I posted this to the writers Slack a couple of days ago: “I know it can’t compare because it’s only been... holy crap, it’s been less than 8 years since the World Series win, but, man, this is starting to have the same mid 00s Royals aimless, hopeless, hapless vibes to it, even if it doesn’t have the history that era did.” I mean, on the one hand, I could be mad or sad about it. I know a lot of folks are. But, really, this is reaching comical proportions so it’s more farcical than anything so I can’t help but laugh.
Let’s see if there’s any good news in The Star this morning. Hm.. what’s this article? “Kansas City Royals are on pace to join these 5 teams as worst in modern MLB history”. Oof
Here’s a little gallows humor for Royals fans: The team is guaranteed not to lose on Thursday.
It’s an off-day for the Royals, who have lost nine straight games. An 18-50 record puts the Royals on pace to lose 119 games, which would shatter the franchise record. The 2005 Royals finished with a 56-106 record — the worst in team history...
The Royals’ losing pace has them on track to join a shortlist of teams that have lost 115 or more games in one season since 1900 (MLB’s Modern Era). Here’s a closer look at those teams...
Aw, man, Grathoff spoiling my unbeaten streak joke.
Jaylon Thompson details players the Royals could trade by the deadline. It has the usual RP suspects and a couple of paragraphs about Salvy. But I found this section the most interesting by who is on the list and who isn’t:
Other Royals who could be dealt
The Royals have a core group of players that includes Pasquantino, Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Maikel Garcia and Nick Pratto. The team is also developing pitchers Brady Singer, Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch.
That young core is expected to grow together here for years to come. But the Royals also have some players who could be had for the right price.
One name to watch? Infielder Nicky Lopez. The Royals have a decision to make this offseason. Lopez could be a non-tender candidate, given his diminished role on the team. The Royals are getting extended looks at Garcia and second baseman Michael Massey. Lopez has the defensive versatility to play multiple infield spots.
Mason Young writes about the Royals CBD Lodge (I didn’t know this was a thing). Gotta be honest - this read more like a fluff piece and advertisement than a story in The Star but, hey, maybe it’ll give you some ideas for products that may make Royals baseball more enjoyable.
These stories impressed on Huerter that not only was CBD different from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but CBD could help many people. He had no plans of giving up his main job but wanted to help educate people about the benefits of CBD.
Maybe there’s some positive progress with regards to the stadium? Joseph Hernandez writes about the potential East village location:
WHAT’S THERE NOW?
A lot of parking lots surround East Village. There’s also a Commerce Bank, but other than that, it’s pretty empty. In January, Kansas City issued demolition permits for several buildings in the East Village, potentially clearing space for a new stadium.
The city also helped a single developer, VanTrust Real Estate, assemble multiple blocks of land in the East Village area for the purpose of a new stadium and a proposed surrounding ballpark district. That includes transferring city-owned property and making the police headquarters annex available.
“If I really had to make a bet and say to everybody today where that new stadium is being proposed, I am going with the East Village,” Chris Stritzel said to The Star in January. He’s a developer who noticed the demolition of the Wiltshire building while walking around the area in January.
That’s good, right? Even for all the public posturing, there has been some behind-the-scenes progress earlier in the year.
Also, the Royals have confirmed they are down to just 2 locations:
A spokeswoman for the Kansas City Royals says the team’s down to two locations for their new proposed ballpark and entertainment district. The East Village site, just east of the Kansas City Police Department Headquarters, northeast of 12th and Cherry, and a site in North Kansas City, near 18th Avenue and Fayette.
“The Royals’ partnership with Jackson County is 50 years strong and we continue to meet with city and county leaders toward furthering that mutually beneficial relationship,” Royals Senior Director of Communications Strategy Sharita Hutton said. “We believe that both East Village and North Kansas City could be viable locations for our next home. While we’ve done the most work in the East Village, we have the responsibility to our community and our fans to fully evaluate both.”
Though this article from KCUR talks about how “Little progress has been made on an agreement that would guarantee workers fair wages and increase affordable housing near the new stadium”.
At a rally of about 100 people on the steps of City Hall, politicians, union members and workers with The Good Jobs and Affordable Housing for All Coalition — which includes Stand Up KC, Missouri Workers Center, Missouri Jobs with Justice, Service Employees International Union Local 1 and the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom — demanded the Royals follow through on their promises to include the community in the planning for a new stadium...
And the Royals argue that discussion of a community benefits agreement is premature. While the ownership group did not respond directly to a request for comment about the rally or progress on the agreement, Sharita Hutton, director of communications with the team, said that the Royals “are in favor of a strong CBA.”
Hey! I have some good news. Anne Rogers profiles Bill Duplissea, the Royals review guru (not to be confused with a Royals Review guru, which would be Max):
The technology continues to change and Duplissea’s role has evolved, but over the years, he’s developed a process and strategy for each replay, backed by the organization. And he has a reputation for success. From 2014-22, the Royals’ 65.7% overturn rate leads all of baseball, ahead of the Yankees’ 63.7%, according to data released to clubs; their 27 calls confirmed lead baseball, and their 207 calls overturned rank second.
Jack Johnson? Say, I’ve heard of that guy.
Good morning, #Royals fans :)— Jack Johnson (@JohnyJ_15) June 15, 2023
O’Hearn - .315/.363/.603, 163 wRC+
Rivera - .333/.363/.436, 117 wRC+
Rooker - .266/.368/.517, 149 wRC+
Lovelady - .157 OBA, 1.05 WHIP
Speier - 2.28 ERA, 22.1 K-BB%
Payamps - 3.95 ERA, 26.2 K%
Abreu - 3.45 ERA, .198 OBA
Per Spotrac AND Baseball reference, these seven players, who were all on the #Royals roster last year, COMBINE to earn roughly $5.75M in 2023.— Jack Johnson (@JohnyJ_15) June 15, 2023
Kansas City is paying Jordan Lyles $8.5M in 2023.
Sometimes it’s the player…sometimes it’s the player’s situation. https://t.co/l0NHq3JUr5
How about a happy stat, instead?
Stat of the day:— Royals Farm Report (@RoyalsFarm) June 15, 2023
There are 1,549 pitchers in Minor League Baseball with 20 IP. John McMillon has the best SwStr% of all of them at 25%. He’s also first in K% at 50.4% and K/9 at 18.00 (lmao).
Time for him to be in AA or even AAA. He’s 25 and not getting any younger.
Speaking of people you’ve heard of, Minda getting some love from the Official Player Development account of the Kansas City Royals for her awesome photos:
While it was lost in the Dairon Blanco promotion news, the Royals earlier on Monday made an aggressive promotion of pitchers Alec Marsh and Will Klein and outfielder John Rave from Northwest Arkansas, as reported first on the Royals Player Development Twitter account.
- Mike Gillespie at KOK: Things just keep getting uglier for the KC Royals
- Trey Donovan at KOK: Michael Massey’s rollercoaster season
- Joseph Summers at KC Kingdom: 3 Players the Royals Will Trade Before the Deadline (wait? KC Kingdom is back online?)
Back to the blah news, Rob Manfred... sigh... spoke to the media on Thursday. I have heard there is no truth to the rumors that he is just four weasels in a
A night after the A’s Reverse Boycott, he mocked the Oakland fans:
As for the “reverse boycott,” Manfred kept his analysis short. “I mean, it was great,” he said, according to ESPN’s Joon Lee. “It is great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night. That’s a great thing.”
What a tool.
He also felt the need to reinforce how excited he was to compete with Gary Bettman in a making bad decisions” commish contest, noting how the league actively discouraged teams from pride jerseys or even pride patches on their jersey:
The Rays changed their plan for this year’s celebration after teams were told at an owners meeting in February that MLB did not want uniform space used to promote specific causes that were not league-driven, such as for Mother’s Day or to honor Jackie Robinson. (MLB’s directive followed not only the Rays’ 2022 issues but also considerable controversy over several NHL teams canceling or altering plans for Pride night events due to players’ objections.)
