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Royals Rumblings - News for August 11, 2023

Out last week, out next week, but here this week

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox
Can’t say I care for the Red Sox city connect jerseys. I mean, they’re fine-ish, just not for Boston
Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

At The Star, Jaylon Thompson profiles Cole Ragans:

Sweeney said the Royals did their homework on Ragans. They evaluated his entire makeup prior to acquiring him from the Rangers. The process took a couple of days, as the Royals studied different domains.

The Royals explored his medicals, strength and conditioning, nutrition and mental health. The organization also utilized sports-science data and explored his pitching delivery. The process gave the organization a complete evaluation of Ragans as an athlete and person.

Next, the Royals dived into his pitching arsenal and plan of attack. Previously, Ragans has thrown a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, slider and curveball. Perhaps most importantly, the Royals noticed an increase in Ragans’ fastball velocity.

He also talks about Nelson Velázquez, acquired in the Cuas trade, who will take Drew Waters (bereavement leave) place on the roster:

“Everything has been very positive,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “A lot of people from the Cubs reached out about what they think of him as a player and a person. I know we think a lot by acquiring him.”

The Royals will rotate Velázquez alongside fellow outfielders Edward Olivares, Kyle Isbel, MJ Melendez and Dairon Blanco.

“(He has) a lot of power potential,” Quatraro said. “Limited major-league at-bats, so a lot of room to grow. (He’s) someone with a lot of hitting ability and can play multiple positions in the outfield.”

Also at The Star, Pete Grathoff delivered some no-hitter trivia with a Royal link:

Lorenzen graduated from Fullerton Union High School in California. He’s only the fourth person from that school to pitch in the majors, according to Baseball Reference.

The others are former Royals pitcher Steve Busby, Hall of Famer Walter Johnson and Mike Warren, who spent three seasons with the Oakland A’s.

Here’s what ties those four together besides their high school: each threw a no-hitter in their career.

Anne Rogers writes about some Witt family HOF memorabilia:

Yes, Witt’s dad, Bobby Witt Sr. — who spent 16 Major League seasons as a pitcher — has a bat on display in Cooperstown. On June 30, 1997, at Dodger Stadium, he became the first American League pitcher to hit a home run in a regular season Interleague game (and first AL pitcher to hit a homer since Roric Harrison in 1972, before the designated hitter was established in the AL).

Now the Witt family will have a jersey in Cooperstown, too. The HOF announced Wednesday that Witt Jr.’s jersey from Friday’s game in Philadelphia, in which he became the first player ever to record at least 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in each of his first two big league seasons, will be on display at the museum.

At Fangraphs, David Laurilia talks to Alex Marsh about his “weird” Fastball:

“So I think [Longenhagen’s] was a great take. Before I got injured, the fastball was more hoppy. I got more swing-and-miss, I got more foul balls, even when I left it over the middle of the plate. Now when I leave my fastball over the middle, it usually gets hit.

“Coming back from injury and not being able to pronate as much… I mean, I can’t get to the back of the ball, so I’ve kind of been releasing it on the side. A lot of my pitches are almost that cutter-look fastball, but it’s more of like an up-shoot vert ball. It was actually really good against the Rays [on July 15], though. I dominated them [11 strikeouts and five hits allowed in six innings] with fastballs. I didn’t get much swing-and-miss on other pitches, but the fastball was good.”

Joe Posnanski is one of few people who can put his story behind a paywall but still write over 1000 words in the free preview. The topic: Zack Greinke for HOF ($$):

Before specifically talking about Zack and the Hall, I want to talk about something I think is related, something that I have been thinking about lately because of an email thread I’m on with Bill James and Tom Tango: Pitching Eras are NOT created equal.

Here’s what I mean: From 1968 to 1982 — 15 consecutive years — at least one of the Cy Young Award winners would end up in the Hall of Fame. You can see the Cy Young winner here; the Hall of Famers are in all caps:

At Powder Blue Nostalgia, Patrick Glancy talks about Tigers middle infielders Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell and the Royals lack of middle infielders not named Frank White:

For sure, we’ve been spoiled with an abundance of outstanding centerfielders. I just missed out on Amos Otis, but I’ve written about how much I loved watching Willie Wilson play. Even when the Royals were at their lowest (present day excluded), they still had Carlos Beltran patrolling the expanse of Kauffman, and Lorenzo Cain was probably the best overall player on the teams that went to back-to-back World Series in 2014-15.

