Kansas City takes on Texas in Surprise at 2:05pm Royals time today. The Royals get the Cactus League opener! The Spring Training opener, even! I don’t think this is something that’s officially noted, but I’m making this call for us.
There are only two other games today. One is the Red Sox against Northeastern University. That doesn’t count because it’s against a college, not another MLB team. It’s also in Florida, so even if we give them the title of having Spring Training opener (we won’t, again, college team), there’s no disputing that the Royals have the Cactus League opener. The only other game today is Mariners vs Padres and that starts at 2:10pm. FYI: The Mariners and Padres share a venue, Peoria Sports Complex, in the same way that the Rangers and Royals share Surprise Stadium.
This is how the Royals pursuit of the (Cactus League) pennant begins.
Lots on Royals Twitter about Photo Day:
Today’s daily Anne Rogers: With Drew Waters hurt, the door is open for Kyle Isbel in center field:
Isbel joined several Royals players who went to Driveline, the data-driven training center, this offseason. Isbel sought answers on his bat path. He found himself hitting a lot of ground balls last year rather than his typical line-drive approach. His 44.6% hard-hit rate was above league average, but it wasn’t showing in the results.
Also, at MLB.com, Kelsie Heneghan implores you to explore the Royals minor league ballparks in Columbia, Quad Cities, Northwest Arkansas, and Omaha.
Might as well include MLB’s listicle. It’s a bit damning with faint praise that the Royals best pure hitting prospect is:
Maikel Garcia, SS If not for the presence of Bobby Witt Jr., we’d likely be talking about Garcia as the potential shortstop of the future in Kansas City. The infielder, who turns 23 on March 3, has shown a steady rate of contact throughout his time in the Royals system, and while there isn’t a ton of pop behind it, his plus speed could also help him hit in the .280-.290 region in the bigs. Garcia heads into the spring after sporting a .323/.444/.498 over 250 plate appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Sure, it’s a fluff piece, but it’s one of the few things we’re getting from The Star. Pete Grathoff got a video from the Royals PR team about what foods various players hated. Lots of vegetables, but, uh, you ok, Jackson Kowar?
Pitcher Jackson Kowar: Brownies
For a more traditional Spring Training story in The Star, we get this one from James Dalpino, asking a number of players and staff what they hope to get out of Spring Training. NRI Tyler Gentry had this to say:
“It’s cool being in the locker room with a bunch of guys who’ve been in the big leagues and know what it takes and just learning from them,” Gentry said. “It’s always exciting when you get to play the first game of the season after having a whole offseason without it. Doing it on a big-league field during spring training is going to be even cooler.”
Wasn’t sure who Dalpino was, but found this on his Twitter page:
I have enjoyed writing for the Kansas City Royals the past two weeks and being published in the Kansas City Star. Thank you to @Krafty_3 and @sportscronkite for the opportunity!— James Dalpino (@james_dalpino) February 24, 2023
Shoutout to @NathNikash for the photos. Link to read my latest below. https://t.co/ks8MOILsJR
At some point, we’re going to get regular beat writers for both The Star and The Athletic, right? Right??
At MLBTR, Steve Adams interviewed former Royal Brian Johnson, who played for the Royals back in 2000. He was a longtime scout for the Giants and is now a diversity consultant.
Q: Since you have been in the league, the game has changed. If you were in the league today, how different would your game be? Would you have even made it? Pitchers throw 100 mph WAY more than 20 years ago. Would you be able to hit a homer off Sandy Alcantara, Corbin Burnes etc.?
Brian Johnson: I hope so. Yes, the game has changed, but don’t be confused. Throwing the ball hard does not mean the game is more difficult. All hitters can hit 100 mph. All it takes is good timing. Think about a bunt. One does not need to swing 100 mph to hit a 100 mph fastball. The pitching is very good, but the command is not as good as previous eras. Also, there is very little strategy involved now. People who are calling pitches are reading off of a stat sheet. The catcher has the best vantage point and should be taught how to call a game more. Good question. MLB is still a great game and the players are amazing.
We have a healthy dose of blog stories from yesterday, along with ones that fell through the cracks earlier in the week.
Craig Brown wrote about the Royals and also about the reporter situation I mentioned above:
Anne Rogers is doing all of the heavy lifting for you in Surprise. With The Athletic saving a few nickels by not having a full-time Royals beat writer and with The Star not even bothering to send someone currently on the staff down to Arizona, Rogers is your go-to for your on-the-ground Royals fix. (I think I’m going to keep pounding on The Athletic and The Star until they hire beats. The Athletic…fine, I get it. Sort of. But The Star barely covering the start of Spring Training? They used a college student as a stringer for a story in Sunday’s newspaper. That’s embarrassing.)
Kevin O’Brien at The Royals Reporter talks about PLV and some of his pitcher analysis at PitcherList (I did not know he wrote there):
While I wanted to promote my most recent article for Pitcher List (I feel my old grad papers took less work), that is not the sole purpose of this post. I also wanted to talk about a new metric exclusive to PL that was recently released, and how I plan to incorporate this metric in a series of short posts about Royals starting pitchers, leading up to Opening Day.
That metric is PLV, which stands for Pitch Level Value. The metric is very similar to Eno Sarris’ Stuff+ metrics, as it gauges baseball events not by its results (which is typical for run value on Baseball Savant), but rather by the pitch’s quality itself.
- Alex Duvall at Royals Farm Report: Composite Top-30 Royals Prospects
- Darin Watson at U.L.’s Toothpick: 50 Greatest Kauffman Stadium Moments, #8: Royals Clinch First AL Pennant Since 1985 (October 15, 2014)
- Mike Gillespie at KOK: Will bigger bases be a big deal for the 2023 KC Royals?
- Jacob Milham at KOK (slideshow warning): 3 players who’ll be better in 2023 and 2 who won’t
Lastly, I fell down a little bit of a Reddit hole.
First off, Vinnie Pasquantino had an AMA. For those unfamiliar “AMA” stands for “Ask Me Anything” and basically Redditors fire questions and he can answer whichever he wants to.
Q: Do you have any recurring nightmares?
VP: Yeah, I mean, who doesn’t? There’s this one that I can’t even explain, but I can see it so vividly. This is gonna sound so stupid, but pounds of meat, I try to throw and then catch. I’ve had it probably 8-10 times in my life, typically when I was younger. It was like a court, but I was playing like 2-D, it was like a game, but I’m not sure what the game was. The gabagool really gets me.
I... um... I have no words. And you all know how I rarely lack for words.
Moving along, Someone else on the Royals Reddit mentioned the time Mike Sweeney was on Saturday Night Live. Say what? I don’t remember this at all (even though it’s been mentioned at least twice on the site). The Ringer did the whole (overused and kinda lazy, at this point) Oral History of X (in this case, X = the sketch) a couple of months ago.
Carlock: After the first rehearsal, and after dress, McKay kind of said, “You handle this. I’m washing my hands of it.” They just had them down in a holding room. There weren’t enough dressing rooms to give them all dressing rooms. These guys are all fairly media savvy, but it’s just such a different—“You got to wait, you got to hold for applause, we’ll lose your lines under laughs and under applause.” I’m in this room with all of these professional athletes, telling them how to behave on camera. I think they’re so used to having a mic right in their mouth, where they don’t have to project at all. There are a lot of things that got lost under the obligatory applause every time a baseball player came out.
In OT today, we’re going to review a pair of 80s movie trios (sortof).
First, let’s look at the Fletch trilogy.
Before delving into them individually, I wanted to talk about these as a whole. I’m not sure how many Fletch book purists there are out there (h/t RoyalDUF), but I am not among them. I haven’t read any of the novels by Gregory Mcdonald so I can only speak to the movies. But I would argue that without Chevy Chase, only the first movie gets made and we’re not even here talking about it today. It’s a good mystery but Irwin Fletcher would be lost among TV detectives like Jessica Fletcher and Ben Matlock and mystery-lite action movies like Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon. I’m sure Chase makes the character more absurd, but he also makes it memorable.
Fletch (1985) - This movie features Chevy Chase in one of his more iconic roles. The plot, which is lifted from the popular novel, provides a good dramatic hook. And it’s supplemented by the comedy of screenwriter Andrew Bergman, direction of Michael Ritchie, and controlled improvisation of Chase, at the height of his powers. Its eminently quick-witted and quotable: “It’s all ball bearings nowadays”, “Dr. Rosenrosen”, “a steak sandwich and a... steak sandwich”, “B-a-b-a-r”, “Can I borrow your towel”, etc. It’s not without its weaknesses - there are odd digressions like the Laker fantasy and, at times, the plot takes a backseat to the zaniness, but the really solid plot and supporting characters keep the movie moving. One doesn’t work without the other, though. Chase’s Irwin M. Fletcher contrasted with the noir mystery is what makes both memorable instead of the movie being just another Chevy Chase vehicle or just another generic detective movie.
Fletch Lives (1989) - It’s very much a sequel and as such, it’s just not as fresh and suffers from trying too hard to top its predecessor. There are more over-the-top antics and disguises, a less smart premise and mystery, and the comedy has more misses. The comedy is just less snappy, less quotable, and it feels like there are times when Chase is going through the motions. Two things that were somewhat distracting in the first movie return here. Maybe the 80s were a different time, but I never quite buy Chevy Chase’s sex appeal as he’s trying to “effortlessly” bed the female leads. Also, both movies feature a random chase scene to, I guess, up the action in the movie. The movie is not without its charms: Cleavon Little is his brilliant self and Hal Holbrook and R. Lee Ermey sell their characters well. There are some amusing scenes like the failed Klan gathering and the hemorrhoid Televangelist, but what little subtlety was in the original is lost. There’s a lot of punching down in the humor, even if the characters are painted to deserve it. It’s just a weaker effort across the board and the balance from the original is lost.
Confess, Fletch (2022) - Does being closer to the books make this a better Fletch? I’m guessing this was closer to the books but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better and that’s a shame. John Hamm is good because he’s one heck of an actor but it’s not really Fletch, as moviegoers know him. If it didn’t have “Fletch” in the title, I wouldn’t have known it was Fletch movie whereas if Fletch Lives, for all its faults, wasn’t in the series, we would have accused Chevy Chase of trying to steal from Fletch. This one has a bunch of weird, quirky characters. A friend of mine said “well, that’s very Fletch-y”, but it’s really not. Like the characters in the previous movies were somewhat more fleshed out and if they were quirky, it was within character, and not just quirky so you remembered them. Gone are Richard Libertini’s endearingly whiny Frank and George Wyner’s note perfect sleazy lawyer Marvin Gillet, replaced by John Slattery’s burned out Frank. It has all the frustrations of Fletch always being in danger of getting caught but Hamm plays them straight whereas Chase’s absurdity took some of the edge off. After years of development hell, it could have been a lot worse. Harvey Weinstein was an absolute monster but, thankfully, he nixed a Kevin Smith-helmed Fletch movie starring Jason Lee. John Hamm does well but it comes off more as a good but generic mystery as Hamm can’t be the larger than life character that Chevy Chase made Fletch into.
Next up, a contemporary in a similar vein: Beverly Hills Cop. Both of these star 80s comedy legends at their peak, tackling underdog roles to right wrongs that would have gone unpunished by the system.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984) - Borrowing from above, this movie features Eddie Murphy in one of his more iconic roles. While Chase’s absurdity smooths the dramatic tension, it’s Axel Foley’s coolness that helps it the movie go down smooth. There are certainly funny moments, but they’re often more subdued - it’s the type of movie that doesn’t have me laughing out loud every instant so much as a constant smile on my face. Many parts of the movie remind you that it’s from the the early 80s: the credit sequence is long and introduces the city of Detroit as a character (only to toss it aside in favor of Beverly Hills), Mikey’s death early on feels very retro, and the pace is slower with the mystery straightforward, The movie feels like a simple, complete whole with easy beats. First act: Axel is a brilliant but reckless cop and his childhood friend Mikey is killed. Second act: against order, Axel goes to Beverly Hills, deals with fish out of water situations and sleuths. Third act: Axel goes too far, gets kicked out of town, but turns it around by solving the case in an action movie climax. Along the way, we develop Axel Foley, his buddy cop friendship with Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), and a grudging respect from Bogomil (Ronny Cox). It had one of the longest runs at #1 and was the highest grossing R-rated movie until The Matrix Reloaded. It’s easy to see why: Murphy’s Axel Foley is not just the generic rebel cop, but a funny, likeable one with a heart of gold.
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) - This one has a more mixed reputation. It was a commercial smash but more mixed critically. I haven’t seen any of these in at least 20 years, but I remembered falling mostly on the “like” side of the ledger with this and, after watching it again, still like it significantly more than dislike. As sequels often do, it gets a little more absurd (Rosewood) or contrived (Playboy mansion scene) or cringey (Paul Reiser’s scenes). Frustratingly, the characters are sometimes caricatures - most notably, there are times when Axel isn’t nearly as likable and he uses his abilities selfishly or mean-spirited, something absent in the first. Sure, he would lie to get out of getting in trouble, but it was so he could catch the baddies, or he would be mean, but only punching up. On the plus side, we’re treated to another good soundtrack from Harold Faltermeyer (the ticking clock effects are great) and Bob Seger’s “Shakedown”. And, even if the movie isn’t quite as sharp or likeable, I like that the plot is a bit more complicated, more befitting a late 80s action movie than its earlier 80s predecessor. Quote from Eddie Murphy in Rolling Stone (via wiki): “Beverly Hills Cop II was probably the most successful mediocre picture in history. It made $250 million worldwide, and it was a half-assed movie. Cop II was basically a rehash of Cop I, but it wasn’t as spontaneous and funny.” It’s not as fresh as the original but is more maligned than it should be and is well worth the watch.
Beverly Hills Cop III (1989) - Well, there’s not much I can say here - it was a dud. The first two movies were directed by Martin Brest and Tony Scott. The third was directed by John Landis. This formula should have worked: he directed Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, and Coming to America. Lots of quality comedy, some action, and experience directing Eddie Murphy. What went wrong? The script isn’t very good and Eddie Murphy really didn’t want to do the same movie thrice. From Landis, in Collider (via wiki):
“Cop 3 was a very strange experience. The script wasn’t any good, but I figured, “So what? I’ll make it funny with Eddie”. But then I discovered on the first day when I started giving Eddie some shtick, he said, “You know, John… Axel Foley is an adult now. He’s not a wiseass anymore”. So, with Beverly Hills Cop 3, I had this strange experience where he was very professional, but he just wasn’t funny. I would try to put him in funny situations, and he would find a way to step around them. It’s an odd movie. There are things in it I like, but it’s an odd movie.”
Ronny Cox’s wikipedia quote about the movie: “They wanted me to be in Beverly Hills Cop III, but...I read the script.” Ouch. There are some bits to like: a plethora of Hollywood love letter cameos like George Lucas and Ray Harryhausen. Alan Young (longtime Scrooge voice actor) plays Uncle Dave, the movie’s send-up of Walt Disney, at Wonderland, the movie’s transparent stand-in for Disneyland. Heck, Bronson Pinchot gets a few minutes to earnestly sell us on how he’s left the art business and gone into guns for the rich, including a new urban assault rifle with a built-in CD player, fax machine, and microwave. But it’s hidden under a lot of plot and character detritus in a movie that just isn’t nearly as fun as the first two.
Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley (2023) - When I started watching these, I didn’t realize that there is a direct-to-Netflix sequel in the works called Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley. Murphy, Reinhold, Ashton, Reiser, and Pinchot all return. I’m not even sure what to make of that as they’re all 30 years older. Filming is complete and there’s no release date but, man, expectations should probably be tempered.
For the song of the day, what do these two movies have in common? 80s funny men? Sure. Good guy characters who weren’t always above the law? Of course. But how about Harold Faltermeyer? His Beverly Hills Cop theme, Axel F, is a standout in a decade full of iconic movie themes. I didn’t realize it actually had a music video, but here it is:
Meanwhile, his theme from Fletch is not as iconic. But when I saw that he also composed it, I felt dumber for not having made the connection sooner as they have some similar sounds.