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Royals Rumblings - News for January 20, 2023

Knowing is half the battle!

Kansas City Royals v Cincinnati Reds
One of the images that comes up if you search “Kansas City Royals” and “Aroldis Chapman”
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I can’t say I’m too happy about the Chapman signing for a number of reasons, but one of them is that I have to sift through all the same “Aroldis Chapman signs with the Royals” stories to pull out the other couple of stories.

Max, of course, was all over this yesterday - so if you want a lot of links to official stories about the trade, check out that article. His subtitle says it all: “The 34-year-old lefty brings a lot of baggage.”

I don’t remember the August 2015 game from the title picture at all. Fortunately, Old Man Duggan has us covered. I’ll just go check the comments to see if I was ther— hah, of course not, Coral ate all of the old comments. I’m sure they’ll be coming back any day now. After all, the devs promised it would be done with an ETA of about a year ago. I’m sure the fact that all the old pages have the comments sections removed is a sign that the Coral team is hard on this as we speak. Cough.

Anyhoo, here’s some highlights from OMD’s recap:

For the first eight innings, the Royals struggled to mount much of an offensive attack. Aside from a first inning in which Lorenzo Cain (hit-by-pitch) and Eric Hosmer (single) reached with two outs, the Royals did not put more than a single runner aboard in any inning until the eighth...

Volquez rang up seven Reds and walked just three—one intentionally—but the first inning dong-hanging allowed meant that Volquez exited the game trailing 1 - 0...

In a bold temptation of fate, Yost’s pitcher-versus-ballpark dice roll did not crap out...

After digging himself a 2-1 hole against Ben Zobrist, Aroldis Chapman—who had converted a MLB-record 56 consecutive saves at home—left one up in the middle of the zone. Zobrist smacked it into the stands in left. The streak and Reds’ lead were gone in an instant...

Leading off the tenth against appropriately nicknamed reliever Jumbo Diaz...

Intent upon using the entire Kansas City bullpen, Don Wakamatsu turned to Greg Holland to close out the game in the 13th. Phillips tried to check his swing on a borderline offering but clipped the pitch and grounded out softly to Greg Holland for the first out. Holland struck out Eugenio Suárez but followed the K with a full-count walk of Joey Votto, bringing the fearsome Todd Frazier to the plate as the tying run. After missing his spot badly on his first slider offered, Holland worked three straight sliders down a step apiece before getting Frazier to chase one in the dirt, bringing the nearly five-hour game to its merciful end...

The win brings the Royals 26 games over .500 for the first time since 1980—and that time they went 18-11.

Kevin O’Brien at The Royals Reporter asks “Three Crucial Questions Regarding the Royals’ Signing of Aroldis Chapman”. I will spoil the questions so you have to go read the answers:

Will Chapman Harnass His Control in Kansas City?

What Will Be Chapman’s Role in the Royals Bullpen?

Will Chapman’s Off-Field and Clubhouse Issues Be a Problem?

Royals blog roundup features more Chapman stories:

Want a blast from the past instead? Darin Watson continues his “50 Greatest Kauffman Stadium Moments” countdown with “#13: NL Blasts Three Homers In All-Star Rout (July 24, 1973)”:

But, Bonds’ performance notwithstanding, the biggest star might have been the ballpark. The stadium was originally supposed to open in 1972, but labor troubles delayed the opening to 1973. So the Royals only had a few months to get the kinks worked out before becoming the focus of the baseball world. Weeks before the game, the team had to redo the outfield warning track, adding a pebbled surface so outfielders could sense they were near the fence. The water spectacular beyond the right field fence was completed just in time for the game. And this was likely the first time many in the TV audience had really seen the new stadium.

Lynn Worthy, in his last couple (few?) weeks with the Star has a story about the Royals Spring Training broadcasts. In case you missed the news about the announcing team changes (I did):

The Kansas City Royals television and radio broadcast teams took on a different look this offseason with the retirement of Steve Physioc and the subsequent addition of Jake Eisenberg. The new-look broadcast crews will debut during Cactus League play next month in Arizona, and the Royals announced their spring training broadcast schedule for both radio and television Wednesday afternoon.

Hey, there’s a listicle at with the teams most likely to go “worst to first” in 2023. I wonder who made the top spot... well, shut my mouth:

1. Kansas City Royals

2022 record: 65-97

Considering how much went wrong for the 2022 Tigers, it’s a little surprising to remember that the Royals were, in fact, worse (by one game). That led to a clearing of the decks in the offseason: The team now has a new manager (Matt Quatraro), a new head of baseball operations (J.J. Picollo) and a new direction entirely.

There’s reason for some hope here. Neither the pitching nor the lineup is particularly overwhelming, but there’s still talent to go around, particularly in that lineup. Lots of teams would be delighted to pencil in up-and-comers MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino and Bobby Witt Jr. every day. It’s that last name, Witt, who’s the most exciting: A talent like his has the potential to explode into superstardom at any moment. The Royals are probably a couple of years away from competing for the division title, but considering that the AL Central lacks a juggernaut, they are a club to keep an eye on in 2023.

For OT/SotD, we’re going to pick up where we left off last week: GI Joe.

My poor child is getting an education in some of the better or, at the very least, more popular cartoons of our lifetime. He’ll have pretty good taste, but that’s pretty useless if the goal is to give him common interests with his classmates.

This past summer, after he spotted the DVDs on my shelf, we went back and watched selected episodes from G1 Transformers and GI Joe. While I was always a Transformers kid growing up - the toys were so much better - I have to admit that GI Joe has held up as a better cartoon. Of course, both are loaded down with 80s cartoon “buy this toy” episodes. You know the ones - the main character is super powered and goes on a mission perfectly suited for him/her only to never really appear again.

*BTW - that link goes to tfwiki, which is absolutely an amazing internet hole to fall into; just a wonderful nostalgia time sink with equal parts good writing and good snark

But I’ve been impressed rewatching some of the larger GI Joe story arcs - they mostly hold up (Transformers has a few but not as many). Even my wife has been surprised. She thought the show would be more jingoistic military man stuff when it’s more like sci-fi competence porn than anything, akin to Stargate SG-1 or 90s Star Trek (TNG and DS9, not VOY). Cobra Commander is not (usually) some bumbling idiot like Skeletor - he’s more like Megatron where his reach exceeds his grasp. He has some simple tragic flaws (like he shares Megatron’s greed) and he likes to put the Joes in arena combat for sport or slow moving torture devices that they /always/ escape from. But, more often than not, he has some pretty good plan that’s just undone by GI Joe being a little bit better than Cobra.

Also, as an aside, Cobra is much more of a loose amalgamation of terrorist organizations - there’s not a top down structure. Cobra Commander seemingly has direct reports like Major Blood and maybe The Baroness. But Destro? Cobra often talks about buying his tech - but he’s not their Q Branch and has betrayed them a couple of times (Synthoid Conspiracy). Zartan is a well-paid mercenary who likes to hire the Dreadnoks from time to time. Extensive Enterprises is a seemingly normal corporation that Cobra uses as a public front and is run by Xamot and Tomax, but they also appear to be more mercenaries hired by Cobra Commander than in the command structure. Basically, none of these main characters are actually in Cobra, just convenient allies.

GI Joe does a great job establishing the show with 3 five-parters. All are pretty similar in design - Cobra has some grand plan. GI Joe has to find a way to stop them in globetrotting battles with major characters on each side fighting to a draw. In the end, Cobra’s plot is just a little too elaborate and GI Joe is just a bit more competent and the day is saved. But they’re well designed and feel grand with each of the 3 movies introducing more characters. They only get that “grand” one more time with the second season’s “Arise, Serpentor, Arise”, which sees Cobra scavenger hunting for the DNA of history’s greatest dictators while introducing Sargent Slaughter and other new Joes.

However, there are also a number of meaty 2-parter episodes like their “It’s a Wonderful Life” crossed with “Mirror, Mirror” 2-parter (Worlds Without End), a quality misdirection plot where the main character looks like he defected to Cobra to pay off his mom’s medical bills and it’s mostly believable (The Traitor), and the whole synthoid subplot.

But today’s highlight is the infamous “There’s No Place Like Springfield”. My wife and I watched it ahead of time to see if it would be kid appropriate for our son. I still remember some of the traumatizing bits to this day and, ultimately, we landed on not showing it to him. I’m old enough now that I’ve seen a ton of science fiction so it’s a bit old hat, but for a kid’s show this is pretty wild.

Spoilers ahead, but if you want to watch before - Hasbro dumped all the GI Joe episodes onto YouTube - you just have to sit through a couple of commercials per episode:

SPOILERS BELOW (for a nearly 40 year old cartoon...)

Let’s just count up all the crazy that happens in this episode and, again, reminder: this is a show targeted at like 5-8 year olds to get mom and dad to “buy my toy”.

  • The setup is pretty standard fare for GI Joe - Shipwreck and Lady Jaye are doing a recon mission on an island to rescue a scientist from Cobra. When they run across him, he’s disheveled and crazy-eyed, and talks about how he created a formula that destabilizes water and makes it explosive. Unexpectedly, he pulls out this device and sticks it to Shipwreck’s head, “imprinting” the formula in his subconscious and tells Lady Jaye the code word that she would have to say for him to go into a hypnotic trance and recite the formula. Cobra attacks, they escape by plane, but get shot down and Shipwreck goes down in the water. 10 minutes in: so far, so good
  • Apparently, a bunch of the setup borrows from The Prisoner, the 1960s psychological thriller. Shipwreck wakes up in a hospital and 6 years have passed since the day on the island. He has everything he ever wanted (Cobra defeated and he’s the hero). He also has things he didn’t know he wanted: a cozy house and family - married to Mara, a character introduced a few episodes ago. It was a “star-crossed lovers” plot: he fell for her but she was a Cobra mermaid experiment that escaped but couldn’t live out of water so they parted ways in a “better to have loved and lost” sort of thing. He also has a daughter who has real difficulty with him not being able to remember her.
  • However, whenever he tries to sleep, he has disturbing dreams where he’s being interrogated by Cobra. But each time he wakes up, it’s all just in his head. There are parts where this the foreshadowing is laid on thick and, as an adult, it’s obvious where this is going. For instance, making Shipwreck the hero who defeats Cobra isn’t subtle enough if you’re trying to fool the viewer. Or there’s too much obviously wonky stuff going on with the dreams for it to be real, but, again, 6yo kids.
  • One of these recurring dreams happens in a car wash near the hospital. He sees it in real life and an old Joe, Roadblock, go in. When he comes out the other side he says something about how hot it is and starts melting right before Shipwreck’s eyes. He tries to rescue his friend but is attacked by the car wash workers and knocked out. Yes, I remember this scene vividly from my childhood (along with the next one). I mean, one of the main characters of the shows just melts in front of you - it’s not the type of thing a 6yo forgets.
  • He wakes up in jail and exchanges some pleasantries with the local cop, who brings him a snack. When he eats the sandwich, he doubles over and passes out, falling through a trap door into another room. There he’s confronted by four Joes who attack him (Flint: “And you don’t even know why”). As he subdues each, they melt. The final one is Scarlett, who he has a thing for, and he tries everything to not hurt her but, still, she melts, too. As he’s anguishing over killing his former friends, the blobs form one big blob, swallows him up, muffling his screams, and carries him through a trap door in the walls. To be continued in Part 2. Good luck sleeping tonight, kids.
  • Part 2 starts with Shipwreck in the blob carrying an unconscious Shipwreck through a tube in the sewers and then dumping him out in his own backyard. When he wakes, he freaks out Mara and his daughter. Mara calls his doctor, Doc (former Joe), and tells him that he thinks Shipwreck needs help. Shipwreck basically agrees to go to the “funny farm” - his quote as, of course, we’re only 10 years removed from Jack Nicholson and the movie version of One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest. Shipwreck’s voice, Neil Ross, always made the character sound like he had a bad Jack Nicholson accent (per wiki: he was supposed to sound like a cross between Popeye and Nicholson) so it’s doubly unnerving.
  • A lot of the curtain gets pulled back in the next scene and we confirm a lot of what has been foreshadowed or hallucinated. We see that Doc is talking to Cobra and Polly, Shipwreck’s parrot, is a synthoid working for Cobra. Springfield is in Temple Alpha, one of Cobra’s main bases. And, of course, they captured Shipwreck to get the explosive water formula but don’t know the keyword.
  • There’s one last real trippy scene. A Cobra interrogator, Cadet Deming, uses a mind probe machine to try and get the information out of him but can’t since it’s locked in his mind. At first, it looks like 70s animation with weird flashing lights. The scene is loud and bombards your senses a little. The interrogation is also used as a plot device and we get Shipwreck’s background, which hadn’t been revealed in the cartoon until now (the last episode of season 1). But when Cobra turns the machine up to full power to try and get the information, the Disco-like lights turn into weird little ghosts with faces of Cobra and Joe characters flying around the room. Again, none of this works because he doesn’t have the code word and both Shipwreck and the interrogator pass out after being subjected to the machine at full power. Some commenters have also noted that the interrogation also has some sexual overtones to it as Cadet Deming is straddling Shipwreck and trying to get the information out of him, but I saw it more as her losing control of the interrogation and it not working than anything like that. YMMV.
  • The rest of the episode turns back into a regular Joe episode. There’s some weird little scenes like Tomax and Xamot playing a systematic recording of all words in the Oxford dictionary to a sedated Shipwreck, that are lightly disturbing, but nothing compared to what we’ve already seen. He escapes the hospital with the help of real Polly, who finds him and melts the fake Polly. They infiltrate the “car wash”, which is really a science base, and stumble across the “hot water” lab room where he finds the crazy mad scientist’s formula. Polly, who was with them during the rescue repeats the code word and Shipwreck completes the formula. The baddies find him and he dumps the formula down the drain, turning the entire city into a bomb, which they ignite by shooting at him.
  • In one last twist of the knife, with the entire city going up around him in flames, Shipwreck runs back to try and find his family. By this time, the audience is certain they’re both synthoids. But you’re sympathetic to Shipwreck that he has to make sure, no matter how small the chance is, because this idyllic life is worth trying to save. He calls to Mara inside his burning house and goes to her and his daughter, only to find them them both pointing guns at him. At this point, even Shipwreck knows that it’s all a lie and Polly saves him by melting the two synthoids and his perfect life. After he escapes, Lady Jaye arrives and sees him visibly shaken and asks if there was something important in there. He ruefully responds “Nah, just a dream or two” and then the end credits roll.

Like between the crazy psychological thriller aspects and the emotional torture of giving the crusty old character everything he wants, only to rip it all away - that’s a lot to pack in a kids cartoon. Then again, these episodes were written by Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck, so maybe that shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

If you want to view this gem (or just relive some childhood trauma), you’re in luck. Hasbro has all of the old episodes of GI Joe on their official YouTube page (though, yes, you have to sit through a couple commercials).