Speaking of being on the wrong side of history:
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida issued its annual report card for Major League Baseball’s diversity hiring practices on Thursday. For the second consecutive season, TIDES reported a record-low percentage of Black players on MLB Opening Day rosters, according to the Associated Press.
Per TIDES’ research, just 6.2% of players on Opening Day rosters were Black. Last season, that percentage was 7.2%. For context, Black players represented 18% of the league when the study began, back in 1991.
TIDES’ findings come months after the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies played the first World Series since 1950 that did not feature a single Black player born in the United States. (Jackie Robinson integrated MLB in 1947.) Dusty Baker, the winning manager last October who remains one of two Black skippers, said the following at the time: “What hurts is that I don’t know how much hope that it gives some of the young African-American kids. Because when I was their age, I had a bunch of guys, [Willie] Mays, [Hank] Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis — my hero — Maury Wills, all these guys. We need to do something before we lose them.”
In the past, I’ve done a number of One-Line Movie Reviews. I’ve also done a number of much longer ones, typically where I take a series and watch all of them. This is more like the former. It seems like I’ve had a run of mediocre movies this past couple of months. So today, I present “Mostly Mediocre Movie Reviews”. They’re not bad, per se, with something to like, but they’re all far from complete, good movies much less great ones.
Curious George (2006) - You ever have one of those days where you just end up with a couple of mediocre movies and just feel unsatisfied? The first of the two was with our son. There are kids movies that can still be good for kids and adults - Pixar excels at this (we had just rewatched Ratatouille the previous day). Then there’s the opposite of that - those cloying movies aimed squarely at kids with almost no redeeming quality for the parents. This was a mix of both. I’m not a Will Ferrell fan but I’m not a Will Ferrell hater. For instance, I think he’s perfectly cast in Elf, Anchorman, and The Lego Movie. But his slapstick and goofiness doesn’t seem a fit for The Man with the Yellow Hat (Ted). George’s many capers that feel like Night at the Museum, released a few months later. There’s some sweet with Ted and George’s relationship and a romance between Ted and the Drew Barrymore-voiced school teacher love interest. The animation is generally good, which is surprising as wiki said it was “oursourc[ed]... to studios around the world”. However, there’s a mean and dishonest streak that runs through the movie and feels very out of place: from the heroes trying to trick the public with Clovis’s (Eugene Levy) help to a recurring plot where supposed-to-be-likable museum owner Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke) loves Ted more than his own son (David Cross).
Game Night (2018) - Then, after our son went to bed, we picked this off the DVR. It is already behind the eight ball as it feels like it’s trying to update David Fincher’s The Game (1997), which was uneven, as well. Only, instead of Michael Douglas, you’re splitting the role and, frankly, talent many ways with Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in the two leads with five other major protagonists. However, rather than playing it straight, they try to make it a dark comedy with about a third laugh-out-loud funny stuff, about a third cringe humor, and a third awkward, annoying Wes Anderson style humor. Oh, and we have to jam in some annoying personal trials like how Kylie Bunbury’s character may have had an affair, an insultingly insipid plot about how Bateman doesn’t want to have a kid but McAdams does, or that Jesse Plemons plays an annoying divorcee so they don’t want him at their game nights anymore, whereas I kindof understand as all of his scenes are interminably frustrating. I don’t get how this has a generally positive rating or adjectives like “sharp” and “smart” get thrown around in reviews. It has some interesting elements as our two leads hold their own, Kyle Chandler as the plot device, the Billy Magnussen/Sharon Horgan pairing, and the overall idea - but it feels way too dumb for what it’s trying to accomplish.
Black Adam (2022) - We had HBO Max a couple of months ago and I didn’t even remember watching it until I looked at my list. Eminently likeable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing a second tier anti-hero seemed like a less than ideal choice. Poor Doctor Fate Pierce Brosnan cashes a check on a team with a bunch of nobodies. Just like most of its super dark “peer” movies, the visuals don’t look like the money paid for them. Then smash those things together in a movie that went through development hell, even for a DCEU movie. My only writing I had about it was a text to a friend “We’re about halfway through Black Adam and it’s less bad than I thought it would be”. Kindof enjoyable, mostly forgettable.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)/Death on the Nile (2022) - I’m going to review these as a pair since they’re in the same series and, apparently, a third is set to be released in September. First off, I really like Agatha Christe mysteries. Yes, they can be formulaic with too many coincidences. But, generally, she wrote a well constructed mystery and there’s a reason we’re still making movies with her iconic characters today. Secondly, it’s hard to see anyone other than David Suchet (above) as Hercule Poirot. He was brilliant as the Belgian detective, covering all of the books across four decades for ITV (and stateside on PBS).
However, if you’re going to pick anyone else in the world to play him and/or direct the films, Kenneth Branagh is on the short list of people who would spring to mind. The casts are star-studded and the budgets quite low for who is in them. Aside from Branagh, the budget of $55M for Murder on the Orient Express bought Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Dame Judy Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Sir Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley, That’s a lot of star power and a ton of awards working under their usual scale for the chance to be in one of the most famous mysteries of all time. Death on the Nile’s budget jumps to $90M and has Annette Bening, Russel Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Godot, Armie Hamer, Sophie Okonedo, and Letitia Wright, among others.
As expected, with these casts, they’re generally well acted, though perhaps a bit wooden at times. Unfortunately, in both, there’s a lot of rapid fire character introduction, which is ineffective for a murder mystery where the individual suspects need to stand out. Similarly, the clue and interrogation scenes fly by and if had not been familiar with the stories, I would have been lost. They’re highly stylized with Branagh sporting a comically large mustache. Much of the trip down the Nile looks like it was filmed using the bright red from CSI:Miami and some of the Egypt props are just bad.
In the end, it’s hard to bring something new to something so well known. I actually liked Death on the Nile a little better. The plot with Bouc, played by Tom Bateman, who didn’t even get a poster credit in the first movie, gives the movie some fresher, modern elements, and a better emotional arc. Neither of these movies are bad. It’s almost impossible to be with who is in them. But they’re a bit bland and I was hopeful for more.
I was tempted to add The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part to the list above, but that wasn’t really fair. The common criticism seems to be that it “wasn’t as fresh” as the original. There’s no way to replicate the major plot point where The Lego Movie broke the fourth wall. Once you’ve done that, there’s no going back. It’s tougher to fool and satisfy audiences a second time around. But Phil Lord and Christopher Miller do yeoman’s work trying. No, it’s not as tight as the original but it expanded the already stretched universe in a mostly creative way. The plot is more sprawling and the movie feels a bit more toyetic, which is saying something for a film already based on a line of toys. While Rex is, generally, a bit of a dud, most of the major plot beats work, even if some are overlong. It general, it feels a step or two less creative than the first, but much less clean. As sequels go, it could have been much, much worse - it’s a good but imperfect effort.
The soundtrack is surprisingly good and maybe I bump the movie up a step or two because of that. The earworm “Catchy Song” is this movie’s answer to “Everything is Awesome”. I’m not as excited about “Not Evil”, but the lyrics are amusing. Apparently, Beck is still around and “Super Cool” is an excellent credits song. The Lonely Island provide the humor just as they did at the end of the first movie. And then there’s “Everything’s not awesome”, the climactic musical number that is a send up of the previous hit and incorporates a reprise of “Catchy Song”.
These lyrics feel pretty appropriate for the Royals at the moment:
Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s an unrealistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try...
To make everything awesome
In a less idealistic kind of way
We should maybe aim for not bad
’Cause not bad right now would be real great