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Royals Rumblings - News for January 27, 2023

Goodnight, Royals

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Washington Post magazine peeps diorama winners,...
According to our image database: “Washington Post magazine peeps diorama winners”. Not sure what year but it was before images of the TV show Frasier so it’s got to be from the 1990s.

At The Star, Mike Hendricks and Kevin Hardy report about the shape of Kauffman Stadium. In particular, they try to reconcile how the stadium gets a clean bill of health every year when checked for upkeep yet somehow there is concrete cancer when it’s time to ask for a new stadium.

According to experts at the Kansas City-based sports architecture firm Populous, the structure suffers from something called alkali silica reaction, or ASR. Moisture absorbed by the concrete causes the material to swell, crack and crumble, which is called spalling.

“This is typically known as cancer of the concrete,” Sarah Dempster, a principal at Populous, said at a public meeting last month. “Getting another 30 years of life out of the concrete could require major removal and replacement of the concrete that is affected by the ASR.”

The diagnosis might be surprising for anyone who has read the annual inspection reports that are posted on the website of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority. According to those reports, Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums are both in “satisfactory condition.” There’s no mention of concrete cancer.

Meanwhile, Bally Sports has found that buying up media rights for way too much and then trying to play chicken with media providers is not as lucrative a business as they would have liked.

America’s largest owner of local sports channels is heading toward a complex $8.6 billion debt restructuring in bankruptcy court as it stakes its future on a new direct-to-consumer streaming service. After leveraging up to buy regional sports networks from Walt Disney Co. in 2019, Diamond Sports Group LLC is suffering from a decline in cable-TV subscribers, spurring negotiations with creditors and major sports leagues about its viability as a going concern...

How all this goes down matters. If Diamond, which operates under the Bally Sports brand, files for bankruptcy, it could potentially put at risk crucial broadcasting-rights revenue for the likes of MLB. “You’re looking at a potential rewrite of the entire regional sports business on the other side of this restructuring,” said Davis Hebert, a senior telecom analyst at debt research firm CreditSights.

The restructuring plan favored by many creditors and the company itself would see the largest lenders becoming owners, turning much of its debt into equity through a pre-arranged Chapter 11 process, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified citing the private nature of the talks.

It’s almost as if these private equity firms laid finance traps so they could get ownership stakes while providing little of value for a company making dumb mistakes. Meanwhile, in MLB land, they’ve potentially been left out in the cold due to chasing after every last dollar in the short term:

But the MLB is emerging as a stumbling block to Diamond’s new streaming efforts, said one person. The league has resisted giving the company more streaming rights, fearing it could get tied up in a potential bankruptcy, and has started exploring taking its local broadcast rights back, another person said....

In a bankruptcy, Diamond would have the option of ending contracts with teams, potentially cutting off crucial industry revenue while also allowing teams to reclaim their media rights. The company could also halt payments to the teams while keeping the contracts in place. If a deal is not reached, both MLB and creditors are preparing for baseball teams not to be paid, according to two people.

Craig Brown puts together his inaugural Royals Trade Value list. I’m not sure about his methodology, but Hunter Dozier is #1. I know, I was surprised, too.

Speaking of trades, Steve Adams at MLBTR asks “Who Else Could the Royals Trade?” Once again, Hunter Dozier tops the list (he does not, but he’s on there). Interesting names that are explored: Amir Garrett and Taylor Clarke, along with the usual suspects.

Jared Perkins (formerly of RFR) at Prospects Live asks who will be playing CF for the Royals:

While Kyle Isbel has the upper hand to become the everyday centerfielder to start 2023, this battle will be fun to watch come spring training. Due to some of the splits and with new manager Matt Quatraro, there could be some platooning that happens to get more at-bats for guys like Edward Olivares and Nate Eaton. Regardless of who ends up in the center, both will likely find ample playing time in 2023.

Finally, the blog roundup:

We do actually have enough news around MLB to make a little section of its own.

MLB Pipeline announced its new Top 100 prospects list. The top 5 are as follows:

1. Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, BAL

2. Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI

3. Francisco Álvarez, C, NYM

4. Jordan Walker, OF/3B, STL

5. Anthony Volpe, SS, NYY

The only Royals prospect is last year’s first round pick, Gavin Cross, at 62.

At Fangraphs, Leo Morgenstern names dubs former Royal Whit Merrifield the “King of Stealing Third”, which is a pretty cool title.

If I asked you to visualize the prototypical stolen base, you’d probably picture a runner taking off for second. Conversely, if I asked you to conjure up the most thrilling stolen base you could imagine, you’d pick a play at the plate. Stolen bases at third, then, are the neglected middle child — too infrequent to warrant much conversation or analysis, but not unusual enough to drum up excitement. But third is more than just the base between second and home, and stealing third regularly and efficiently is a distinct skill.

For one thing, steals of third base make for a faster showdown between catcher and runner. The average pop time on a throw to second last season was 1.97 seconds; on a throw to third, it was 1.55 seconds — nearly half a second quicker. The distance between bases, however, is the same all around the diamond, which means a runner needs a much better jump when he’s going for third. Thus, stealing third is less of a race and more of a mind game. Pure speed is less important, but the perfect lead and a well-timed jump are invaluable...

If you require further proof that swiping third is a cool and unique skill, look no further than Whit Merrifield, the king of this particular art.

The Baltimore picked up Cole Irvin in a trade with Oakland:

Baltimore used its substantial middle-infield depth in the deal, sending 21-year-old Darell Hernaiz to Oakland. The Orioles also received 24-year-old minor league right-hander Kyle Virbitsky as part of the trade.

I noticed that the Orioles SBNation site, talking about Irvin, notes: “‘Slightly better than Jordan Lyles and Tyler Wells’ is not what I was looking for”.

Joe Posnanski talks about Jeff Kent’s case for the Hall of Fame:

I suppose that’s a hard thing to swallow, though. And so Kent fans begin to exaggerate. “Most home runs for a second baseman,” becomes “greatest power-hitting second baseman.” That’s ludicrous. You’re telling me that Jeff Kent was a greater power hitter than Hornsby? I mean, that’s laughable. Kent hit a lot of home runs in a time when everybody was hitting a lot of home runs.

Then “greatest power-hitting second baseman,” becomes “greatest offensive second baseman,” which is sheer lunacy, I mean, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson, all of these guys were certainly better offensive players than Kent, and same probably goes for Bobby Grich and probably Robby Cano, and probably Jose Altuve, too. Me, for total offense, I might also take Ryne Sandberg and Robbie Alomar and Chase Utley.

Look, being a top-seven or top-10 offensive second baseman is excellent, it puts you right there in the Hall of Fame discussion. But calling him the best offensive second baseman ever is gaslighting at its finest. You’re saying that the voters, who with almost no exceptions are earnestly trying to put the best players in the Hall of Fame, purposely left out the GREATEST OFFENSIVE SECOND BASEMAN IN BASEBALL HISTORY because, what, he was mean to some writers? See, this is the nonsense that drives me batty.

The Astros have hired a GM: former Braves front office executive Dana Brown.

After interviewing a group that included former Miami GM Michael Hill, former San Francisco GM Bobby Evans and Cleveland assistant GM James Harris, the Astros chose Brown, who is now the only Black GM in the game... Chicago White Sox president Kenny Williams is the other Black executive atop a team’s baseball operations structure.

Japan names their complete 30-man World Baseball Classic roster. It includes Lars Nootbar, curiously.

Nootbaar has a Japanese mother but grew up in California and does not speak Japanese. He is the first to play for Japan in the WBC who qualifies because of his ancestry.

Meanwhile, not-yet-officially-announced-Royal Aroldis Chapman is also heading to the WBC:

What does everyone think of the World Baseball Classic? I was thinking about going this year before other plans intervened (namely, my wife’s birthday is around that time). I like the idea and the novelty of it. Though, yes, we all have to agree that it’s merely an exhibition, considering when it’s played and the rules around it.

As I mentioned earlier this year, I’m going a bit more multimedia with OT and SotD. Today, we’re going to talk books, specifically children’s books. It may seem silly, but I have actually been wanting to do this entry for a while. As most parents know, there’s a lot of repetition at the early ages and, when you read the same books week after week, you get into a bit of a rhythm. Heck, I started trying to do some voice work and mix up reading cadences to alleviate boredo— I mean, to test my vocal range.

There’s going to be a handful of entries into this series and I’ve already plotted out 4 of them, but there may be more. This first entry, we’re going to skew a bit younger, into the 0-3 year old range. A number of these years blurred together so maybe some of these were from a little older range. But if you want to ask “where is X book”, maybe we didn’t read it. Or maybe it’s just not in this age range and will be in subsequent entries.

In my experience, it’s very easy to write and publish a bad children’s book and most range from mediocre to very bad. Particularly frustrating to my engineering brain is a total lack of consistency in many books. For instance, legion are the ones that do things like “A cow says moo, a horse says neigh, a dog barks” (don’t break up your repetition pattern). Or a 16 page picture book where they reuse an animal (“You already did goat back on page 4!!”). Or where the same picture is used twice because they were too cheap to buy two stock photos (“hey, you cheapskates used the deer and racoon picture both on the raccoon page and the deer page”).

So I tried to pick out a few that I liked, my kid liked, or we both liked. I also included Amazon (or other) links for most. No, we don’t get a commission or anything - these are just generic Amazon links, but if you were curious about the book, there it is. Heck, if you have a better suggestion for a book store to link to, I’m all ears. It’s not like Dr. Evil- I mean, Jeff Bezos needs any more money to help create poorly-shaped rockets.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle - My son was never really taken by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but liked this one by Carle instead. This is for very young kids as it’s simple and very repetitive, which apparently is important in early learning stages to help kids learn permanence. The spiders web was textured so the print stuck up a bit in the book and he liked touching it.

Say Moo? by Fisher-Price (Ed Bonner) - This one still occasionally gets play in our house. However, I guess it’s not very popular as it’s not from a name author and it looks out of print. It does suffer a little from the inconsistencies I noted above. However, it also goes above and beyond, making up for it with other little details like how subsequent pages reference back to previous ones and a summary page before the final surprise. It’s a great book for making animal sounds - but do better than this guy.

Ten Tiny Toes by Caroline Jayne Church - This board book takes take on head, shoulders, knees, and toes and turns it into a simple body part lesson. It’s short, simple, and sweet while giving parents a chance to tickle a kid’s toes and then give a hug in the end. This book was dedicated to a kid named “Chayton” - sorry, kid.

Aside: Do you know what I mean by board books? They’re basically those kids books made out of thick cardboard so toddlers don’t destroy them instantly. They’ll still destroy them, like they do most things, but it takes more time. I think it’s also easier for kids to hold onto the thicker pages as they’re learning to use their fingers.

Sandra Boynton - Speaking of board books, Sandra Boynton might be my favorite author for this age. I have yet to run across a Boyton book I didn’t like and I’ve read at least a dozen. That said, she’s like the James Patterson of kids books - I mean, look at her Amazon page - it has 209 items. Can you say “prolific”? None are very long, but they’re all quite sweet, have her distinctive art, and some sort of literary hook. I think my favorite is the counting book Hippos Go Berserk but lots there are a lot of good options like The Going to Bed Book and Moo, Baa, La, La, La.

Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry - This isn’t a traditional storybook but an amazing vocabulary builder. The animal characters are delightful and instantly recognizable as Scarry’s work. Each page or set of facing pages are on a particular topic so kids learn all about a topic in context. Yes, it’s a product of its time to the point where there’s an “Editing the Best Word Book Ever” section on wiki. However, this seems like a good change: “at least 14 changes were made, including changing a male ‘policeman’ to a female ‘police officer’ on the front cover, and changing ‘handsome pilot’ to ‘pilot’ and ‘pretty stewardess’ into ‘flight attendant’”. I have used “first 1000 words” foreign language books that owe their format to this book.

The Monster at the End of This Book by John Stone - This was one of my favorites growing up and my son likes it as well. The full title actually includes “Starring lovable, furry old Grover”, the likable Muppet from Sesame Street. Aside from being a cute book with a fun surprise at the end, a number of other books have clearly borrowed from the meta-humor idea of the main character trying to get the reader to interact with the book. In the intro, wiki says this 1971 book “has been cited as a modern classic of children’s literature” and I wholeheartedly agree. Also, when I was growing up, we had it as a Little Golden Book

Speaking of which: Little Golden Books also has a Wikipedia entry. This series included The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, which, as of 2001, was the “ single all-time best-selling hardcover children’s book in the U.S., having sold nearly 15 million copies”. However, wiki also notes other books like Green Eggs and Ham have outsold it (FYI: Dr. Seuss is coming in another installment) when adding in other versions. Heck, just to be a little confusing, our next book is on the list twice, once as a board book and once as a hardcover.

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown - If you recognize only one book I mention today, it’s probably this beloved and oft parodied and children’s book. It’s not my personal favorite, but it’s got a lot going for it. Back when metafiction and Easter eggs weren’t as prevalent, Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd, added in a number of little tricks like how the clock in the room changes and the moon rises throughout the book and references to a number of other children’s tales. Speaking of parodies, we were gifted the parody Goodnight, Exomoon, which is a cute little astronomy version by Kimberly Arcand.

I have a number of astronomy friends so I ended up with a number of space books, though this one is for a bit older than 0-4. All My Friends are Planets by Alisha Vimawala is a cute story about how Pluto had to find its own dwarf planet friends after it got demoted by the evil Mike Brown . I mean, the dude wrote a book called How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming - that’s definitely a supervillain book title. And my feelings about this have nothing at all to do with the fact that I had to learn 9 planets as a kid or that Clyde Tombaugh went to the University of Kansas.

Red Light, Green Light by Margaret Wise Brown - This sing-songy book about traffic safety was my favorite book growing up. It’s a bit harder to find, but worth the effort for its beautiful watercolor illustrations of a bygone era. Modern electric traffic lights were invented in the early 20th century but were not prevalent until later. I mean, just think about this - they’re novel enough that a famous children’s author thought it was necessary to create a children’s book to explain “red light stop, green light go”. It wasn’t even that long ago. For reference, the Pine Tar game (1983) was closer to the publication of this book (1944) than it is to today (2023).

Looking for a kids book for the parents? Today’s SotD captures their feeling on those particularly frustrating nights with children. Today’s featured book is “Go the F to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach.

WARNING: Language. LOTS AND LOTS of language. <— See all the capital letters? You’ve been warned. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what the “F” in “Go the F to Sleep” stands for after I went to this trouble. The below is NSFW so, of course, don’t play it at work.

This award-nominee and Amazon #1 bestselling book demonstrates the versatility of the “F-word” in perfect rhyme while talking about the difficulty of getting a child to sleep. The audiobook is basically 4 minutes of audio perfection. Samuel L. Jackson beautifully mixes his mastery of profanity with familiar parenting emotions.

Last chance: if you don’t like salty language, stay away from this one. For those of us who may be a bit more blue with our language, it is eminently relatable.