Hey, y’all. Long time no see. I mean, I’m in the comments here and there but for a Friday Rumblings, I mean. I’m still working through things and my schedule is really irregular the next couple of months but I’m going to try and help out when I can.
Most of the news at the standard outlets was about the Benintendi trade or the game last night. Ryan’s got you covered with the recap from last night’s promising yet frustrating game. But that doesn’t mean I can’t grab a couple of Tweets about it.
Phys still saying "major league debut" about Maikel Garcia here in the 5th inning, while telling the exact same spring training anecdote he told during Garcia's actual debut.— Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33) July 29, 2022
Brady Singer was filthy last night:
Other Royals to strike out 10+ batters in consecutive starts:— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) July 29, 2022
Yordano Ventura (2015)
Zack Greinke (2009)
Bret Saberhagen (1989)
Bill Butler (1969)
And the only Royal to strike out 10+ batters in 3 straight starts is, of course, Kevin Appier (1996).
Alec Lewis tooting his own horn a little bit (deservedly so):
From this very morning, on Brady Singer...https://t.co/KpyJQrwfbN— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) July 29, 2022
I don’t get to link to my favorites like David Lesky, Craig Brown, Royals Farm Report, or Kings of Kauffman since Max already collected the stories about the trade.
Fortunately (for me), he missed Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter, who asked “Was it enough?”
On one hand, some are happy that the Royals got a decent package for essentially a “rental”. Benintendi will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season, and it doesn’t seem likely that Benny will re-sign with the Yankees (or if the Yankees have interest in extending him beyond this year).
On the other hand, many Royals fans, especially those who have been frustrated with this front office for most of the season, were not quite as impressed. None of the three were listed as Top-10 prospects in the Yankees system (at least according to Baseball America), and many were surprised that the Royals would acquire three pitchers when hitting development, not pitching development, has been their Minor League player development’s “calling card” over the past couple of seasons.
Also, Darin Watson is continuing to chug along with his 1977 retrospective at U.L.’s Toothpick.
For the second straight night, the Royals beat Cleveland by a 5-4 score in extra innings, winning in walkoff fashion in 11 innings on Thursday night at Royals Stadium. But this wasn’t quite a carbon copy of the night before. While the Royals had to score two runs in the ninth just to tie it on Wednesday, on this night they coughed up a 4-1 lead late before pushing across the game-winning run...
With the win, the Royals improved to 55-40. They were in second place in the AL West, 3.5 games behind Chicago. Kansas City was headed to the Windy City for four games against the White Sox, having won 10 of their last 12 games.
Want a weird(?), silly(?), oh-so-very-local-news article about new Royals prospect T.J. Sikkema? Lots of parts to this one:
- This is from the Clinton Herald, small local newspaper in Iowa from where Sikkema grew up
- His dad, Shane Sikkema is the high school coach at Central DeWitt high where T.J. went to school
- Sikkema donated about $9000 in baseball equipment to the school “including a radar gun, pitching machine, and other branding items” including a “banner and sign”
- So far, so good, right?
- Well, apparently, they had a design that was not consistent with the district’s branding for the school so they got taken down: “The items arrived in May and were installed by volunteers. Shortly after their installation, Peterson had them taken down because at that time, he said they had ‘taken him by surprise’ and he believed them to be a mistake — they did not have the district’s correct logos. “ - Peterson here is district superintendent Dan Peterson
I’m just going to let the story do the rest here and you can draw your conclusions:
Peterson’s abrupt reaction, though, caught the ire of Sikkema, who wrote in a letter to the school board that the “experience has brought me to questions where my loyalties lie … The handling of this situation is disappointing and has left me questioning my desire for future donor involvement with the school district.”
He said Peterson showed “little to no intentions of working with me on this,” which prompted Sikkema, along with his mother, Amy, to ask the school board to intervene at the June 21 meeting.
T.J.’s dad, Shane Sikkema, is the head coach of the varsity baseball team and did not want to get involved, Amy said. However, she conveyed the importance of the four-fingered glove and said it possesses historical significance.
“At the beginning of every season, Coach Sikkema talks about playing old-school baseball,” she said. “The original glove was a four-fingered glove … This baseball artwork is more than artwork, it is something that connects past baseball players with the players (of) today and will connect those in the future.”
Ah, local news. Good stuff!
Let’s look around the MLB.
Trey Mancini has been with the Orioles organization since he was drafted in 2013. He’s also expected to be traded this week at the trade deadline. His final AB at Camden Yards may have been a fielder-assisted inside-the-park HR. Take a look.
Speaking of the trade deadline, there’s a report that Shohei Ohtani might be on the block. Oh, wait, the report came from the New York Post. Never mind. That’s about as real as Jon Heyman’s “mystery team” that always pops up when Scott Boras needs to gin up some competition for his clients.
Scary scene in Cincinnati yesterday as Marlins pitcher Daniel Castano took a 104 mph line drive off his head.
“I’m not sure what happened,’’ Castano said after the game, wearing a bandage on his forehead where some skin had scraped off. “I was down for a second. I was a little out of if. When I woke up, I asked, ‘What happened?’ I’m much better now. I’m a little bit tired, but I’ll be all right.”
The Blue Jays are putting $300 million towards a renovation of the Rogers Centre. The Skydome opened in 1989 and this is the first major renovation of the stadium. The article says it’s all privately funded but doesn’t give any more details. I’m curious who is paying for it since the financing when it was built was not without controversy. There had been chatter of building a new stadium but this ends that pursuit. If I were a company like Coke, which had some ridiculously beneficial and potentially 99 year contract, I might chip in some cash to keep my exclusivity. I will say this - if you ever get a chance to stay at one of the stadium-view rooms at the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel - do it! It is a very unique baseball experience. However, it is not cheap.
I think my feelings about the Astros sign stealing scandal are pretty clear (and, if not, here’s 8000 words to chew on this morning). About a half dozen teams were doing something similar, almost every team trying to compete during that time period was accused of doing it to some degree, and MLB found a convenient scapegoat to throw it all on because the Astros did a number of other unlikable things and weren’t one of MLB’s glamour franchises.
Prior to this season, MLB approved the use of a system called PitchCom where catchers can relay pitch choices to the pitcher electronically without using hand signals. Max Scherzer used it the other night and he doesn’t like it, for a peculiar reason:
“Here’s what I’ll say on PitchCom,” he said (via Newsday). “It works. Does it help? Yes, but I also think it should be illegal. I don’t think it should be in the game. Stealing signs is part of the game. For me, I’ve always taken pride in having a complex system of signs and having that advantage over other pitchers. The fact that we’re taking this out of the game and we’re putting in technology, now you can’t steal signs on second, the pitcher can’t have an advantage of having a complex system. It’s part of baseball, trying to crack someone’s signs.”
That sounds an awful lot to me like “teams I’ve played on in the past were good at stealing signs but my signs were better so it was a competitive advantage for me”. Yup, guys, punishing the Astros and people associated with the Astros definitely fixed all those problems in baseball. Wait, there’s no sarcasm font for articles.
(Ed note: I included this link before the trade on Wednesday but it still works)
This was from last week but I liked it a lot from over at Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees SBNation site. It’s a Yankees-centric site, so, of course, it’s tinged with Yankees exceptionalism and completely whistles past the giant resource advantage they have. But if you can get past that, there’s some great points addressing the title statement of “What we talk about when we talk about player development”. It does a good job talking about not just minor league development but major league development and supplementing cheap pre-arby talent with replacement level talents turned into something more. Of course, then they use it to talk about how they can then go out and buy $500M players from other teams, but, well, Yankees fans:
This comprehensive approach to development gives the Yankees, and the Dodgers and the Rays and the Astros, and to a lesser extent the Jays, Orioles, and Giants, two distinct advantages. First, in the purest ideas of Moneyball, it allows them to identify undervalued or overlooked tools, to see players not as what they are but they could be, and thus acquire them for less than the market should bear. If you traded Clay Holmes today, he’d bring back much more than Diego Castillo and Hoy-Jun Park.
The second advantage, and one that I want the Yankees to pursue more aggressively, is that this development strength allows you to hunt the blue chips MORE, not LESS. You can add Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton — and Juan goddamn Soto — because even though you’re not guaranteed to continue to develop major league talent for pennies on the dollar, the experience, institutional knowledge, and reputation you’ve built by turning nobodies into All-Stars indicates that you probably can.
Thus you can add the massive, ceiling raising, often expensive talent that takes you from a 92-win team to a 100-win team, and you pay for it on the back end by having Nestor Cortes pitch like a $25 million dollar arm for a million dollars. The best teams aren’t actually completely “homegrown”, they’re this mix, like the Yankees and Dodgers and Astros, of developed talent and added star power. This becomes more and more possible by being able to build multi-win talent on the fly.
Finally, from last week to next week. ESPN has announced the date and schedule for the 2022 iteration of The Ocho. It will be Friday, August 5th on ESPN2. Here’s some events that stand out for me:
- 2022 Corgi Races at Emerald Downs
- 2021 Corunna Belt Sander Races
- 2022 Noblesville Bed Races
- Franklin Rock River Stone Skipping Competition
- 2021 World Air Hockey Championships
- AWA Wiffle Ball at The Ocho
- Pogopalooza Cup 2022
- US Air Guitar All-Star Air-off
There are more awesome ones, but I thought I’d stop at, well, 8.
Last month, we took a family vacation to Hawaii. One of the places we visited was Kualoa Ranch, where a number of TV shows and movies have been filmed. Among those was Kong: Skull Island, so we decided to delve into the Legendary Films Monsterverse. BTW, lots of SPOILERS BELOW.
Also, I would also be remiss if we were going to talk about Kaiju and didn’t link to Every Country Has a Monster, When I saw this on the first episode of the MST3K reboot (season 11), I figured there was a chance the revival would turn out alright.
Kong: Skull Island (2017) I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and it had everything I wanted in a monster movie: Good monster, good effects, a colorful setting (Vietnam-era and Skull Island), fights that are big but not too long, competently acted (mostly one-note) humans, and one heck of a cast. John Goodman’s crackpot scientist, Sam Jackson’s Captain Ahab, Tom Hiddleston’s competent tracker, Brie Larson’s photographer, and John C. Reilly’s marooned soldier all fill their roles in the plot. The humans do stuff to move the plot but the monsters are the stars - it’s a quality monster movie through and through. It just checks all the boxes – maybe not with perfect scores but solid to very good ones.
Godzilla (2014) - The first movie in the Legendary Monsterverse, we accidentally watched them out of order. The cast is good but not as good as Kong. Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody helps give humanity to the movie but that mostly evaporates when his character dies and his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and daughter-in-law Elle (Elizabeth Olson) take center stage. Being a Godzilla movie, there has to be the cliché Japanese scientist who warns us how nature points out the folly of man and gives us the “let them fight” meme. That’s not giving Ken Watanabe nearly enough credit as he’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa is the only other character that lends gravity to the movie. The flying praying mantis Mutos are good foils and the settings of Tokyo, Hawaii, and San Francisco all work. The third act is a mess: there’s no way a father and husband would tell his wife and kid to wait for him in harm’s way instead of telling them to get out of town (and it doesn’t even serve some cheesy dramatic purpose in the end), action movie inconsistencies about how their EMPs work, and a decent amount of screen time setting up Ford as a bomb diffuser only to have him never diffuse a bomb. It’s just a lot of vestigial plots that mean nothing in the end and waste time. They’re sloppy and distracting but not movie ruining. The monster movie aspects really work and the humans are neutral in the end – they don’t add much to the plot (like Kong) but they also aren’t a horrible detriment (like the next two movies). Easily the second best of the series and a quality monster movie through and through.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) It’s interesting that in the Monsterverse, Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla vs Kong (2021) all have nearly identical scores on Rotten Tomatoes (75-76%) and Metacritic (59-62). This one, on the other hand, has significantly lower ratings than the other three and understandably so as, even for a monster movie, it’s dumb. First, it plays more as an action move than a Kaiju movie, especially in the first half – there’s way too much emphasis on the stupid humans. And, man, are they stupid. The number of times that humans have to be reminded that they don’t have anything that can control the new titans has to be at least a dozen. And they never learn their lesson as even in the climactic battle, they claim they’re going to help Godzilla… only to be functionally useless. I really don’t care about the family struggles of Mark (Kyle Chandler), Emma (Vera Farmiga), and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and Alan Jonah’s villain (Charles Dance) isn’t nearly as interesting as Sam Jackson. Also, this movie’s reach far exceeds its grasp - more about that down below in the Franchise Notes. Suffice to say, there were way too many plots going on in this movie so everything gets short shrift. I think there’s a good movie in here or, actually, two good movies but when it got squished into one, there’s no way to do it well. The monsters still look great and the monster battles are pretty, but I feel like Legendary wasn’t thinking long term about this franchise. They wanted to throw the kitchen sink into the movie, which is a shame as I really want this to succeed.
Godzilla vs Kong (2021) - Unfortunately, I feel like this had more in common with King of Monsters than the first two - it was more action movie than monster movie and the humans were just so dumb and distracting. There were some really good moments. The Kong vs Godzilla fight on the sea with the aircraft carrier - that was quality Kaiju stuff - it was cool looking, the humans did what little they could (depth charges), and the fight was logical in how it turned out. Godzilla versus Kong in neon Hong Kong and then teaming up to beat Mecha Godzilla - that was also quite good. But the effects budget for the whole movie seemed lower than the previous movies - the shots of Godzilla, in particular, don’t look as good or as consistent. With this being the 4th movie, they should be getting better not worse. And then there are the humans. Dr. Andrews and Jia can stay - the rest need to be replaced by better scripts and actors/actresses. Was anyone really wanting more of the Russell family drama? Maddie’s subplot doesn’t advance the plot in any way and the only purpose appears to be to give the audience eyes on the ground in Apex, which could be done another way. Mark Russell is also back for no reason. Like seriously - what is his purpose in the film? Does he advance the plot? Does he add characterization? Nothing at all. Zero. He just wastes screen time. Alexander Skarsgard’s Nathan Lind, Elza Gonzalez’s Maia Simmons, and Shun Oguir’s Ren Serizawa (I didn’t even know he was supposed to be Serizawa’s son) are all really forgettable. After so many fights against the titans, the military people and corporate leaders are getting dumber and filled with more hubris, even though millions have been killed by the monsters. We’re not here to watch the stupid human plots - their role is to demonstrate awe at the creatures, humanize the disasters, and (occasionally) to advance the monster plot. And we haven’t even gotten into the Hollow Earth stuff that’s feels thrown together. There’s a salvageable good movie here, but it’s buried under a lot of frustrating meh.
Franchise Notes: I’m so glad we tried to do monster movies with the movie technology we have now. We can finally make cool, mostly-realistic looking Kaiju movies with industry standard effects - you don’t need to have James Cameron spending $300M and 5 years to make the movie or have Roland Emmerich having some shots that look gorgeous and others where the cool stuff has to be off screen or risk it looking like a cheesy guy in a suit.
If I were in charge, I would make very few changes to Godzilla and Kong. I leave Bryan Cranston alive for Godzilla as he gives more weight to the movie than his kids and make it more of a father/son pic instead of husband/wife one. The heavy lift comes when I split up King of Monsters. It should have been the Avengers of the Monsterverse: it’s Godzilla and Mothra against King Ghidora, Rodan, and friends. Not everything has to be built like MCU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a lesson from Infinity War – if you want to make a movie that is mostly act 3, that can work but it requires a lot of other time building up acts 1 and 2. Here’s the list of major plots in GKOM: stupid human family issues, the government trying to close out Monarch, Emma’s Orca, the eco terrorists, Mothra’s origin story, Rodan’s origin story, Ghidora’s origin story, Ghidora calling all the monsters, Ghidora fighting Godzilla, Godzilla predictable death fakeout, Dr. Serizawa death, Ghidora beating Godzilla again, Mothra’s sacrifice, and then the final fight. That’s a lot to pack into the movie and nowhere near enough time to explore it all. So it’s too rushed and too shallow and nothing gets a chance to breathe.
The third movie should have been Godzilla vs Rodan - Mothra and Rodan are both major players in the Godzilla universe so there’s enough star power there. The movie would start with Monarch under fire and the Mothra intro with Emma and Orca - just like King of Monsters. But we cut down on the family drama and slow play Emma and the ecoterrorist plot until the beginning of the next movie. Rodan awakes “naturally” as part of the titans awakening - Serizawa can science up an explanation - and he beats Godzilla the first time because he controls the air while Godzilla can only fight on the ground. Then Mothra hatches and is friend not foe and they work together to beat Rodan. End movie.
In the next movie, we have a lot more time to focus on the Ghidora plot. We jump straight into the ecoterrorists awakening Ghidora and establish him as a threat to Godzilla with an intro fight. Mothra comes to his aid and they drive off Ghidora. Ghidora, with the help of the ecoterrorists, starts waking up the other monsters. Humans, for all our military might, have no power to stop them, especially Ghidora and the world is decimated, as it was in the original. Godzilla and Mothra are badly injured in in a critical battle but it only stops Ghidora’s army’s advance. To save Godzilla and the planet, Serizawa sacrifices himself, charges up Godzilla. Mothra sacrifices itself to beat Rodan but a newly supercharged Godzilla saves the day.
Finally, Godzilla vs Kong, has different types of problems. The plot can mostly be kept intact: Godzilla vs Kong and then Godzilla and Kong vs Mecha Godzilla. But the budget needs to be boosted by $50M. Clean up some of those sloppy effects and the monster part is good. The human part needs to be completely reworked - replace the actors and actresses with someone better and better scripts. The Maddie, Josh, and Bernie plot can just go away: no one wanted a Spy-Kids-plus-conspiracy-theory-guy adventure.
I couldn’t come up with a better song if I tried