There’s a /lot/ of Royals news for a random mid-November day.
Lots of stuff about the 2021 season. Royals will be on ESPN on April 5th next year (Cleveland’s home opener). They announced their home Spring Training schedule. And this:
Pitchers and catchers are slated to report to the club’s spring training complex by Wednesday, February 17, followed by position players on Monday, February 22.
Also at The Star, Lynn Worthy profiled Erick Pena:
“Things happened so fast,” Pena said, snapping fingers rapidly. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, we need to go home because the world is going crazy about that (COVID-19), and we need to go and take care of ourselves.’” Just three weeks after he’d arrived in Surprise, Arizona, Pena got on a five-hour flight to Miami and then another two-to-three hour flight home to the Dominican Republic with no idea how his year would unfold.
Apparently Fox Sports KC will be re-named “Ballys Bet on Baseball While You Watch Generic Midwestern Baseball Team to Forget Your Otherwise Meaningless Existence (Eat Arbys) Regional Sports Network” (I may not have the name exactly right).
Bally’s Corporation and Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Wednesday they entered into agreement for a “long-term strategic partnership,” according to a news release. They will rebrand the 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks, which includes FSKC, using the Bally name.
Jeffrey Flanagan at MLB.com lays out the rules for the Royals Hall of Fame:
Now that Alex Gordon is retired, many fans have asked how soon he will be voted into the Royals Hall of Fame. The answer? In 2025, Gordon will be eligible to be on the RHOF ballot, and obviously will be a first-ballot choice.
As for former manager Ned Yost, he’ll be eligible in 2023.But many fans also have wondered about the selection process for the Royals Hall of Fame, so we thought we’d offer up the nuts and bolts
Got a two-fer from Alec Lewis at The Athletic (sub required):
A pitcher from @wsucougarbsb, an infielder from @IlliniBaseball and three more under-the-radar Royals prospects to be following: https://t.co/bN1oq2U5XH— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) November 19, 2020
The Royals will have to protect Rule 5-eligible players by tomorrow, so here's a primer on who makes the most sense:https://t.co/emofnS9YFD— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) November 19, 2020
Minor league news:
According to Baseball America, the #Royals have released the following minor league players:— MiLB-Transactions (@tombaseball29) November 19, 2020
RHP Stephen Ridings
RHP Jose Ramirez
RHP Josh Broughton
RHP Tylor Fischer
OF Kort Peterson
Speaking of the minors, R.J. Anderson at CBS Sports wrote up his Royals top prospect list.
1. Bobby Witt Jr, SS
Scouting report: There’s no questioning Witt’s physical gifts. He can move and throw well enough to stick on the left side of the infield, and he has the size and strength to project for 20-plus-homers at his peak. If he lives up to his promise, he could well become a star-level producer. Yet there were some valid criticisms that made him a polarizing prospect heading into the 2019 draft. Namely, Witt was older than the average prepster, and he had a history of swinging and missing — a concern because it suggests he might have problems against pro competition. Calling him a boom-or-bust prospect overstates things, but it gets the point across that there’s significant upside and downside present in his game.
Likeliest outcome: Starting left-side infielder
Speaking of Witt. Want a listicle? Will Leitch at MLB.com lists an “Untouchable player for each club”:
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (age 20)
It might still be another year until he makes the Majors, but they’re building this roster around him for years to come.
Last year’s pick: Witt
Ballpark Digest with some Royals news that I don’t think has been mentioned here yet (maybe I missed it). They have a story about the old KC Star site as being a potential location for a downtown ballpark.
We are not talking about anything imminent here: The Star is leaving its downtown building at 1601 McGee Street beginning in the first quarter of 2021 but will not totally vacate the place until the end of the year. The Star‘s parent, McClatchy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, and the downsizing is a way to address that reorganization...
The location of the Star building is intriguing: it’s located directly south of the Power and Light District and T-Mobile Center, with I-670 in between. Ambassador Hospitality purchased the building from McClatchy for $30 million and is already looking at options for it.
Tony Wolfe at Fangraphs looks at the 2021 Royals and maybe things aren’t as dire as they seem:
I’d never previously considered Kansas City to be a threat in 2021. I still don’t, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Peek over at our current Depth Charts projections, and the Royals’ WAR total ranks 21st in baseball. That’s far above 100-loss territory, and even within spitting distance of plausible playoff territory; it’s within two and a half wins of the Phillies, Reds and Cardinals, three teams you wouldn’t be shocked to see in the postseason next year. That would also constitute a downgrade from where the Royals finished this season, when they ranked 15th in the majors in batting WAR and 19th in pitching WAR. You may not have noticed, since they never stumbled into the playoff hunt the way other rebuilding teams like Detroit and Baltimore did, but the Royals actually improved quite a bit in 2020.
Sad news from Clubhouse Convo:
I HATE having to do these. #RIP to former #Royals coach (1989-1994) Glenn Ezell. His cousin informed me that he passed away 11/9.— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) November 19, 2020
I spent an hour with Glenn a few years back. He couldn’t have been a kinder human being. Our interview is below. https://t.co/mYPHtEXSep
How about a Patreon (sub required) from Clint Scoles, talking to J.J. Picollo?
Talking Players with J.J. Picollo https://t.co/mKSdMoyHvd— Royals Academy (@ClintScoles) November 19, 2020
Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter has a good, long article looking at the arbitration cases of Jorge Soler and Maikel Franco.
Sean Thornton at Bleeding Royal Blue gives his picks for MLB awards.
Connor Miller at Royals Blue looks at Cam Bedrosian as a possible target.
This is old news but Max dropped it into my inbox.
The Auckland Tuatara of the Australian Baseball League signed some familiar names back in September:
Auckland may have missed out on Manny Ramirez but they have wasted little time moving on, bringing in plenty of MLB experience ahead a third ABL campaign. The Tuatara have signed five players with MLB experience, including outfielder Eric Young Jr, infielder Danny Valencia and pitchers Justin Grimm, Kyle Davies and Zach Phillips
Apparently, 48yo Manny Ramirez (yes, that one) signed with the Sydney Blue Sox in late August.
And Kyle Davies is still playing baseball? I mean, cool - follow your dream and make a living in cool places. I’m happy that Hiram is still playing baseball at 36 - it just didn’t occur to me that he would be. After he had that cup of coffee with the Yankees back in 2015, he played with the Yakult Swallows in the NPB and a couple of Atlantic League teams.
Unfortunately, Max missed this most recent news from last week. Apparently, two teams in the ABL, including Auckland, have decided, at seemingly the last minute, to not play in the 2020/21 season.
Other MLB news?
Wrigley Field was designated a historical landmark (Yay). Fenway Park is the only other park to previously enjoy this designation (Fitting). Apparently, this will net the Ricketts family (here it comes) millions in tax credits for their recent renovation (oh, I get it now).
The World Series winning Dodgers are among a number of teams to announce layoffs.
Uh, um... I’m just going to leave this headline here: “Former Rays prospect Brandon Martin gets life in prison after murdering three people with baseball bat”.
How about something happier? Kim Ng stories, anyone?
Matt Monagan at MLB.com profiles her high school days.
There’s a reason Ng felt like she needed to forge her own path: She lost her biological father (a baseball nut) at age 11, so Ng took on the added role of mentoring and setting an example for her four younger sisters at a very young age. She was forced to step up at the age of 12, when the family packed up their lives and moved from Queens to a brand new town and school in New Jersey. Those leadership traits naturally transferred over to athletics, and teammates immediately recognized the hard work and fearless attitude the 14-year-old displayed during her high school days.
Tim Brown of Yahoo talks about her as an inspiration to others:
The regular sessions are part of Major League Baseball’s Elite Development Invitational program, forced to Zoom because of the pandemic. More, much more, they are how Holmes, a 46-year-old ballplayer and firefighter from Oakland, reaches Beth Greenwood, a 21-year-old hoping to make her college baseball team in Rochester, New York, and how Veronica Alvarez, manager of the U.S. women’s national baseball team, reaches Maggie Foxx, 14-year-old All-Star catcher from Bedford, New Hampshire, and how the last generation of women ballplayers reaches for this generation, which reaches for the next generation and the one after that.
We’ve talked about music games before in this space. I introduced Guitar Hero with these words:
The year was 2005. Music rhythm games were a thing in Japan with titles like Dance Dance Revolution and Taiko Drum Master. Some had made it across the Pacific, but even games like PaRappa the Rapper, Samba de Amigo, and Donkey Konga were only mildly popular in the West. But that all changed when a small California game accessory company called Red Octane and a niche video game developer from Boston called Harmonix teamed up. The former saw the popularity of GuitarFreaks across the pond and came up with the idea to make a small plastic guitar. They approached the latter, developer of well reviewed but modestly selling games like Frequency and Amplitude, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I think it’s time to talk about one of those games today (actually, I should really talk about quite a few of these, but one at a time). Astute Friday readers know about my love of the Gamecube so it should come as no surprise that Donkey Konga is today’s song of the day.
Keep in mind: this is before the Guitar Hero-fueled music peripheral explosion of the late 2000s. Sure, a few hardcore fans had their own DDR mats at home. But typically musical rhythm games were only seen in arcades. Only Samba De Amigo had really tried to do this on a home console, but even it was originally an arcade game before being ported to the Dreamcast (shine on, you crazy awesome people at Sega!). It seemed ludicrous that people would have a large peripheral just for a single game.
Donkey Konga wasn’t a wholly original creation. Per wiki: “Donkey Konga was developed by the team that were responsible for developing the Taiko no Tatsujin series.” That was an (again) arcade game series that was popular in Japan. However, they released their first home game, Taiko Drum Master for the PS2 about a month after Donkey Konga washed up on American shores in 2004.
As for the gameplay, the NY Times review quoted on wiki isn’t too far off: “Before you buy Konga, try clapping along with every song on the radio for half an hour and see how you feel at the end.” Only I think that sells short what fun it is to do that on a pair of mini bongo drums during a party game session on a console that excelled with party games. Seriously. It had the best Smash Bros, a good Mario Kart, an impossible but awesome F-Zero, a number of Mario Party and Mario Sports games, the best version of SoulCalibur II, some multi-player RPGs like Final Fantasy:Crystal Chronicles and Phantasy Star Online, and some other oddball fun like Super Monkey Ball all while home console multiplayer was still transitioning from N64 Goldeneye parties in the dorm to the more robust online services seen in the seventh generation of video game consoles.
Donkey Konga sold more than a million copies and two sequels followed. In a small way (hah), it really helped pave the way for Guitar Hero .
I originally had a video of the B-52s “Rock Lobster” because, why not? However, it didn’t show off the multiplayer aspect of the game. Instead, here are 4 people hitting little plastic drums and clapping to the Pokemon cartoon theme: