Let’s lead off with some Alec Lewis. We’ll get a bit more of The Athletic down in the MLB section.
NEW — What I’m hearing about the Royals’ pitching development processes and progressions:https://t.co/I8quxxXoX9— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) February 3, 2022
Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline answers a mailbag question about Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino:
What’s the true ceiling for Vinnie Pasquantino? Does he bring enough value as a 1B/DH only guy? Seems like the Royals may struggle to find him ABs. —@PrestonFarrBF
With Pasquantino, it’s going to come down to his bat. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the 2019 11th-rounder from Old Dominion before last season, but he caught my attention by hitting .300/.394/.563 with 24 homers with as many walks as strikeouts (64) in 116 games between High-A and Double-A.
Though Pasquantino has improved defensively, he’s not going to dislodge potential Gold Glover Nick Pratto as Kansas City’s first baseman of the future, leaving DH as his fallback because he’s a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder without much speed. But he does make a lot of hard contact and shows the potential to hit for average and power, so he may provide enough offense to make it at DH. His combination of profile and makeup have led the Royals to liken him to Anthony Rizzo.
On Wednesday, David Lesky tried to guess the Opening Day roster for the bats. Yesterday, he did the same for the arms.
By my count, they have 14 pitchers who will get looked at in spring as a starter and then more relievers than that possibly. This is a very deep group with a lot of upside, but in terms of actual production, we haven’t seen a ton from them. If you told me today that the Royals would be top-five in the AL in ERA at the end of the year, I’d believe. If you said they’d be bottom-three, I’d believe that too. There is a lot of variance here. So let’s get to it. Just like yesterday, all stats listed are 2021 stats.
Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter continues his tiering of the Royals farm system with Tier 8:
I categorized “Tier Eight” prospects as “late bloomers”, as they are pitchers or position players who possess some interesting tools or skill sets but have taken their time to be considered serious prospects in the Royals system thus far...
41. Josh Dye; LHP; Omaha
42. Christian Chamberlain; LHP; Quad Cities
43. Kasey Kalich; RHP; Quad Cities
44. Nate Eaton; 3B/LF/RF; Quad Cities
45. Brewer Hicklen; OF; Northwest Arkansas
Lots of Fansided, especially considering the lack of anything going on right now
- Batoul Hammoud at KOK: Why it’s been an odd 12-season run for the KC Royals
- Mike Gillespie at KOK: Labor strife isn’t going to kill this game
- Lucas Murphy at KC Kingdom (slideshow warning): The Kansas City Royals Roster if the Season Started Today?
- David Hill at Call to the Pen: What to do with Carlos Santana
Let’s start with the little bit of news that doesn’t have to do with labor negotiations.
ESPN finished their top 100 MLB Players of all Time. Who was #1? You guessed it! Frank Stallone! Actually, 1-10 were Ruth, Mays, Aaron, Cobb, Williams, Gehrig, Mantle, Bonds, Johnson, and Musial. FYI: Brett came in at 43 with Satchel Paige and Nolan Ryan ahead of him and Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs right behind him.
The one only has to do with the negotiations in a roundabout way: The AAA season is getting a little longer, going from 144 to 150 games.
The Triple-A regular season was originally scheduled to run from Tuesday, April 5 to Wednesday Sept. 21 this year. That is six days after MLB Opening Day to a week and a half before the end of the MLB season. The Triple-A season will still begin on April 5, though it will now end a week later, four days before the end of the MLB regular season.
Speaking of which, how’s that MLB and MLBPA meeting going? There was a little optimism earlier this week as they were meeting again and the MLBPA put together a full proposal with some new ideas. Let’s check in on how that went:
Sources: MLB has told the MLBPA it will not make a counter offer after MLB two days ago saying it would.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2022
The owners didn’t propose anything of their own so they suggested going to federal mediation since it can drag things out even longer and gives no guarantee of an outcome:
MLB’s push for federal mediation could be ‘win-win’ PR play for owners https://t.co/GKKa4SUcg1— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 4, 2022
At least the internet provided some jokes:
How can MLB request for there to be a mediator from the Federal Government to help with negotiations when they literally haven’t even done any negotiating up to this point? Asking for a friend.— Alex Wood (@Awood45) February 4, 2022
FEDERAL MEDIATOR: So you, a literal monopoly that's exempt from antitrust laws, get to restrict the movement and earning power of your youngest employees, and you don't want any changes.— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) February 3, 2022
ROB MANFRED: Yes.
FEDERAL MEDIATOR: Alright, let me see what I can do.
It also provided a lot of stupid. We won’t link to those today. But, hey, the owners, in particular, seem intent on dragging this out so we’ll probably get a chance.
Dayn Perry at CBS Sports writes about how the MLBPA wants to change the revenue sharing formula, though I’m not sure I agree with some of his points about. For instance, in the NFL, they share almost all revenue and teams don’t try to tank nearly as much as in MLB.
Some sharing of local revenues is fine in principle and likely in execution. However, the current rates are far too high – again, it’s almost half of local revenues being taken from large-market teams – and there’s no evidence the practice is doing anything beyond reducing labor costs for team owners. In order to restore the proper competitive incentives – particularly among revenue-sharing recipients – the union is right to be targeting the current structure. There needs to be less revenue sharing, and what there is of it needs to come with much more team accountability attached.
As part of the negotiations, WAR may be used to determine bonuses and those who create WAR are not that excited about this idea.
[BBRef’s Sean] Forman would soon receive endorsements from figureheads of two of the other major public outlets that calculate WAR, FanGraphs managing editor Meg Rowley and Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Craig Goldstein. He followed up his own tweet with a thread laying out six different concerns about the idea.
It was long past time for a movie review dump. I’m a bit of an Olympic junkie so expect the next two Rumblings to be a bit light in content as I’ll be spending many of my waking hours watching that and mailing in my Rumblings... oops, Max didn’t see me say that, right? I mean, I’ve already watched 4 hours of curling and, yes, I’d like to once again propose the curling equivalent of the Red Zone channel where they do condensed games with just the 4 stones in each end. Or, even better, go sheet by sheet for the last 2 shots of each end. Get it done, NBC.
Anyway, this is going to be more of my traditional One Line Movie Reviews (disclaimer: may not be one line) than the longer reviews from January (ed note: after finishing, this turned out to be a lie). We had Disney+ for a couple of months around the holidays as well as watched a couple of other movies in our downtime so this is going to be an animation-themed set of reviews. I had seen a couple of them before but most are first watch impressions. I guess I’ll rank them just for the heck of it.
Just a quick note. It feels like Disney and Pixar have almost cracked the formula for having their movies having a floor of “pretty good” these days. I don’t feel like they reach for great that often, but they just don’t make bad movies much anymore. Other studios are pretty good at this, but they can still crank out some duds.
Frozen (2013) - It’s a modern classic that has grown on me even more with repeated viewings (mercifully not the 100x some kids inflict on their parents). It’s wildly popular for a reason with memorable characters, a clean straightforward story that feels very natural, a great soundtrack, and gorgeous visuals. Not much more I need to add to this one.
Coco (2017) - I should really see this again because after one viewing, it’s on my border of “great”. It’s absolutely gorgeous, even by Pixar’s lofty standards - the neon and black in the Land of the Dead is amazing looking. It traffics in big ideas with literal life-and-death stakes and remembering those who came before us (Soul tried to do something similar but it was just a little off). It’s weighty, but not overly dark, an airier Spirited Away. The only thing really holding it back is that the twist was predictable to the audience, even if it wasn’t to Miguel. After one watch, I’m considering this for the best Pixar movie since the original ten, though Inside Out has something to say about that. FYI: If you don’t understand why I separate out the original ten, go look: it’s an insanely good run and before sequels dominated the production calendar.
Moana (2016) - I tried to watch this three times, for various reasons, before I was finally able to see it all the way through. It’s a light romp, even if it has some real generic questy-ness to it. And. hey, what movie isn’t made better by The Rock’s charisma, even if he’s not bald, in his jungle shirt, and lost in a jungle like seemingly all of his other movies. Some of the songs are particularly catchy (“You’re Welcome”) and, really, if Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to keep making songs for Disney movies, by all means. It’s just a generally fun movie.
Luca (2021) - Like Moana, this one’s just breezy and effortless, but in different ways. It is a low stakes, coming-of-age film with obvious influences aplenty from the various incarnations of The Little Mermaid giving us the characters and motivations to the Pinocchio desire to be a real boy (with going to school as a weird proxy for this). The Italian coast is its own character, even if Luca’s family is bland. Giulia is fun and mostly original while her family has some Miyazaki quality. I like the subtle misdirection about how you expect the conflict between Luca and Alberto to be about Giulia, but it’s not really. It doesn’t try to be epic, so it can only be so grand. It’s safe but it’s charming.
Encanto (2021) - We’ve already mentioned him once, but, yeah, Disney should lock up Lin-Manuel Miranda to a long term deal. How many “Welcome to the family Madrigal”s did every family hear this winter? I’m not a big music person, but it strikes me that only a few of his songs really have hooks while most are more free flowing and less likely to become childrens’ earworms. Maribel is very sympathetic, I love the Luisa craze, the idea of the magical family that props up the town is interesting, and as someone who has been to Colombia, there are some really nice touches I appreciate like a quick scene of tejo. It falls short with a super-predictable ending and the family conflict feeling manufactured to the point where it’s hard to tell if its heart is real or synthetic. I spent a bit of time going back and forth on whether this or Luca gets the higher spot. I reserve the right to flip them once again.
Onward (2020) - It’s a strange little movie that I really want to like, despite its flaws. Chris Pratt’s character is an interesting archetype, playing a character with decidedly uncool traits like being a Dungeons and Dragons fan and played off as a complete loser. But he also has some 70s/80s cool traits that feel out of time like being a gearhead, listening to classic rock, and being the cool slacker who is super self-confident and doesn’t care what others think. Some of the stuff with the dad half just goes on too long and is frustrating. The buddy pic thing with mom and Manticore was there just to bulk up the middle of the movie. But I generally liked this movie. I’m a little worried I’m a bit biased in favor of the movie because it hits a lot of little things I personally like. Either way, it’s definitely better than its reputation as only Pixar’s second commercial dud to date (mainly due to COVID). I’m glad we’re in the middle of a 4-movie original IP run for Pixar with Onward, Soul, Luca, and 2022’s Turning Red after so many sequels over the past decade.
Frozen II (2019) - This one suffers a bit from sequelitis. It has to expand the universe to seem “fresh” but there was no natural place to take it after the original. The characters feel a bit like caricatures of their originals, the foreshadowing is heavy-handed and assumes the audience is dumb, it sags a lot in the second act, and feels a bit like the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 therapy session criticisms. For all the talk about things changing, in the end, everything is basically back to where it was at the start with our warm, comfortable characters from the previous movie. It’s not bad, it’s just unambitious. Oh, hey - here’s a fun little mashup of Idina Menzel and Brendon Urie’s version of Into the Unknown.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) - Again, another gorgeous movie, maybe the prettiest of all the ones we saw. Awkwafina is fun. The big idea: dragons sacrificed themselves for the world but that became myth and now everyone wants to control the power - is fine and very modern. The idea of a loss of society and collective tragedy are coming back into vogue, a reflection of society’s problems writ large. But, well, a lot of the rest of the movie is a bit of a dud. All the other characters are flat one-note characters where their only personal growth is to learn to work together. Heck, Raya only overcomes her skepticism because she has no other choice. It’s still worth a watch but lowered expectations.
The Grinch (2018) - Was anyone really begging for another feature length Grinch? How is it? Well, it’s fine. Just fine. It’s from Illumination (Despicable Me) so you know what it should look like - not Pixar/Disney quality, but the next shelf down alongside Dreamworks. And it’s a feature length version of the Grinch short story, so you can guess how it plays. The intro has to introduce a number of new elements, there’s a lot of digressions and overly long jokes, the second act is slow, and there’s no real drama as we all know how it ends.It also tries to play more “modern” and “fresh” - the Grinch is more redeemable, Cindy Lou Hoo is a precocious elementary schooler who you half expect to fix up the Grinch with her single mom, there are extraneous plots and characters aplenty, capped off by some humor that will feel dated in 20 years and mostly plays for chuckles now. I didn’t want my hour and a half back. But it’s exactly what you’d expect and, yes, just fine.
This time of year gets me thinking about PAX South. Sadly, PAX South appears to be no more as it was cancelled, both due to COVID but also because “PAX South hasn’t expanded and to some extent has remained the same show that it was when we opened it in 2015”.
I went twice and have some great memories of the show. My favorite Indy game I found there was Just Shapes and Beats, which we’ve done a few times before. This is the final level (or two). I don’t think it’s as hard as the incomparable Close to Me** when you play it in the difficulty curve, but the hardcore version here is the hardest in the game (not including expansion levels).
**Also, if you didn’t watch Close to Me last year, give it a shot before the one below as it gives you a little more about the characters. The minimalist visual storytelling is really good, even if you won’t get the emotional heft you would if you played through the whole game. Also, the scene starting around 1:32 is just brutal, if you know it in context.