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Royals Rumblings - News for September 7, 2018

23 games to go

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians
“What do you think of the penmanship on that lineup card, Marty?”
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

I’ve been talking for a few weeks now about how stories have started to dry up, but, it’s becoming a desert out there and we’ve barely started September. There’s also a distinctly minor league vibe to most of what is out there.

Clint Scoles at BPKC gets Rumblings MVP of the day (and it’s not even really close)!

Presenting the third annual BPKC Minor League Players of the Year awards. These are the players who stirred the drink for their teams and are listed below with a few caveats. To qualify, a starting pitcher had to make 10 starts or spend half of the season with the club, while a position player needed to play at least half of the team’s games with them.

There were exactly 0 new Royals stories in the KC Star as of 3pm yesterday.

Same with The Athletic. Thus, I will not receive a pint of fermented dodo milk for every referral.

KOK’s Morgan Vogels tackles exciting Minor League affiliate extensions (don’t laugh, it’s the second best Royals story today)!

In Triple-A, the Omaha Storm Chasers were already signed on to be affiliated through 2020, as they signed a two year extension in July. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are also signed on through the 2020 season.

This week, the Kansas City Royals signed extensions with both the Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Lexington Legends in order to keep them through the 2020 season as well.

In the Rookie Leagues, the Royals own the Burlington Royals, and their contract with the Idaho Falls Chukars lasts through the 2020 season as well.

Also on Fansided, KCKingdom’s usually reliable Leigh Oleszczak has only her second story of the week: “Whit Merrifield becoming star Royals need”.

Joel Penfield of Royals Farm Report looks at the play of all prospects acquired in the Jay, Herrera, and Moustakas trades.

How about some listicles?

Hm... ESPN moved theirs behind the ESPN+ paywall. Oh well, no great loss.

Dayn Perry of CBS Sports puts together the 50 best MLB players this season. In a ranking sure to warm the cockles of OMD’s heart, the only Royal:

33 Whit Merrifield; KANSAS CITY ROYALS 2B

Here’s a complete player. Merrifield has manned five different positions -- including significant time at second and center -- while running an OPS+ in the 120s and adding big value on the bases.’s Jeffrey Flanagan posited “5 pressing questions in the AL Central”. We’re scraping the bottom of the barrell at this point in the season, aren’t we?

The question: Will rookie right-hander Jorge Lopez be a rotational candidate in 2019 or a bullpen piece?

The Royals know they have Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Ian Kennedy in their rotation heading into Spring Training. And rookie right-hander Heath Fillmyer is making a strong case for a spot as well. So that leaves us with Lopez, who was acquired from Milwaukee as part of the Mike Moustakas deal right before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Catcher Salvador Perez raves about Lopez’s stuff -- his two-seam fastball, his slider, his curveball, his changeup. The question becomes where will that stuff be most effective. Lopez was an effective reliever for the Brewers this season, posting a 2.75 ERA in 10 outings. Kansas City wants to use the rest of September to see if Lopez can be even more valuable as a starter. Lopez showed flashes of his potential as a starter in his first three outings for the Royals. Then he seemed to put it all together last Sunday against the Orioles, going seven innings while giving up five hits and one run. Lopez walked none and struck out a career-high eight. He likely will get four or five more starts to show Kansas City he merits serious consideration for the rotation next season.

You know what? Let’s just go to some noteworthy non-Royals stuff:

John Gibbons is “set to part ways” with Toronto at the end of the season.

I have no idea what “Slater Scoops” is, but they’re reporting on the continuing adventures of Marlins Man with the story: “Marlins Man Prepares Epic Return to Marlins Park”. He won an auction to get a one day contract with the team, will be part of the “broadcaster experience”, and you can even win free tickets. Marlins, keep being you!

There was this from Monday’s game: “Mets’ Todd Frazier admits to switching balls to trick umpire on diving catch against the Dodgers”. If, as he says, it’s something “any player trying to win” would do, why is he playing for the Mets? (... asks a Royals fan. Point taken.)

I don’t care if Max stole this in yesterday’s Rumblings comments, whenever announcers get in a fight, it’s worthy of a mention. Here’s the story from Bless You Boys.

Fangraphs’s Cheryl Ring gives a brief history of Joe West, Austin Davis’s cheat sheet, and Regina v. Ojibway.

Also at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan reminds us that Shohei Ohtani has already “been a major success”.

Ohtani showed that he could hit, and he showed that he could make adjustments. He even showed that he could run pretty well. Ohtani did not show that he could play a defensive position, but in case you wonder about the value of a DH, recall that Ohtani has a 146 wRC+. Edgar Martinez finished his career at 147. David Ortiz finished his own career at 140. Ohtani has hit as well as Nelson Cruz, and any Mariners fan could tell you Cruz’s bat has felt irreplaceable. Ohtani, in short, has done everything anyone could’ve dreamed of. He could hit at the plate while looking unhittable on the mound, and the Angels were able to develop a workable schedule for both. The only thing Ohtani couldn’t do was stay healthy.

This Song of the Day has been a long time coming. Since April of 2012, I’ve had three different jobs, made a cross-country move, bought a house, and have a child who is 3 years old. I started today’s game more than 6 years ago and, though life has gotten in the way time and again, finally finished it up more than 250 game hours later. Today’s game of the day is Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.

First off, it shouldn’t really take 7 years and 250 hours to complete. However, I’ve almost completely eschewed console gaming for handheld, especially once the kiddo was born. The game is probably more like an 80 hour playthrough but I went with a super completist game. I enjoyed the world so much that I didn’t want to leave it. I leveled my characters up to their maximum - well beyond what was needed to beat the game, collected every item, beat every super boss save one, and completed the affinity tree--

Let’s stop there. I love the attention to detail in this game. The world is both big and small (more on that in a second) and balances those well. For instance, one of the mechanics in the game (that you can either ignore or participate in) is called an affinity tree. Practically every person in the game is intertwined with others, much as we are in real life, and there are literally hundreds of quests to connect people together. While it’s a bit tedious to have the big heroes of the world doing fetch quests and rescuing cats (ok, not quite), most of the time, I felt like I was adding more color to the world I was playing in and it was a break from the primary plot.

As for the major plot, from wiki: “Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the frozen bodies of two warring titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis. The people of Bionis, including the human-like Homs, are in a perpetual war with the Mechon machine race of Mechonis. Key to the Homs’ efforts in fighting the Mechon army is the Monado, a sword said to have been wielded by the Bionis. During an attack on his colony, the main protagonist Shulk discovers his ability to wield the Monado, and he sets out on a quest for revenge with his best friend, Reyn, with others joining in as the game progresses.”

Sure, there are some jRPG and anime tropes, but it’s fairly original and, without too much spoiling, I can volunteer up that there are numerous unexpected plot twists with touches on battles between deities, gnosticism, AI, garden variety racism, and determinism (you know, because said Monado can see the future). Also, it blends the best of wRPGs and jRPGs. I’ve always leaned more towards jRPGs due to their strong central plot versus the open world of wRPGs. And, even though I played over 150 hours of optional content, the main plot is the driver of this game.

Even with the limitations of the Wii hardware (or the 3DS, which it was ported to), it boasts some of the most fantastic and emotionally evocative scenery in any game I’ve ever played. It was easy to get lost in the energy of the Guar Plains by day, the tranquility of Snowy Mt. Valac at night, or the wonder of watching shooting stars over the Eryth Sea.

This is not to say the game is perfect. There’s a bit of tonal whiplash as our naively optimistic protagonist will remind us he’s on a revenge quest and his emotional arc doesn’t feel completely consistent. The story also suffers from some of jRPGs weaknesses that the industry just needs to do better with, mostly in the realm of female characters. And I’d argue that the ending is a bit dissonant and unsatisfying, with extra twists that I think were unnecessary and actually detracted from the story.

But, on the whole, it’s a great game and a completely new IP (unless you’re counting it as part of the currently unconnected Xeno metaseries). The United States almost missed out on this masterpiece as production on the Wii was winding down. Fortunately, in 2011: Operation Rainfall happened.

On June 23, 2011, Mathieu Minel, at the time the marketing manager of Nintendo France, said that Nintendo of Europe wished to display Xenoblade at E3 2011, but that Nintendo of America (NOA) denied them since they had no plans to localize the game. 11 days later, Minel had departed from Nintendo. As a response, numerous role-playing game fans from the IGN message boards started a campaign titled “Operation Rainfall” with the intention of pressuring or persuading NOA to release Xenoblade, as well as two other high-quality RPGs that were left out of E3, namely The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower.

The campaign raised fan awareness and increased pressure on NOA, who ultimately released all 3 games.

As for the music, I hope you like it because we’re going to be revisiting it often. At work, it’s one of three go to soundtracks when I really need to get work done, along with Animal Crossing and Final Fantasy VII. I’m not sure I could pick an individual standout track as there are about a dozen I really like and another couple dozen that are solid to strong. There were six different composers on a score which ranged from standard classical video game soundtrack fare to light piano tunes (I love Snowy Mt. Valac at night) to

Today we’re going with one of the rock tracks from Ace (a trio of composers) which blends a couple of different genres:

(Or if you prefer, this video has the Wii video quality but is filled with massive spoilers - I wouldn’t go much past the first scene that ends around the 3 minute mark).

FYI: This week, I started listening to the soundtrack for the sequel, 2017’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2, already a million seller. The soundtrack might be as good as the first and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it featured in a future Rumblings.