Catcher has often been a position of strength for KC as well. Not only have we had the great Salvador Perez behind the dish for the last decade, but we also had Mike Macfarlane for most of the 90’s and Jim Sundberg in the mid-80’s. And if you want to go back even further, to just before I started watching, you can add Darrell Porter into the mix. Not too shabby at all.

The middle infield is where things start to get a little iffy. True, I grew up watching one of the greatest defensive second basemen in baseball history, Frank White. White won eight Gold Gloves on his way to becoming a World Champion and KC legend, but he never played with a truly elite shortstop.

Since Royals news didn’t get to 1000 words, even with some generous block quoting (only 7 stories), how about some movie reviews? Today’s topic is “old and new science fiction movie pairs”. Might as well lead off with the one that could be considered a #hottake.

Blade Runner (1982) – I’ve watched Blade Runner at least three or four times and it’s never done much for me. The last couple of times have been the director’s cut so it’s not like it’s the fault of the even more flawed theater version. I’ve also read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and I will lean on a couple of comparisons here. However, I’m not one who kneejerk says “the book is better” about any movie adaptation. Yes, if the book were not good or, at least, popular, there wouldn’t be a movie made of it, so there’s some survivorship bias at work, but there are many good movie versions of good books. Unfortunately, in this case, rather than being the book’s philosophical exercise contrasting an inhumane humanity and its human-like creations, we get, at best, a slow moving and disjointed 70s science noir mystery. And, at worst, it’s get a forerunner to 80s and 90s ego action pics where simple heroes fight psychotic, one-dimensional villains in movies that look more pretty than they are deep. The movie is not without its merits, even in my critical eyes. The dystopian world crafted by Ridley Scott has influenced the visual language of a generation of science fiction movies. Vangelis’s soundtrack perfectly fits a futuristic noir with the synthesizer equivalent of trashy jazz saxophones. Harrison Ford’s subtle Rick Deckard adds to the mood, though he has no chemistry with Sean Young. Rutger Hauer is charismatically crazy, but to what end? Like when Tyrell says Batty has done “extraordinary things” – we’re not told what they are. It’s an underdeveloped script that doesn’t show or tell, it just wants the audience to accept things on faith. Maybe I’m just too young, but the movie is also painfully slow with lots of vestigial scenes that hardly inch the plot forward or barely relay characterization. I know it’s influential and beloved, but it has never worked for me and I know I’m in the minority here.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – Considering how iconic the original Blade Runner is, the easy way to make a sequel was to do a simple remake or reboot, leaning heavily on nostalgia porn. But this one is both original and ambitious, feeling tonally similar yet creating something new with big themes. Like the original, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad to me. There are some excellent memorable scenes like Dave Bautista’s intro, the toy horse, and the orange sky of Vegas with Harrison Ford. But there are also some memorable scenes that are less good like the weird threesome, the grotesque birthing scene, and a couple of bad fights: the needlessly loud and busy casino battle and the frantic battle by the water. It’s well acted with particular kudos to Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and Robin Wright. Aside: can Jared Leto play a “normal” role? Director Denis Villeneuve’s passion for the original is evident in both look and feel. The excellent retro-futuristic look is preserved as is the noir mystery feel. It also fails to improve on its predecessor’s slow, plodding pace. Man, is it slow. Especially for a movie made in this century. The ideas keep it moving, though: the continued struggle for replicants, the potential miracle of a replicant birth, K’s belief that he is that miracle, his disappointment when he is not, Deckard in Vegas, and K’s death juxtaposed with Deckard meeting his daughter. Even the mystery of whether Deckard is a replicant is preserved. It’s hard to stand in the shadow of such a big movie as the original Blade Runner but 2049 is a worthy sequel.

Total Recall (1990) – Hey, it’s another Philip K. Dick novel! Director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to science fiction between this, Robocop, and Starship Troopers. His dystopian future works, though there are many scenes that feel small and shot on a sound stage and a number of special effects look laughably dated. I remember the 90s campaigns about movies being needlessly violent and gory and, well, this one kindof is. Beyond that there’s just a grotesque quality to so much of the movie: from the crude suffocation scenes to the mutants made up as circus freak chic. Also, movie fighting has gotten a lot better in subsequent decades. Comically, there’s a lot of pretending that Arnold is a normal sized guy not a former Mr. Universe. I feel like the audience is supposed to believe that the first half of the brawl between him and Michael Ironside is an even fight. But the acting is action movie good with Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Ironside all putting in their action movie best. And then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, who really was larger than life during the late 80s and early 90s. He can take a plot that’s ridiculously big and make you believe that he might have been a secret agent living a secret life who escapes the baddies, resists his former life goals, and uses alien technology to give oxygen to Mars while leading a rebellion. This isn’t a particularly well-crafted movie like Terminator 2, but he still made it into one of the biggest action movies of a generation.

Total Recall (2012) – Quick: what is Colin Ferrell’s most well-known acting role? I mean, he’s been in a number of things but he doesn’t feel like a bankable A-lister. Never mind trying to follow up whatever stratosphere late 20th century Arnold was. So the movie is already going to suffer from poor comparisons there. You could even argue Ferrell has more acting range than Arnold - I don’t think it’s true, but you could argue it. However, he doesn’t have the star power to pull off something this big. Also, the problem with a mindscrew remake is that you know the dramatic beats even if you don’t know the specifics. So you know Kate Beckinsale is going to betray him, someone is going to hunt him down (again, Beckinsale), he’s going to have a love interest (Jessica Biel - also, why 2 athletic brunettes when we need to tell them apart), and he’s going to have to try and save the world (but not Mars). The writing takes a nose dive in the second half when they have to switch from world building to character plot. The scene where the bad guys try to convince Quaid that it’s all in his head doesn’t work at all (it’s bad in the original and worse here). But that’s nothing compared to having Ferrell literally punching a robot or (criminally wasted) Bryan Cranston’s evil President can out melee fight his greatest spy. I wanted to watch the 1990 Total Recall and then added this to the DVR, forgetting I had seen it about 5 years ago. In another 5 years, I probably won’t remember anything about it again. But, hey, it has some throwbacks to the original like a mention of Mars, a prostitute with three breasts, and someone who looked like Arnold’s woman disguise.

Tron (1982) – It’s a hard movie to rate. It’s an early 80s movie and all that entails. First off, it’s, again, just slow and there are vestigial plots that exist just for, I dunno, ambiance. It also badly lacks internal consistency: Flynn’s user power are wildly inconsistent from one scene to the next. If this were made in the 90s or later, we’d have a handful of scenes of Flynn learning what powers he could use inside the Grid, starting small and then crescendo’ing to him using his strongest powers in the climax of the movie. But it also has some 80s charms with a simple plot, mostly likable heroes, and an adventure. Encomm corporate bad guy Dillinger (David Warner) stole Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) video games to make himself rich. Now he’s a pretender, relying on the evil Master Control Program, which wants to take over humanity from inside the machine. Flynn and his old friends at the company, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan) break into Encomm and the MCP zaps Flynn into the computer. There, he has to work with program versions of Alan and Lora to save the day and defeat the MCP. It’s visually amazing – there’s simply nothing before or since that looks like it – and influences many visual artists of the next generation. You show someone a light cycle or the blue and orange outlines on things and they will instantly know it’s Tron. Yes, the story is slower and weaker than the visuals, but it is still is worth a watch and there’s a reason it has a cult following.

Tron: Legacy (2010) - In a lot of ways, this is like Tron with an even shinier coat of paint on it. But I also think it’s at least a half step better and much easier to watch. The visuals are just as stunning as the original – it looks state of the art and borrows from cutting edge movies made since the original like The Matrix and the Star Wars prequels. Daft Punk’s soundtrack wasn’t groundbreaking but it was what you would expect if you told Daft Punk to write a good, futuristic soundtrack. Boxleitner’s return trip is good, Garrett Hedlund is fine as Flynn’s son Sam, and Olivia Wilde is appropriately exotic and robotic for her role. The duality of old Jeff Bridges as good Flynn and artificially young Jeff Bridges as evil Clu works well. The setup is good with just enough nostalgia mining but also a new beginning to the old plot. The first hour is really good and exactly what I wanted in an improved, modern version of Tron. However, the usual writing inconsistencies from Kitsis and Horowitz catch up with the movie in the second half, both tonally and plot-wise: Flynn’s reaction to Sam arriving is odd, even Bridges can’t adequately sell the world altering importance of the ISOs, Flynn’s power level fluctuates, Flynn’s stolen disk happened much too easily, Flynn’s mood going from scolding Sam to “let’s jump a train” seemed out of character, Sam stealing back Flynn’s disk happened much too easily, and Rinzler’s turn doesn’t make any sense (yes, he was Tron but there was no build up to his turn). I wish it was better but there’s still more than enough good. I would love to see it in a theater in 3D with a good sound system.

Why wouldn’t we use a scene that highlights both Daft Punk’s music (mostly the track “The Game Has Changed”) and the iconic light cycles: