Most of the buzz yesterday was around the Andrew Benintiendi trade. Max collected many of them in this article so we won’t repost them here.
And... that’s it. Want a listicle?
The AP created Spring Training preview capsules for each AL Central team:
Kansas City Royals
2020: 26-34, fourth place.
First Workout: Feb. 17/22.
He’s Here: LHP Mike Minor, 1B/DH Carlos Santana, OF Andrew Benintendi, RHP Wade Davis, RHP Ervin Santana, CF Michael A. Taylor, RHP Carlos Sanabria, 2B Hanser Alberto.
He’s Outta Here: LF Alex Gordon, OF Franchy Cordero, RHP Ian Kennedy, 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Glenn Sparkman, RHP Matt Harvey.
Going campin’: The improvement of the Royals came largely from the improvement of their young core, which they hope will usher in their next winning window. RHP Brady Singer nearly pitched a no-hitter during a promising pandemic-shortened season, and fellow rookie LHP Kris Bubic also made his big league debut. More young pitching could be on the way with LHPs Asa Lacy and Daniel Lynch and RHPs Jackson Kowar and Jonathan Bowlen providing the framework for what could be a dominant rotation in the next few years. The Royals lost one of the game’s premier defensive outfielders when Gordon retired, but he had struggled the last few seasons at the plate. He’ll be replaced by Benintendi, acquired from Boston in a deal that sent Cordero to the Red Sox. The Royals filled their leadership vacuum by signing Santana, who made life miserable for them for years as a member of the AL Central-rival Indians. Matheny thought the Royals were close to competing by the end of last season, and the team showed positive signs. Expectations are there for a breakthrough this year.
Royals blog time
Max mentioned this yesterday but it bears repeating: David Lesky has a blog on substack now. Subscribe!
Royals Farm Report is back! Royals Farm Report is back! This is not a drill! Alex Duvall kicks off the RFR 2021 Preseason Top 50 Royals Prospects List:
While we don’t have a 2020 MiLB season to go off of, we did get some snippets from summer camp and reports from within the organization to adjust our rankings ever so slightly. While this list will certainly look a lot like our mid-season list last summer, there will be some new info for you in here along with a slight adjustment in our overall rankings. This list will surely look vastly different come July if all goes well and we get a MiLB season, but I wanted to refresh your memories of where things stood seven months ago as we approach Spring Training.
Max hit a number of big names in the aforementioned reactions post. But some of the other blogs didn’t have stories out yet. Here’s a roundup of those:
- At The Royals Reporter, Kevin O’Brien states “Royals get Benintendi, and how he fits into their short (and long) term plans”
- At Royals Blue, Connor Miller thinks “Benintendi will fit perfectly at the K”
- At Call to the Pen, David Hill claims the “Kansas City Royals [are] attempting to make AL Central three team race”
At Kings of Kauffman:
- Mike Gillespie’s first story Wednesday reads “It’s time to forget the new lefty bat”
- While his second (and I’m very sympathetic to the whole “dang, my old story just got replaced by the new story” thing) reads “Andrew Benintendi is the new lefty bat”
- David Scharff writes “KC Royals trade for Andrew Benintendi was exactly what they needed”
Finally, Leigh Oleszczak has three stories of her own on the trade:
- “Kansas City Royals sent a clear message with trade for Andrew Benintendi”
- “Andrew Benintendi won’t have same kind of pressure in KC”
- “Kansas City Royals are going to have a sneaky good lineup in 2021”
Honestly, in the last couple of days, the Royals had the biggest news around baseball. But let’s see if we can sniff out some other interesting stories.
How about some transaction fun? There were an inordinate number of stories involving the Royals and former Royals yesterday.
The Red Sox took the $3M they saved when they traded Benintendi (it’s going to take a while to spell that one right) and paid it to Marwin Gonzalez.
Jed Lowrie will be returning to the A’s on a minor league contract. Honestly, he doesn’t have much to do with the Royals. He went 0 for 8 in the playoffs against them in 2014 (Oakland) and 2015 (Houston). I just included him here because I always confused him with Brett Lawrie. And I wanted a shameless excuse to remind everyone about the time when Kelvin Herrera, Brett Lawrie, and, of course, baseballs were all “a disgrace to baseball”.
Finally, Christian Colon has signed with the Kansas City... Monarchs! Of course we all know that means that the former T-Bones franchise is guaranteed to have a 12th inning playoff game this season!
Just between you, me, and the blog here. This is definitely my favorite story of the day and I’m glad Max didn’t see it in time for yesterday’s Rumblings:
Greinke story just told on MLB Network Radio. AJ Ellis went to the mound to talk to him in a big spot and Zack proposed him a trade in their fantasy football league.— SFA has never lost to Duke in men's basketball (@RoundRockTim) February 10, 2021
MLB, in its eternal quest to
make their product inaccesible for future generations claw for every last dollar, is raising the prices for MLB.TV, even coming off a pandemic-shortened season and lower ratings.
MLB.TV in 2021 also offers a single-team plan for $109.99, which is a $16 increase over the February 2020 single-team price. The single-team package enables you to follow a single team without paying the $129.99 price for all games and all teams (minus your local teams.). Local blackouts still apply in the 2021 MLB TV package. You can not watch the team or teams in your local market with a MLB.TV subscription.
Lastly, apparently drones are increasingly becoming a problem for MLB.
The FAA does not keep data specifically on the number of drones that have been spotted flying over stadiums. But the agency is alerted any time a drone violates flight restrictions, more generally, and that happens “several times a day,” Dickson says.
When asked whether MLB had introduced leaguewide security measures for drones, in addition to the response plans at individual stadiums, Thomas said yes, but he could not share any details. He added that the league discusses drones “regularly” in meetings with the FBI, FAA, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. And the issue isn’t expected to fall off the radar anytime soon. As drones continue to grow in popularity—with not only hobbyists but companies that may use them to deliver packages, for example—it will only be more important for stadiums to be capable of identifying them and understand what to do next.
“There’s so many potential commercial uses for drones that it’s only a matter of time before drones are as common as birds in our skies,” says Conaway. “And so we just need to make sure that our stadiums and outdoor venues have the capabilities necessary to adequately protect our fans.”
I’ve been wanting to do this set of One Line Movie Reviews for a few weeks now but stuff keeps happening like insurrections and Redditors taking over Wall Street. But towards the end of last year, we watched a number of Christopher Nolan movies. It seems like when someone gets a career break into the mainstream, it causes the masses to overrate everything else that person has done. For instance, after Pirates of the Caribbean, everyone retconned how much they loved Johnny Depp’s earlier stuff or the same for Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. I guess it’s no different than being a music hipster: “I liked band X before they were cool and sold out”. There’s a certain proprietary ownership that comes from being part of a smaller “fan club”.
But there’s also an opposite effect when an entertainer makes it big, the thing that made them otherworldly big takes a hit in critical eyes (“Metallica’s Black album is too mainstream”). Even though it’s still hanging out at #4 all time on the IMDB Top 250 behind Shawshank and the first two Godfathers, it’s popular to pretend that The Dark Knight is just a great performance by Heath Ledger propping up an otherwise mediocre superhero movie.
So the central premise here is thus: The universe is not zero sum but it feels like, in the intervening years, The Dark Knight has gotten knocked down a handful of points and they’ve found their way into other Christopher Nolan movies. Let’s see what I’ve got:
Memento (2001) - The storytelling is novel, it has a good look, the twist is well done (in the brief era when M. Night Shyamalan twists were popular), and the acting is intimate and believable from our 3 main characters. It loses points for being told within a small story and can drag for a bit, but is still a good movie. It’s competent and unique but with flaws.
Prestige (2006) - The plot, the script design, the setting, and the basic conceit are all well executed. Also, usually, I like when a movie’s reach exceeds its grasp – I try to give it credit for trying to do something big and this movie does that. So maybe my I should rethink my premise of Christopher Nolan getting an extra point or half star: I should just be glad that he’s bringing science fiction to the masses, to people who wouldn’t normally watch it. But two things really drag this movie down. One is that Bale’s acting isn’t up to par with the other main actors in the movie. And the other is that you’re taken down a really dark path in the last act that makes none of the characters redeemable in the least. It’s a dark fall from grace. Maybe it’s a “better” movie than The Illusionist (below) but far less enjoyable. There are a number of 9s and 10s if I rated individual aspects of a movie, but the flaws really drag it down overall.
The Illusionist (2006) - Not Christopher Nolan but watched in tandem with The Prestige. Whereas The Prestige was dressed up science fiction, The Illusionist was a historical romance, a simpler movie but, for my money, a more enjoyable one. There’s enough history, romance, intrigue, mystery, and social commentary balanced in the script to make it go. Also, the cinematography is wonderful: it just looks and feels like an old time movie: lots of sepia tones and old style cuts in gorgeous locations. Ed Norton does his Ed Norton thing, Paul Giamatti Paul Giamattis his way through the movie, and this might be Jessica Biel’s most notable role. It’s an easy watch.
Inception (2010) - Like the other Christopher Nolan movies, it’s very well “designed”. If you were trying to build a movie technically, it gets top marks. The weight of the ideas and visuals are strong, too – people remember the folding buildings, the idea of a dream within a dream, and the spinning top and what it represents even after the more convoluted aspects of the plot have faded away. There are never any dull moments, though there are some absurd ones. The world building is great and the heist plot seems fresh with the science fiction twist. The acting is good across the board. There’s a lot to like here and not much to criticize. It somehow feels a little “safe” and maybe a little clockwork - but all that does is limit the ceiling.
Batman Begins (2005) - A favorable review of Batman Begins would talk about how it was an origin story that explores some lesser known backstory like the Batman: Year One origin. It puts a spotlight on class struggles and explores Batman’s motivations to save a city from itself with high production values and a good acting cast. A less charitable read would be that it’s the first of three movies with the same plot of Gotham trying to tear itself apart. The origin story is told out of order to cover up that it’s equal parts boring and unbelievable – not in an awe inspiring way but in a “I don’t buy the motivations” sort of way. Our romantic leads are boring and, frankly, Bale is just not very good, which stands in contrast to the rest of a good cast (Caine, Oldman, Freeman, Murphy).
The Dark Knight (2008) - Can The Dark Knight live up to my memory of it? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”: it’s just so damn good. It should have gotten an Oscar nod and I don’t know what it will take for a Superhero movie to get one. A lot of its reputation is that of “when Superhero movies grew up” and the dark, gritty exterior has been oft imitated in the years since. However, there’s an optimism underneath it that grants it depth that these lesser movies lack. The movie also does a great job with tension and pacing - scenes play just long enough but rarely too long and then back off into some characterization or exposition. It’s a dense movie with said characterization and exposition seeming innocent but laying the groundwork for later in the movie
Yes, Heath Ledger deserved his Oscar but I vehemently disagree with people who think this movie is just him. They miss that this is a stool balanced on three legs: Batman, Joker, and Harvey Dent. Certainly the Joker is Batman’s main foil. But, without Dent, the movie lacks a narrative arc. Batman and Joker are the angel and devil on Dent’s shoulders that rise high above Gotham. Aaron Eckhardt carries the lighter parts of the movie where the Joker cannot. The backbone of the movie is Dent’s rise and fall. This reading also overlooks Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. One could argue that this movie is a 4- legged stool with Oldman on the side of good, Joker on the side of bad, and Batman and Dent vacillating between them. Does Ledger deliver the best performance? Undoubtedly. But Eckhardt and Oldman, two accomplished actors, bring their A game. Yes, Bale is the weakest of the four as he’s still more Batman than Bruce Wayne, but it doesn’t matter as he’s, at most, the third most important character in the movie. It’s the best superhero movie of all time and that’s coming from someone who isn’t even a big Batman fan.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - For some reason, Nolan felt that the core of his Batman story was that Gotham will tear itself apart as all 3 movies do that. It feels like the movie is going through a lot of motions to awe and trick you but not really tell you a story or deliver on the theme (whatever it is). In reviewing it, I drew a lot of parallels to Die Hard 3 and Spider-Man 3 and, while this movie is better than both, it has some of their echoes. lt leans hard into nostalgia of better movies in the series, including the twist, tries to undo some aspects of the better movie(s) to make the stakes higher, and introduces too many characters and characterization plots without enough time to give them adequate backstory. It’s frantic and disjointed. This movie would have looked much better if not for its predecessor. But if this were the second movie, the series wouldn’t be nearly as highly regarded.
In short, Inception was better than I remember it, Prestige and Memento were around where I have them (though maybe lower others have them), Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises were worse, and The Dark Knight was as excellent as I remembered. I feel like this set of reviews might be perceived a bit more #hottake-y than usual, so a reminder: feel free to disagree, but show your work if you want any internet points.
I had just about finished up Rumblings and it was well over 3000 words (usually, I try to come in around 1500). But I ran across this story and it even gets its own section: Pigs can be taught how to use joysticks, experiment finds
Bless you, Purdue researchers!
I rarely click on Facebook ads, but this story caught my eye. It was an interesting read, even though it was from 2017. Side note: Why are you advertising stories on Facebook from four years ago? But I guess it worked since we’re talking about it today. It must be something about this bleak weather that gets us going meta as this time last year, we were talking about NieR: Automata.
Today’s game is Moirai. As mentioned in the Kotaku article about the game: “Moirai is named after the three Fates of Greek mythology, ancient women who held the thread of life for every mortal being. “ It was a short game on Steam and a couple of other game portals and only took about 10 minutes to play. Reading about it, it reminds me of modern art where you’re supposed to react to it. In this case, the game asks the question “How do we respond to NPCs in a game, presumably when we think no one is looking (versus how would we react in real life)?”
I’m going to let PC Gamer set the stage. You should check out the whole article as it does a lot better job than I could of walking you though the game. Or just check out our video below.
You spawn in a small, square, pixelated township. There are four blocky houses and a handful of townspeople. The graphics are reminiscent of a Minecraft knock-off: low-res textures, functional, spartan. They’re ugly really, but in a low-key whimsical way that puts you off guard and makes the ending more eerie.
Exit the township and you’re on a farm populated by sheep (you could kill these sheep, and doing so was popular, naturally). Over in the far north-western side of this farm there’s a lumberjack guarding the mouth of a cave. “My brother and I were chopping wood when we heard moans coming from the cave,” the lumberjack explains. “My brother went to investigate.”
The lumberjack is worried: his brother should have been back by now. Inevitably you enter the cave with a lantern in order to check what’s happened. Once in the cave—a network of thin tunnels and cavernous square rooms—the lumberjack’s brother appears. “The moans are coming from further down,” he says. “I’d go in but my sight’s no good.” The lumberjack’s brother gives you a knife. “Who knows if you may need it.”
Now we’re going to get into spoiler territory - I’d just recommend skimming over this next block of text and jumping to the video...
SPOILER (You’ve been warned)
Players [stumble] across a knife-bearing man within the town’s mines. He is covered in blood, looking sinister as he lurks in the darkness. The player can ask pre-selected questions: why is he covered in blood? What happened? What did the man do? The answers can seem cogent or wild, offering measured explanations for the his deeds or spewing vile slurs. Players can choose whether to kill the man or let him pass.
The nature of this conversation becomes clear soon after, when the player finds a wounded woman covered in blood, begging to be killed so that her suffering will end. The player can agree to kill her and end up covered in blood or walk away. If they choose the latter, she spits blood on them. When they leave, a farmer finds them and asks the same questions. What happened? Why is there blood? Why do you have a knife? This time the player types out their answers, and the game fades to black.
Moirai’s main twist is that it is secretly a multiplayer game; you are reacting to the decisions and words of whoever played the game last. Later, the player receives an email to an address they provided revealing their fate and outlining what the other farmer did.
Of course, the internet being the internet, someone ruined it for everyone else and this article was about the game going offline. So if you want to check out the game in its entirety, here’s a 6 minute walkthrough of it: