No game last night and, generally, well, not a lot going for a team that’s barrelling towards Memorial Day with a sub .300 winning percentage. Fortunately, OT will be a bit long.
A little transaction news and a little Rany response:
INF/OF Nate Eaton was optioned to Omaha (AAA) following last night's game.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) May 25, 2023
We’ll announce a corresponding roster move tomorrow.
Nate Eaton is 3-for-52 (.058). That is THE LOWEST BATTING AVERAGE BY A POSITION PLAYER (min: 50 PA) SINCE 1940.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) May 25, 2023
Lowest BA, Position Player, 1941-:
1. Nate Eaton 2023, .058
2. Scott Spiezio 2005, .064
3. Tom Nieto 1988, .067
4. Ron Karkovice 1987, .071
5. Jim Bolger 1959, .073 https://t.co/ZsUtYpQRxl
It doesn’t sound like we should expect a reunion with recently DFA’d Eric Hosmer :
Quatraro was asked about Hosmer’s experience as a World Series champion and if he could be a good presence in the clubhouse.
“I understand your point, but that’s not like a designated roster spot,” Quatraro said. “We don’t have a spot for the tale-teller, or that kind of thing. That’s not to take anything away from Hosmer and his career, obviously a tremendous Major League career, but we haven’t even discussed that at all.
“Just in you asking that question, the first thing that comes to mind is we’re playing two young guys in Vinnie and Pratto at first, and they DH, it does not seem like it would be a natural fit.”
Down in the minors, the Quad Cities River Bandits rallied to win Wednesday with the help of a Little League home run, courtesy of two throwing errors.
MLB.com’s Anne Rogers with 3 stats to look at as we near the end of May:
Bobby Witt Jr.’s on-base percentage is lower than it was in his rookie season (.294), a concerning trend when looking at his whiff rate of 25.2% and chase rate of 33.5% – both numbers that have not improved from last year. Manager Matt Quatraro moved Witt down in the lineup recently to perhaps change the look and feel for the 22-year-old at the plate.
It’s a listicle mention, sure, but Eno Sarris has a column in The Athletic (*$?): “What’s up with that guy, Pt. 2 — examining seven struggling hitters”. Bobby Witt, Jr. is on the list but he doesn’t get his own writeup.
*$? - I was able to read the entire article so maybe there’s a free trial or a few free articles right now?
Going blogging, David Lesky looked at Mike Mayers’s start on Wednesday:
He threw 84 pitches and just 24 were either a four-seamer or a sinker. His slider, in particular, was nasty last night. He threw 29 of them, got 16 swings and nine whiffs on it. Add in four called strikes and three foul balls plus four balls in play with only one hit hard and you can see that it dominated a bad offense. But what I appreciated about this outing is that he threw just three sliders in the first inning. He was successful in the first, striking out the side, but whether it was Mayers or Salvador Perez or Brian Sweeney or anyone else, they saw something in that slider.
He started throwing it heavily against righties. The Tigers didn’t really stack lefties, but they did have a pretty good balance with four of them. Against the righties, he threw 22 sliders out of 38 pitches throughout the game. Of those 22 sliders, he got eight whiffs on 15 swings. That, friends, will play. Take a look at a couple of these. They’re nasty.
Heck, I’ll even give him this shameless plug:
Friends, I have something for tomorrow I’m working on about Brady Singer that I think is VERY interesting. Subscribe now - free or paid - to get it in your inbox the second it posts (paid subs are 20% off right now!)https://t.co/dC7SizBfPS— David Lesky (@DBLesky) May 25, 2023
Sadly, Craig Brown is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the 2023 Royals have broken him. Or at least put him on hiatus while he regathers sanity.
- Mike Gillespie at KOK: Roster moves, no apparent haven for former star, and more
- Jacob Milham at KOK: James McArthur’s success or failure means more
As we’re coming into summer, let’s talk about one of my favorite summer activities: roller coasters. I had a note that we were talking about roller coasters in the comments here but, alas, there are no more legacy comments thanks to Coral. Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job. Anyhoo...
I’m a decently well traveled roller coaster novice, but if I were to post this list to a roller coaster forum, it would probably be shredded. I have been to some major parks, but far from all. To make the top 10 (11, due to ties) for “most roller coasters in one park” list, a park has to have 14 or more. Four are outside the United States, but of the 7 in the US, I’ve been to 4: Six Flags Magic Mountain (20), Cedar Point (16), Kings Island (14), and Six Flags Over Texas (14). I’ve also been to Kings Dominion (13), Six Flags Fiesta Texas (11), Six Flags New England (11), Six Flags AstroWorld (RIP) and, of course, Kansas City’s own Worlds of Fun (8).
Here we’re talking about roller coasters - which are somewhat specific. For instance, while Disneyland has a lot of rides, only four are considered actual roller coasters. BTW, while I’m using Coasterpedia, it’s by no means a comprehensive authority - it just had the handy list I used above.
What could be considered an authority, however, is Amusement Today. Since 1998, they’ve been handing out the Golden Ticket Awards, awards for the best parks and best coasters in the world. You’ll see a number of coasters on my list in their top 50.
I last updated this list back in 2019 after visiting Kings Island for the second time. If I thought it was some sort of authoritative list, I would probably edit it more, but this will server as a wonderful jumping off point for a discussion, mostly unedited as is. In parentheses are the park and 2022 Golden Ticket ranking, if applicable.
1. Millennium Force (CP, 3) - This roller coaster is a gd work of retro futuristic art. While it opened more than 20 years ago, it has placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd every year in the Golden Ticket rankings. It’s absolutely gorgeous and makes up a big part of the skyline of the best roller coaster park in the world. The legendary Werner Stengel listed it as his favorite, of the over 500 roller coasters he engineered. And it is a mechanical marvel, setting 11 world records at debut. If you’re on the left side, on the way up its revolutionary cable lift hill, you are looking down to Lake Erie. After about 20 seconds, you’re at the top the hill that made it a “giga coaster”, the first 300 foot drop in roller coaster history. Critics will say it doesn’t generate enough G’s. But they can’t deny how buttery smooth it is or how it maintains velocity - there’s no silly mid course brake run to bleed off speed. There are overbanked turns, zero gravity, a couple of tunnel sections, and a trip out to Millennium Island. I have gone on this ride more than 20 times in my life and, god willing, I’ll do it at least that many more before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
2. Bizarro (SFNE, 7) - For being such a highly ranked coaster, this ride has had an identity crisis throughout its existence. It started in 2000 as Superman: Ride of Steel, the tallest and longest roller coaster on the East Coast. In 2009, it was re-themed Bizarro, and I went on it during that era. Then, in 2016, it changed again to Superman The Ride. From 2001-2015, Millennium Force and this ride were 1 and 2 in the Golden Ticket awards, trading off the top spot for more than a decade. Like its aforementioned Intamin-manufactured competitor, it opened in 2000 and features a gorgeous view of a body of water, in this case the Connecticut River, off the left side. It is “only” 208 feet high with a 221 foot drop and top speed of 77 mph, compared with 310 ft, 300 ft, and 93 mph for Milly. But it is 5400 feet long (vs 6595) and has a longer ride time (2:35 vs 2:20) with a number of fun elements and effects, especially on the back half of the ride. It might have the best second half of any ride on this list and it makes it feel much longer than it is.
3. Top Thrill Dragster (CP, 28 in 2021, RIP) - I feel a little dirty for liking this coaster as much as I do: It’s a one trick pony, but, oh, what a trick. You literally built a bunch of speed off the launcher, went straight up, crossed a tiny hill, and went straight back down. The ride was only 30 seconds long and reached 120mph. It was the first and one of only two “strata coasters” (over 400 feet) in the world. It’s so simplistic, but the looks on people’s faces getting off that ride is unlike anything else in this or any park. Riding in the front car was absolutely amazing - as you were going up the hill, it felt like the clouds were spinning in front of you. Sadly, there was an incident where a guest was “seriously injured” in 2021 when a metal piece “dislodged from a train”. The ride has been closed ever since and is being re-engineered for 2024. A very similar ride, Kingda Ka, Intamin made, but slightly taller and slightly longer, still runs at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.
4. Maverick (CP, 10) - I feel this ride is a smidge overrated, though obviously not too much if it comes in at #4 on my personal list. For more than a decade, this was the line drop ride to do a Cedar Point, both because of its popularity but also because its queue moves a bit slower than Millennium Force. Its stats are nothing to write home about (70 mph, 100 foot drop) but rather than a traditional lift hill, it features two different launchers - one at the start of the ride and another in the middle. Like Bizarro, it boasts a great second half, in this case because the second launcher allows for elements that traditional lift hill coasters can’t do in towards the end of their run because of speed loss. Supposedly, its neighbor in Frontier Town, the similarly western themed Steel Vengeance, a Rocky Mountain Construction remake of Mean Streak, is the new line drop. But we’ll talk more about RMC a little lower down in the rankings.
5. Tatsu (SFMM) - This is one where I deviate from the experts. It’s been as high as 28 in the Golden Ticket rankings but that was over a decade ago and it has only placed once since 2014. This is one of the closest sensations I’ve ever had to flying on a roller coaster. When talking to some guys in line for X2, another interesting coaster at SFMM, they said it was a hanging coaster. I expected this to mean it was suspended. Nope, it means you’re in a (really comfortable) harness that, a few seconds after the safety check, tilts back so you’re actually hanging from the top. Put your arms out and you almost feel like you’re flying with your blood pooling towards your arms and stomach. It’s something different and something very cool.
6. Diamondback (KI, 17) - My top 4 coasters were all made by Intamin but now it’s time to talk about Bollinger & Mabillard (colloquially known as B&M), who made Tatsu and Diamondback. B&M is probably the biggest player in coasters today, manufacturing 8 of the top 21 coasters in the 2022 rankings including the #1 spot. While Intamins seem to push the envelop a bit more, B&Ms appeared to be more preferred by parks as they’re thought of as safer and more reliable.
Quick like B&M history Sidebar from wiki, tying together a number of companies, parks, and rides we’re talking about today:
Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard started working for Giovanola, a manufacturing company who supplied rides to Intamin, in the 1970s. During their time at Giovanola, they helped design the company’s first stand-up roller coaster, Shockwave (at Six Flags Magic Mountain). They also worked on other projects, such as Z-Force (at Six Flags Great America). Bolliger & Mabillard left Giovanola, but the company continued to use their track design; the company’s roller coasters Goliath (at Six Flags Magic Mountain) and Titan (at Six Flags Over Texas), use a track style very similar to B&M’s. In 1987, Giovanola underwent a change of management, and B&M decided to leave and create their own company.
At this point, Diamondback probably isn’t even the best B&M in the park as Orion, the 7th giga coaster in the world, opened in 2020, but here were my notes after riding it back in 2019:
It’s an interesting contest for “best ride in the park” but I think Diamondback keeps that title until the rumored gigacoaster (Polaris? Orion?) is finished next year (?). This isn’t on the Millennium Force, Bizarro, Dragster, (Maverick?) tier that is heads and shoulders above everything else. But it sits comfortably in the next one with all the other non-gigas. Its measurements are 230’ height, 215’ drop, 5282’ length, 80 mph, and 3:00 duration. You get quite a bit of airtime on the numerous long hills, especially if you don’t have the tightest restraints, and I got worried about my phone sneaking out of my pocket a time or two. It also has this wonderful splashdown at the end – you don’t get wet, but it’s a nice theming effect. I thought it was a little overrated (top 10 Golden Ticket) while we were there and riding it, but it’s sounding better in my mind now that I’m writing this a week later.
7. The Beast (KI, 5w) - This roller coaster is an aptly named retro legend. It is, by far, the oldest roller coaster on this list, built in 1979, but it still ranks as the #5 wooden coaster inthe world. When we went, it was celebrating its 40th anniversary and is still one of the best attractions in the park. When it opened, it was the world’s tallest (110/141), longest (7359), and fastest (64) coaster in the world and there’s a huge point of pride in that the ride was basically designed by in-house staff. Even after all this time, it’s still the longest wooden coaster in the world. Yes, it’s a little rough and, no, it doesn’t have some of the more advanced elements of modern coasters but it’s wonderfully built into the landscape with the hills and forest incorporated. It’s still pretty fast, especially for a woody, has an insane 4:10 duration, a pair of lift hills, and is just a really solid ride. Grading this against something like Diamondback is like trying to rank Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. It’s an iconic classic and I’m glad to have ridden it, particularly in front. I have a soft spot for wooden coasters, rough though they may be, but my wife hates them. So we waited an extra 10 minutes to ride in the front car, partially for the view and partially to avoid getting jostled in back. Well worth it!
Another Aside: There used to be a coaster named Son of Beast at Kings Island, but it flew too close to the sun. In 1999, back when Paramount owned Kings Island, they announced a record breaking ride: the world’s first wooden hypercoaster. They really did go all out: tallest, biggest drop, fastest, (slightly shorter than Beast but still 7032 feet) and, yes, the only wooden roller coaster LOOP in the world! A WOODEN COASTER LOOP! THAT’s INSANE! Unfortunately, it had issues from even before the start as Paramount fired and then sued designer RCCA. They had to make a number of changes and, in 2006, an accident injured 27 riders and they subsequently removed the loop and replaced the cars. There was a minor incident in 2009 that wasn’t reported for two weeks and the ride closed permanently with the reasoning being that they had already spent $30M on the ride so I think there was some measure of throwing good money after bad. Unfortunately, this robbed Kings Island of a potential landmark ride and, when we went in 2010, it was closed. They’ve also had other misfires like an expensive Tomb Raider: The Ride debacle a few years later which really hamstrung the park and has made it more like Cedar Point’s little brother rather than an in-state companion.
8. Iron Rattler (SFFT, 14) - The other major player in the manufacturing world of Roller Coasters is Rocky Mountain Construction, boasting 5 of the top 20. Using their famous I-Box Track, they refit old wooden coasters with a steel track, making a sort of wood-steel hybrid with the charm of an old wooden coaster but with the speed and ability to do elements that simply can’t be engineered on wood. Personally, I think they’re a little overrated - not badly overrated, just a little, as they don’t feel like wooden coasters but more like putting a veneer over them. What makes this a little above some of the other RMCs on the list is that the Rattler was a significant ride in its own right before getting its facelift. At its 1992 opening, it was the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.
10. New Texas Giant (SFOT, 42) - I might be shorting these a little as both of these are the RMC centerpieces of their respective parks. The New Texas Giant is notable for being the first RMC refit and the debut of the I-Box. Meanwhile, the original Colossus was the coaster featured as the Screemy Meemy at Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
11. Titan (SFOT)
12. Goliath (SFMM) - Similar to the previous two, these get mention together as they’re somewhat similar. Goliath’s wiki entry has my back here: “The ride is nearly identical to Titan at Six Flags Over Texas, but it lacks a 540-degree upward helix prior to the mid-course brake run and features a slightly shorter track layout.” They were both made in the early 2000s by now-defunct Giovanola and were the big name rides for their respective parks. They’re still good rides but other good rides have been made since then.
13. Magnum XL-200 (CP, 25) - We’re back to Cedar Point and more history. When it opened in 1989, it was the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster. It is credited as being the first hypercoaster (200 feet) as well as starting the roller coaster wars . It was built by Arrow Dynamics, a historical company known for milestones from creating the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland to the structure around the Olympic Cauldron at the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was #1 in the inaugural Golden Ticket Awards in 1998 and for 1999 and 2000 until Millennium Force and Superman knocked it off its perch. However, it still has a special place in many people’s hearts, as evidenced by that #25 ranking
14. Superman Escape from Krypton (SFMM) - This one’s a little tough to rank as it’s not a closed circuit roller coaster - more like a giant drop tower. However, it’s a record breaker as the first ride at over 100 mph and it’s 415 feet tall. Of course, it’s an Intamin. It’s only 28 seconds long and in that time, you are shot up the giant drop tower and then back down again. The old design had you facing forward towards a giant Superman statue at the top while now the ride runs you backwards. It’s still the 2nd tallest, 3rd highest drop, and 4th fastest roller coaster in the world. Despite the records, it’s not terribly popular and its companion ride, Tower of Terror II at Dreamworld in Australia closed down in 2019, despite being “the fourth-tallest, the fifth-fastest, and had the third-longest drop among steel roller coasters in the world” at the time. For the record, this is my 4th coaster for Six Flags: Magic Mountain. The park near Los Angeles is no slouch: it’s a great park, it’s just not Cedar Point.
15. Valravn (CP) - Speaking of CP, this is emblematic of what Cedar Point does. They go pick a particular type of coaster, make something that breaks all of the records for that type of coaster, and then move onto another type of coaster, rinse and repeat. In Valravn’s case, it’s a dive coaster and, when it opened in 2016, it broke 6 dive coaster records including tallest, fastest, longest, and most inversions.
16. Mamba (WoF) - When I lived in Kansas, this was the premiere ride for Worlds of Fun. It was the perfect ride to head towards at 10pm and just ride over and over until the park closed. It falls shorts of some of the other coasters on the list because, after that big lift hill and drop, it fizzles out with most of the rest of the ride being some simple camelback hills. It’s still a good ride, but, as I’ve mentioned above, the older rides aren’t getting worse - it’s just that other good rides are opening up. Mamba debuted at #7 in 1998 but, as more rides came out, it steadily fell down the Golden Ticket charts. It was in the 20s and 30s for most of the 2000s but fell to 50 in 2011 and then off the chart.
17. Gatekeeper (CP) - For those keeping track, this is my 6th coaster at Cedar Point in the top 18. Yes, Cedar Point is that good. Yes, Six Flags Magic Mountain has more coasters. But for quality and quantity, you can’t beat Cedar Point. As with Valravn above, Gatekeeper broke all the meaningful records for Wing Coasters when it opened in 2013. Its keyhole elements right over the parks entrance make for a dramatic start to the day in Sandusky.
18. Banshee (KI, 37) - Really, this is a cheat as I had it at 15. It’s a better coaster than the three above it, but wanted to keep the story rolling back and forth from SFMM to CP and I mention a couple of those other rides below. Banshee was built on the site of Son of Beast and some of the entry way theming includes a gravestone for the ride. Built by B&M in 2014, it is the world’s longest inverted coaster. Traditionally, you think of inverted coasters as a nice, smooth ride with nice vest harnesses like Gatekeeper or Valravn. And, while it is that, it’s also really fast for a hanger with some good weightlessness. Because of some terrain change, the top speed is in the middle of the ride rather than after the first drop and there’s also a delightful slow twist at the end that might have been my favorite element. It’s one of the best non-giga/non-hypers I’ve ever ridden.
19. Texas Cyclone (SFAW, defunct) - Growing up, my local park in Houston was Six Flags AstroWorld. Sadly, it went out of business in 2005 and there’s mostly empty land where the park used to stand. Six Flags was struggling in the early 2000s and rather than pay to modernize the park, they demolished it and sold the land. However, this entry from wiki tells you all you need to know about the business skills of park management at the time: “company executives expected to sell the land for as much as $150 million, but ultimately received less than half that amount... after spending $20 million to demolish the park and clear the land, Six Flags sold the cleared property for $77 million”. They badly misjudged how much they could get for their asset and left the fifth largest metro area in the country with no real amusement park. A few of the smaller rides still live on in smaller parks around the world.
Then again, maybe the management was always less than ideal. Per wiki: “Texas Cyclone was modeled after the original Coney Island Cyclone, which AstroWorld had originally intended to purchase and move to their park before realizing the process would be too expensive.” It wasn’t as crazy as that sentence sounds: in the 70s, the original was going to be demolished so Houston thought they could buy up the history on the cheap. Once that proved to be too costly, AstroWorld hired famed designed William Cobb to create a larger and faster mirrored version of the original. It was Astroworld’s signature ride until its closure. The original 1927 Cyclone has since been refurbished and is #17 on the wooden coaster list.
20. Volcano The Blast Coaster (KD, defunct) - I lived in Richmond for a couple of years and had to find a way to work in our hooky day at Kings Dominion. The best rides at the park had yet to be built like Intimidator 305 and Twisted Timbers. However, we still enjoyed our day at the park with lovely weather and smaller, weekday lines. Officially, Kings Dominion in Richmond is the sister park of Kings Island, though the latter has vastly superior rides at this point. Volcano, which is no longer with us, was a fun themed launch coaster where the car (on a track, of course) was shot out of the top of a mountain with lots of fire effects and, at 155 feet, the highest inversion for a coaster from when it opened in 1998 until Gatekeeper broke the record in 2013.
As for the future, I already have plans to go back to Six Flags Over Texas later this year. I’d love to to Carowinds in Charlotte, and ride the current #1, B&M’s Fury 325. I could even pair it with a return trip to Kings Dominion, as they’re about 5 hours apart, as the car drives.Of course, I’m always up for a trip back to the roller coaster Mecca of Cedar Point as I haven’t been back since Steel Vengeance opened and we’ll have to see how the re-engineer Dragster. I’d love to go to Japan to ride Steel Dragon 2000, the ride that took a bunch of records from Millennium Force and is longer than 8000 feet and 4 minutes long! Or Fuji-Q Highland to ride Fujiyama and Do-Dodonpa.
The long and short is that I’ve been to all the parks that have 2 or more of the top 25 steel coaster in the world. Now I’ll have to go to parks to pick the rest off one by one, so long as my body allows it. I’m a little bummed I missed out on Canada’s Wonderland when we were in Toronto a couple of years ago, but my son was only a couple of years old at the time and didn’t meet the height requirements for the only giga coaster in Canada, Leviathan. Speaking of which, he is now over 48” and just did his first roller coaster last year, a 100 foot drop in Galveston that left him both excited and afraid. He might be ready to go on larger ones sooner rather than later.
For our song of the day, we’re going to use a POV (point of view) video. This is a common thing for roller coasters where a park employee rides in the front car and films the ride so they can post it online. Fans also sometimes do this, though it’s against the rules for most people at most parks. One thing about POV videos, though - the just don’t do the experience justice. But they’re still fun to get the idea of what you’re looking at.
This is an amateur video but it does a good job of capturing the essence of the ride from the “futuristic” music in the station, the sound of the wind whipping around you as you go up the 300 feet hill, the lake off the left side, the constant speed during the ride where it’s hard to keep the camera up, and the NSFW language that people typically use at the top of that first drop hill
This one’s the official POV from Cedar Point:
Here’s a bonus for Bizarro. Not a true POV, but it beats many of the other videos that put a lot of annoying music over the top: