to leave the yard over his next 15 games before finally homering on September 20 to set a new franchise benchmark. Five days later, Moustakas matched Cerv’s Kansas City record with a majestic shot over the right field wall at Yankee Stadium. Moustakas stepped to plate 16 more times but was unable to add to his home run total and finished the year tied with Cerv at 38.

We’re kindof blurring the line now between “official” stories and Royals blogs as there’s just less content in the offseason.

David Lesky looks at the Arizona Fall League rosters.

Just going down the list, I was pretty sure Asa Lacy would be there. He showed why he was picked as high as he was in some ways. Opponents had a hard time squaring him up with just 41 hits allowed in 52 innings. He also had a 33.3 percent strikeout rate, which is outstanding. But he walked 17.3 percent of batters he faced, which is absolutely terrible. He went down with a shoulder injury and didn’t come back. I think I saw that it was described that if he needed to, he could have pitched, but why risk anything? This is a chance for Lacy to get back on a mound competitively after getting a taste of the pros. It could be a really launching point for him into 2022. If he pitches well, he’ll be in camp with a legitimate shot to make the club (but I don’t think he will make it).

Meanwhile, Craig Brown also looked at the Arizona Fal- hah, nope - he was looking at Royals racking up hardware:

Having professed my love for The Fielding Bible, I remain somewhat confused by their lack of love for Nicky Lopez at shortstop. He finished the year at +3 DRS, which ranked him 14th among shortstops. Nevertheless, the Royals fielded an insane defense up the middle. Interesting to note that they have had the top defensive second baseman (according to DRS) in each of the last two years. Lopez led at the Keystone in 2020 with +9 DRS while this year Merrifield set the pace.

(ok, actually, he did write a little bit about the AFL but that wasn’t the bulk of his article)

Kevin O’Brien at The Royals Reporter unveils the first of his 2021 “Royalty” Awards. Of course, it’s Salvy (Most Important Player):

Now, to clarify, I am trying to think outside the box with these awards. I could do a “best hitter” or “best pitcher” or “rookie of the year” award, like most pundits. That being said, I feel like this Royals season has been pretty clear in terms of the “traditional” awards, so I wanted to push the envelope a bit with my end-of-the-season honors.

In this first post, I am going to reflect on who the Royals’ “most important player” was to the 2021 season. While I will take into account various metrics (Baseball Reference and Fangraphs’ WAR, etc.), I also will not purely rely on metrics in this debate, especially during a season in which the Royals finish 14 games below .500. I wanted to examine which Royals position players and pitchers made the biggest impact in keeping the Royals somewhat respectable during a season that could’ve gone even further south, especially after rough months in May and June.

Blog roundup:

Obviously, there were a couple of playoff games yesterday as the ALDS started. We had a thread about it and everything. Astros beat the White Sox 6-1 and the Rays blanked the Red Sox 5-0. Today, all 4 series are in action, which is awesome. I predict my work productivity for the day will take a nosedive starting about, oh... 1:07 pm.

Our non-game related stories all have a gambling or black market sort of feel to them this week. So put on your browser’s noir theme, crank up the trashy jazz, and think of your favorite Chandlerisms.

A jury returned a guilty verdict against Chicago ticket broker Bruce Lee:

Prosecutors said two now-former White Sox ticket sales booth staffers, James Costello and William O’Neil, generated thousands of complimentary and discount tickets — without required vouchers — and gave them to Lee in exchange for cash. Lee would then sell the tickets on StubHub while the White Sox received nothing, prosecutors said.

I kindof wonder how many of these types of things happen all the time and never get caught. And why the ones that get caught actually get caught.

An autographed picture of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson sold for $1.47 million yesterday, “the most ever paid for a signed sports photograph”. Wow. A Joe Dimaggio signed letter to Marilyn Monroe went for a cool $525K.

Astros superfan Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale bet $2 million on Houston to win the World Series. He would win $22 million if the Astros hoist the trophy:

McIngvale, who threw out the first pitch to rapper Bun B before Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park, made the bets to hedge for his “Astros Win” promotion. The promotion allows Gallery Furniture mattress buyers who spent $3,000 or more to get their money back if the Astros win it all. McIngvale told the Action Network his liability is $20 million, so his William Hill bet would cover it and then some.

He runs promotions where you get certain furniture for free if the team wins, so these bets are hedges against his liability. So, basically, he’s paying $2M for the advertising and wins either way. Oh, and he may just also like gambling

In June bet a combined $1.25 million across three other sportsbooks on an Astros World Series win, which would payout a whopping $35.6 million.

And, finally, Pete Rose is starting a gambling podcast. I am not making this up.

I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that once the offseason started, we’d start getting into some movie reviews. No need to start small - we just rolled through the Harry Potter series in September as we felt it was time to introduce our son to the first couple. As an aside, I didn’t realize this: the first three were PG and the last five were PG-13.

This is also going to have some spoilers but, really, if you haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies and/or read by the books by now, c’mon. Also, in some ways, it’s difficult to divorce the reviews of the movies from those of the books: if Rowling made a good or bad decision for plot or character in the book - the movie director has to live with it and that reflects on the movie. That said, there are 3 where I feel the movie quality significantly diverges from the book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) - For the first couple of movies, Chris Columbus does a wonderful job, more than any other director, of exploring the “everday magic” introduction to the world. He captures the wonderful child-like awe and mystery to the wizarding world: it really was, pardon the pun, magical, the first time you see Diagon Alley or Hogwarts in the movie. The first two books also lend themselves to this as they’re less serious than the others and often just planting the seeds for the future. That’s also a little bit of a weakness - the movies feels very episodic in parts, not very well tied together - he just samples the high points for the plot. I remember one of the criticisms of the movie was that you had to have read the book to supplement the movie and I think that’s true, to a point. Also, the John Williams score is on point. I’m not quite sure why they changed after movie three - maybe he was getting too expensive (but it’s not like they don’t have enough money), maybe he wanted a change (he was tired of doing HP movies), maybe they thought he started phoning it in after the first movie (once he laid down leit motifs in the first Star Wars movie of a trilogy, subsequent soundtracks were more bland).

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) - In a lot of ways, this is a bit of a superfluous movie and book, not that dissimilar from the first. It’s almost like a second draft with more universe building around the Dursleys, the Weasleys, their classmates, their teachers, and the wizarding world, complete with more fun “everyday magic”, cringey teenage behavior and annoying communication fails, ending with another battle with a “fake” Voldemort at the end. It feels like more mature writing as there’s a little bit of fun and satisfying mystery with Moaning Myrtle, why are people being stunned not killed, who is Tom Riddle, who keeps stopping Harry (Doby and his release). However, it also establishes just how much Rowling loves deus ex machina - and I don’t mean just because you can clichely say “a wizard did it” - Hermoine’s paper that tells everything about the basilisk, Fawkes saving Harry’s multiple different ways, characters created solely to service a plot point, etc. The first two movies are imperfect but just fine and I don’t think we quite appreciate just how hard it is to simply not fall below the bar required to make a big series work (DCEU, Chronicles of Narnia, tons of YA series from Lemony Snicket to Lemony Snicket, etc).

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - I think this is one of the favorite books in the series and I think that’s why everyone looks past how poorly directed this movie is. The book is a real world expander - we go from the small, repetitious first two books to a giant universe, complete with time travel. There’s a lot of overacting where characters seem, well, out of character, and some “artistic” weird-for-the-sake-of-weird like the Knight Bus scene. The movie tries to squeeze in /everything/ so the scenes aren’t allowed to breathe at all: there’s no emotional heft when Harry finds out about Sirius being his godparent (much as Radcliffe tries to sell it), there’s no warmth when he’s trying to build rapport with Lupin (as it’s too quick), there’s clumsiness and confusion in the scene where we pretend Lupin and Sirius are evil in the movie unlike the book, and it’s just silly how Harry tries to sell Hermoine that his dad may still be alive because it’s too quick to sell in a serious way. That said, on the whole, director Alfonso Cuaron does a good job with the final act time travel, a plot device that always seems to confound non-science fiction movie fans. That said, it doesn’t make up for how poorly done the rest of the movie is and I still don’t get how this is one of the highest rated movies.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) - If I were a director and got to direct a Harry Potter movie, I might pick this one - Mike Newell got lucky at this was his only one in the series. It’s the dividing line between the light and dark portions of the series so you get a chance to show both. Also, there’s a lot of large, pre-built scenes that are easy to make: the Quidditch World Cup, the tri-Wizard tournament, and the return of Voldemort. There’s some missteps in the book: why spend so much time building up Moody only to find out he’s been stuck in a trap the whole movie. There’s some movie missteps: the events at the Quidditch World Cup were too fast to be as dark as they needed to be. And there are some that are a mix of both: I get that the whole who-you-take-to-the-dance is a perfect way to look at the wizarding world through the lens of the real world but it’s awkward in the book and also in the movie. The movie does a yeoman’s job with one of the stronger books in the series and it’s the first one that feels like a really competent movie, not just a book adaptation. It also gets bonus points for sticking the landing, which was crucial for setting up the second half of the series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) - Remember how I noted it’s hard to separate the book from the movies. This is the movie that really is the exception to the positive and new-to-the-series director David Yates shines. This is one of the hardest books to read - it’s long and frustrating. Rowling leans into the “teens are hard” for long portions of the book, with lots of annoying “I’m not speaking to you now because teenager” moments to stretch out key plot points. But for as much as Rowling makes things hard in the book - the actors feel like they’re starting to mature: Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermoine (Watson) are really hitting their stride. It also has very heavy-handedly protesting the global post-Patriot Act police state, though Umbridge is a brilliant villain and Imelda Staunton is perfect. Considering what the book had to work with, the movie was really slickly done, turning the longest book into one of the shorter movies, with good edits and great pacing. It’s the first time in the series that I feel like you don’t have to read the books to follow along - there are still Easter eggs, but they are just that and not crucial to the plot. It starts to lose the “everyday magic” that i love in the series but it had to - the stakes are getting too high and the battle in the ministry gives us our first real large-scale wizard battle and it looks brilliant. As an aside: I felt Sirius’s character arc was underdone - from him not appearing until the end of the third movie/book to his absence for most of the fourth to his “hey guys, watch this” death in the fifth - he gets short shrift so his “dramatic” death never seemed as dramatic to me in book or film. In what’s becoming a recurring theme, aside from Sirius’s death, the movie really nails the climax. Long and short: good movie graded even better on the curve because it’s one of the weaker books.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) - Rowling learned from the 5th book feedback and the 6th book and movie are better for it. For all the high stakes and crazy stuff going on in the outside world, most of the story is more lightheated and the school year feels more “normal” than the previous couple of books. There’s some teen stuff between Ron and Hermoine but it’s mostly muted. Gone are most of the “we’re not talking to each other to screw up plot points” as Dumbledore knows his time is short and starts spouting exposition to Harry at every turn.

We’re going to have to talk about it at some point: Richard Harris vs Michael Gambon. By and large, the casting for this series is spot on. I get that because the series was so popular and beloved they had their choice of almost any British actor for any role but they still mostly nailed it. So many in this series are now best known for being a Harry Potter character and, similarly, it’s hard to read the books and not see the actor or actress in your mind. The characters and the people portraying them are inseparable at this point and it’s a huge credit to the series. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson will never escape the shadows of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine in the way that Mark Hammill is Luke Skywalker, no matter how many other things he does. When you think Robbie Coltrane, you think Hagrid. Jason Isaacs is Lucius Malfoy. Heck, Tom Felton collapsed a celebrity golf tournament a couple of weeks ago and all the headlines were “Harry Potter actor has medical emergency”. Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Warwick Davis have had long and varied careers but their Harry Potter characters are still some of their top credits. Unfortunately, the switch from Harris to Gambon was not a good one. At it’s core, the Harry Potter story is a millennial coming-of-age story, so mentors play a huge role. Unfortunately, Gambon’s Dumbledore really lacks the warmth of Harris’s and you never quite feel he’s as powerful or wise as he’s being billed.

The scene in the cave builds to the climax and it’s... not good. The finale to the Half-Blood Prince wasn’t good in the book and it wasn’t good in the movie and it badly weakens Dumbledore’s death scene, Felton’s conflict and Rickman’s subtle brilliance do what they can, but it’s just too poorly written to work. It was still hugely consequential plot-wise but never had the emotional gravity it should have, either in book or movie form. It’s a shame as the rest of the book and movie are really strong but it fails when it matters most.


Can we just talk for a minute about the plotting for books 6 and 7? If I had written 5 books, I wouldn’t have looked at Harry Potter 6 and 7 and been like “hey, I need to introduce a bunch of new stuff like the Deathly Hallows and horcruxes to give our main characters more to do”. Instead, I’d be like “Oh man, I only have 2 books left to finish this story so do I have enough time to conclude the story I want to tell?” I mean, I just turned their entire world upside down with a huge new external threat - that gives me lots of new ground on which to naturally tread. The horcrux idea is actually a good one but I feel like I was piling too much to where I wouldn’t have enough pages to finish it. And, c’mon, if Rowling had been like “hey, I have this cool plot idea and I think it’ll take one more book to finish the series”, the publisher would be like “so, where do you want us to back up this dump truck full of money?”

As for 7, I’m not an author, I’m an engineer and I think like one. I’d be like “I’ve got a 500 page book and i need to accomplish these things: kill 5 more horcruxes, have a big finale, do some denouement, and fill out some characters and mysteries I’ve sprinkled along the way”. Then I’d be like: “I’ll have a couple of horcruxes killed in the big finale with Voldemort and Nagini since they’re main characters; that means I do 100ish pages each for the other three, 100-150 pages for the big finale, and 50-100 pages of denouement.” The character and mystery stuff looks like it follows a good formula: save 20% of the character stuff for the denouement (check), 30% of the character stuff in the intro like say a wedding for a Weasley and another previously introduced character (check), and then tie up another 50% along the way - like visiting Harry’s old house, Dumbledore’s history, etc (check). But the main plotting is awful: one horcrux is destroyed in the first almost 3-hour movie and there’s a bunch of dithering about a wholly new plot point, the Deathly Hallows. When you’ve got a lot of mysteries still on the board, the finale should be resolving old plot points not introducing new ones (I’m looking at you, Lost’s Flash Sideways).

(/end aside)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) - It’s easily the worst of the movies and should never have been made except for Warner Bros’s desire for more cash. It goes nowhere, and does so deliberately and slowly. The characters are isolated, which is awful for a series with such a rich cast, and there’s lots of needless tension and stupid decisions by said characters. Like the book, there’s an overabundance of deus ex machina (Ron just happens to be there when Harry’s drowning, saving him as he’s finding just the thing he needs to kill a horcrux) or characters who exist solely to be a plot point (Mundungus Fletcher). The seventh book needed to be one streamlined movie not two elongated ones.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) - The start feels slapdash (and like it could have been in the previous movie): randomly at a cabin with bill and lafleur, Gringotts and escape on a dragon, some more Voldemort, and an underdeveloped Dumbledore brother. There’s even a wink at the camera and a “when have any of our plans worked out” that feels a bit like a cheap writing cop-out to how they are just going to wing it, both our main characters and Rowling (and Yates). The Battle for Hogwarts is good with some lovely effects, expected fanservice, and some resolution. The movie a bit clumsier than the book as the written medium allows better explanations of the who, what, and why. For both, thought there are a lot of big events that happen in the last book/two movies. But many are inelegantly done - they are substantial plot-wise but don’t feel as satisifying or significant because they aren’t artfully executed. Still, it’s a satisfying conclusion and even if they didn’t nail the landing, they didn’t fall on their face either.

I suppose I also have some thoughts on the first two Fantastic Beasts movies but those will have to wait a week or two as we’re already pushing 2700 words just in this section alone.

Movie tiers:

  1. Order of the Phoenix (5) - Goblet of Fire (4)
  2. Half Blood Prince (6) - Deathly Hallows Pt 2 (8)
  3. Sorcerer’s Stone (1) - Chamber of Secrets (2)
  4. Prisoner of Azkaban (3)
  5. Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (7)

I’m just throwing out a random one today. We saw an ad for it on one of the DVDs, so let’s look at Lego Harry Potter. I have to say, I’ve never played this one. Heck, I’ve only played a couple of the Lego Star Wars games and they were quite fun - good production values, decently gamified, maybe a little too scatterbrained and not all that deep but still nice, casual fun. The couple of cutscenes I watched in the first few minutes look like fun, cheeky Lego versions that are mostly true to the movies.