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Royals Rumblings - News for May 7, 2021

Winning games was more fun. The Royals should do more of that

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals
You. Yes, you. You should enjoy today’s Rumblings
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

I think I said last week that off days are rough for Rumblings. Thursday day games are even rougher. There aren’t a lot of stories the morning before the game and most of the stuff after the game is just about said game so there’s not much to go over.

That said, the Star had a pair of stories. Lynn Worthy looked at Jakob Junis’s move to the bullpen:

“The transition is the same as it was before, just the results aren’t there,” Junis said Wednesday of going back to the bullpen. “I had a really tough one the other night, didn’t get the job done again tonight. But I felt great tonight. I thought my stuff was pretty good. Just one pitch. In the later innings of a game, that’s all it takes sometimes.”

And Blair Kerkhoff talked about Albert Pujols’s departure from the Angels:

If he remains in baseball, are the Royals a possibility? Royals manager Mike Matheny was a teammate of Pujols’ in St. Louis. The Royals, who entered Thursday’s game against Cleveland tied for first in the AL Central, could be in the market for a veteran leader in the clubhouse. Or how about the White Sox? Pujols’ manager in St. Louis was Tony LaRussa, now the new manager in Chicago. The White Sox are dealing with injuries and Pujols’ bat could be an option.

Speaking of Pujols, I ran across this Tweet:

Wait... are you sure?

Huh. Wow. I... um... wow.

One more thing from around baseball and then back to the Royals. I did not realize this about the three no-hitters this season:

So far in a startlingly pitching-dominant 2021 season, MLB has witnessed three no-hitters without a walk on any of the stat lines. Usually, a zero in the BB column would indicate an even more hallowed achievement: the perfect game. But these performances have fallen just short of that peak for different reasons.

Joe Musgrove and Carlos Rodon hit batters with pitches, and then on Wednesday, Baltimore Orioles lefty John Means tossed a no-no where the lone blemish came on … a strikeout, but one where the third strike was wild and allowed the hapless victim to reach first base.

Ok, I lied - not entirely about the Royals but about Kansas City baseball. Opening Day for the Kansas City Monarchs is May 18, 2021 “with unlimited capacity in the stands at Legends Field”.

At Fangraphs, Eric Longenhagen updated his scouting report on pitching prospect Jonathan Bowlan:

Bowlan is a Leviathan righty with a really heavy, mid-90s sinker and a bevy of 45 or 50-grade offerings that should enable him to pitch toward the back of a rotation. Bowlan’s velocity has been more stable of late, either because he didn’t have a real 2020 workload to deal with or because he’s clearly worked really hard on his conditioning and looks to have lost about 25 pounds. He was 94-97 for me this spring, working mostly with a two-seam bowling ball that induces weak groundball contact. His two breaking balls have distinct movement from one another but have tweener movement on their own. There’s one pitch with slider/cutter tweener movement and another with slider/curveball shape. There’s enough demarcation between the two that I think they’ll play, but not as dominant offerings. Bowlan’s changeup will be his best chance to miss bats. He has a fifth starter’s stuff but I’m 40+’ing him because I think he’s going to be an innings-eating force and end up with a little more WAR-based value because of that

Guys... I’m clearly not up on the lingo. What’s a Leviathan pitching prospect?

Royals getting some national run with their hot start. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes “the sneaky, scrappy Royals are following a familiar blueprint to leap back into contention”:

On the other hand, the Royals aren’t built to dominate. They are built to make contact, steal bases and play defense — all of which they have done well so far. According to Baseball Savant, they entered Wednesday with the fourth-lowest whiff rate in baseball, which means that when they swing at pitches, they hit them more than most. They made contact on the sixth-highest percentage of pitches they saw in the strike zone. According to FanGraphs, they owned the second-lowest strikeout percentage in the majors.

David Lesky and Craig Brown each used “ump show” to start off their columns yesterday. In this battle-to-the-Royal-blogger-death, which article is better?

And... that’s all we go today. Everything else is more than a day old. So let’s talk about something else...

This year is Pokemon’s 25th anniversary and it’s basically a $4 Billion (with a “b”) per year industry with an estimated $100B in revenue, all time. I play a lot of Pokemon Go. We won’t go into how much but let’s just say “a lot”. I’m a member of a couple of Pokemon Go discords and Facebook groups and have noticed a ton of chatter about Pokemon cards - think Magic: The Gathering type cards for a game.

You might have caught a glimpse of this a couple of months ago if anyone remembers Happy Meal shortages in February and headlines like The Pokémon Happy Meal at McDonald’s is getting ruined by greedy adults. Side note, apparently that’s coming to other countries this month and selling will be restricted in the UK, for instance.

I’ve also see in the Pokemon Go groups that waiting in line at dark thirty at Target on Friday mornings is a thing. It’s like people lining up to camp for a new console or Apple product, but for weekly Pokemon card drops. Seriously:

Signs have been posted at Target stores indicating that a three-item-per-person limit would be reduced to one-item-per-person, and that some stores would ban overnight camping; multiple photos of a Target policy posted on the PokémonTCG subreddit has suggested that Target employees are supposed to warn customers that they cannot camp outside stores and that if they are there for more than 30 minutes that employees should “determine next steps and if law enforcement engagement is required.”

For those familiar with baseball card grading, all of the major services have huge backlogs. This is partially from the pandemic shutdown last year. It’s partially from huge jumps in prices in graded cards: stories about the rarest high grade cards going for six figures are making the rounds. And it’s partially from drastically increased submissions:

Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), a professional authentication service that specializes in trading cards, announced Tuesday that it’s pausing operations to get a handle on its backlog of cards. Interest in both Pokémon cards and sports cards have surged during the pandemic, and PSA has way too many cards to go through. In a statement to Polygon, a PSA representative said the company has been “overrun” with card submissions, noting that Pokémon cards are “certainly” part of that.

Polygon even had an article earlier this week about Pokemon cards being a bubble (those seem to be popping up all around our economy right now - more on that in a second), comparing it to what Magic: The Gathering went through a couple of decades ago back when both games were new:

It’s a situation that Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast knows all too well, and one that was expertly documented by NPR’s Planet Money, who traced the history of Magic from an economist’s perspective way back in 2015. Back when Magic first came out, one of the novelties was in how it was sold — in blind packs full of random cards, just like baseball cards. Wizards wanted fans to buy a bunch of packs in order to find that one card they were looking for, but what the company didn’t expect was a secondary market to form for buying and selling those rare cards at wildly inflated prices. A bubble formed almost immediately after the game launched, and the start-up company needed all hands on deck (pun intended) to fight its way out of it.

So even after a bunch of reading, I can’t figure out what’s driving this. Sure, pandemic. Sure, there’s lots of stories talking about people rediscovering the game from when they played 20 years ago. But why now? Why not 5 years ago or 5 years from now? I still don’t really get it.

This article entitled “Sports Card Hysteria: Is 2021 When the Bubble Finally Bursts” about a sports card bubble occurring right now draws a lot of the same parallels and even drags bitcoin and tech stocks into it.

Still, the flippers and speculators are dominating the market right now, so I’d say the buy and hold collectors, which normally help bring stability to the market, are not enough to protect from a fairly significant downturn. So, while I am not advising to avoid Jordan rookie cards or any of the other hot cards that have been seen crazy price increases in recent months, I would be careful. The red flags are rising by the minute in my opinion and in the end, I feel like the true collectors could get hurt by chasing the ‘hot dots’. If it were my money, I’d be leaning into the vintage cards that are in short supply.

Then again, this guy also pushes what’s called the “All Vintage Cards ‘Value’ Portfolio” so I’m not sure this is a completely unbiased source.

Anyways, let’s talk about another Pokemon property: Pokemon Snap. Sure, there’s a new version that just came out last week for the Nintendo Switch. But I’m talking about the one that came out back in 1999 (I feel old now) on the N64.

I missed out on a lot of the fifth generation - I was busy being a poor college student and low wage peon. Most of my playing was done playing multiplayer in the dorms (Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Soul Blade) or in bursts, borrowing an N64 or Playstation from a friend (N64 Zelda games, Final Fantasy VII, etc). But that also left me with blind spots as I’ve never done a full playthrough of games like Mario 64, Metal Gear Solid, or Resident Evil 2.

One of the games I’ve played lightly is the aforementioned Pokemon Snap. Then again, I’m not sure how you could play it anything more than “lightly”. For those unfamiliar, you’re basically on a Pokemon safari, taking pictures of Pokemon from inside a little moving car. The goal is to collect (pictures of) them all. You get points for better poses, better centered pictures, etc. There’s a little more to it than that but not much more. Heck, you can do a complete walkthrough in about 90 minutes if you know what you’re doing.

If you want to see the entire walkthrough, check about the link above. Today, I just selected the intro level: