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Royals Rumblings - News for April 28, 2023

I have a feeling today is going to be all NFL Draft talk. KC represented well last night

Nina, Cosma Shiva Und Eva Maria Hagen Geben Pk Zu “Foxkids”
I have no idea what is going on here. But somehow this image is in our archive

The NFL Draft is sucking all the KC sports oxygen out of the room. See? I just used the word “sucking” and Kansas City sports in context and it wasn’t referring to the Royals 28th ranked offense or 27th ranked pitching.

Anne Rogers writes about the changes in Asa Lacy’s rehab this year:

“When I was rehabbing last summer, it was like, ‘OK, how quick can I get out of here?’” Lacy said. “I probably did myself more harm than good with that mindset, even though it was with good intentions. I just want to pitch. I’ve talked to our entire pitching staff, our coaches, and told everyone, ‘I want to feel ready before I get out of here.’”

Minda mentioned this on Wednesday, but The Star has a new beat writer for the Royals: Jaylon T. Thompson. Looking at his Twitter and some (not so) quick Googling, I’m pretty sure he went to Georgia. Apparently, the Star is building a UGA pipeline as their Kansas basketball and football reporter, Shreyas Laddha, is also a Bulldog. He wrote this story about Scott Barlow rounding back into form. (Ed note: I spent entirely too much time trying to connect those two dots and it wasn’t worth it; this is the residue from getting “good transitions” on his grade school papers too often)

“It’s always good to have nerves,” he said. “I think you have to in this business. It’s something you recognize early and use to your advantage. (You) know it’s a good thing to be nervous because it means you care.”

...“He’s also come in the last few outings in super-high-leverage (situations),” Quatraro said. “He seems to really respond well to those.”

Some announcing news:

Anyone been following the Zack Grienke “chase to strike out unique batters” thing?

That was from earlier in the month and, as this new Tweet notes, he was up to 997 coming into last night’s game.

We’re scratching for “official news” now. A listicle by Matt Snyder at CBS shows his “One-month All-MLB team”. I believe the only Royal on the list is Aroldis Chapman in the RP “Honorable mention” category.

Blog time.

I scanned the last few Rumblings and I didn’t see anyone get this story yet so I’m linking to Alex Duvall’s “Top-10 Options for KC at #8 in the MLB Draft” at Royals Farm Report:

Really quick…I left off the top three or four draft prospects that I think have a 0% chance of falling to #8. So, if you’re wondering why Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes, Chase Dollander, Wyatt Langford, and Max Clark aren’t on the list, that’s why.

#1: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)

Jenkins is a 6′ 3″ left-handed hitter with perhaps the most upside of any player in this draft class. His prep outfield counterpart, Max Clark, has his name in that conversation as well, but the track record suggests that Clark will be gone by pick #5 at the very latest. Jenkins, on the other hand, has an outside chance of being available at #8 because the college pitching class is trending in the right direction as it relates to the Royals this summer. Prospects Live, Baseball America, and MLB Pipeline have Jenkins ranked 6th, 6th, and 7th, respectively, on their draft rankings, so if the board were to fall right, and KC could throw some extra money at Jenkins, there’s a non-zero chance they could get him to #8.

Defensively, Jenkins reminds me a bit of Kyle Isbel. He isn’t the fastest runner you’ve ever seen, and he’s no Enrique Bradfield Jr., but he has incredible instincts and gets fantastic jumps that could allow him to play centerfield long-term even if he isn’t a ++ runner. Jenkins, as a hitter, may remind some folks of Gavin Cross. Big dude, big swing, immense raw power, with a hit tool and swing that should allow him to hit for a high average as he moves through the minor leagues. Jenkins is truly one of the premiere prospects in this draft class and he’ll probably be in the top-four of my personal rankings.

A day after Anne Rogers and David Lesky talked about Brady Singer’s new approach with his slider, Craig Brown talked about it, as well:

Go ahead and re-read the above quote. It’s important. Brady Singer’s slider on Tuesday was…a completely new pitch. Holy moly, this is seismic.

If any of you were still on the fence about the new coaching and how they were impacting the roster, you should probably move off now. There is absolutely no way that this would’ve happened in any of Singer’s three previous big league seasons. Imagine…Singer is displeased with the results he’s getting on the slider. He sits down with his pitching coaches to discuss. They come to him with a different grip to use. Four starts into the season, he completely overhauls one of his core pitches…and from first glance, he makes it better.

Jacob Milham writes about it for KOK: “New grip, immediate changes for Brady Singer’s slider”

Also at KOK, Mike Gillespie: “Danger lurks, some grumblings, and hot prospects

Sean Thornton at Bleeding Royal Blue doesn’t post very often. But when he does, it’s usually quite voluminous. I just saw it this week but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been posted here yet: A Positive Direction for the Royals.

It’s hard not to be on board with a complete restructure for this organization. Last season started out with hope that the Royals could start making some big steps forward with all their drafted young talent and instead their season took a giant nosedive into a new level of ineptitude. The few times I wrote last year, it was about how bad this team was and how they needed to move in a new direction. To be honest with you, for the first team in a very, very long time, I checked out.

We’ve already dabbled in cartoons once this year. But that was more of a review and pretty well sourced. This time, it’s going to be a bit more abstract, talking about what I feel is a bit of a lost era of cartoons.

The toyetic 80s, like GI Joe referenced above, gave way to more kid-friendly fare like the Disney Afternoon (Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers, et al) and Amblin shows (Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, etc). Superhero cartoons had a revival with major offerings from WB (Batman: The Animated Series and subsequent series) and the Saban/Marvel partnership (most notable for X-Men and Spider-Man). Later in the decade, Cartoon Network’s Toonami was the first real push of Japanese anime to the masses. I know I missed some individual cartoons: for instance, Nickelodeon was not my jam - but I think we covered most major cartoon styles of the 90s. Oh, and we’re not talking about something like, say, The Simpsons or South Park, as these are more akin to sitcoms and prime-time shows. Today, we’re looking at Saturday morning style cartoons.

At this time, TV, in general, was also just more confusing at this time as the networks hadn’t consolidated and many of these cartoons were syndicated on independent stations or independent programming blocks. So the same cartoon may have been on Fox in Philadelphia, ABC in Miami, WGN in Chicago, and 38 Family Greats in Kansas City.

Saturday morning cartoons took off in the mid 60s and continued through the 70s, but, well, those toyetic cartoons in the 80s were, arguably, its heyday:

The success of Star Wars toys convinced manufacturers of the enormous profit potential in developing their own intellectual properties to base toys on. Along with the FCC’s looser interpretation of programming regulations under President Ronald Reagan, this led to the era of “half-hour toy commercials” that became almost synonymous with 1980s cartoons. The first were Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in 1983, followed by The Transformers,M.A.S.K.,Jem and the Holograms, Thundercats, Silverhawks, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light,My Little Pony, and others.

However, the next two sections of the wikipedia entry are “Watchgroup backlash” and “decline”. The FCC began requiring 3 hours of “educational and informational” (E/I) programming. NBC had already traded in their animation block for live-action shows like Saved by the Bell and pretended that was E/I. Other stations got similarly “creative”, shoehorning in “educational” programming into cartoons or just showed cheaper shows. Viacom had bought up CBS and was showing reruns from Nickelodeon stations. Disney had bought up ABC and was showing reruns of shows from, you guessed it, Disney channels. By the late 90s, Saturday morning cartoons had all but died. Gone were the days of The Smurfs, Garfield and Friends, or even, say, Pro Stars. If you don’t remember that one, it was the cartoon starring Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Bo Jackson - only it was only animated version of them, voiced by voice actors.

That said, two non-cable holdouts remained: newly formed networks Fox and WB. These two networks pitched a fierce battle for kid eyeballs in the early 2000s with weird mixes of animation styles, properties, and age targets (like putting a show for 5-7yos next to a teen show), all in an attempt to find the next hot thing that could anchor the block for the next couple of years. It was a competition between Saban (of Power Rangers fame) on Fox and KidsWB, an alliance of 4Kids Pokemon and WB’s empire. Fortunately, in Lawrence, the cartoon blocks were split with Fox being on Saturdays and KidsWB being on Sunday so I could watch both.

While some of this is chronicled on wiki and other place, a lot of the history from this time was lost when the Geocities and Angelfires of the world went dark. So, yeah, I’m piecing some of this together from memory. Perhaps the below is better regarded as an embellished story rather than actual factual information.

These notes all started when I unearthed some of my old “source” VHS tapes from this time. By “source”, I mean I would originally tape entire mornings or afternoons of cartoons. Then I would dub them together to make full series of shows. So, for instance, if a morning had two cartoons I was trying to tape, I would need 13 weeks back-to-back to make a season. The sources were 1st generation copies while the seasons were inferior 2nd generation copies. However, there was no easy lossless way to do this back then that didn’t require more VCRs and cable inputs that I had.

We’re going to take a closer look at February of 2000, specifically the weekends of February 5th and 12th as those were the tapes I found. They were from the middle of sweeps so the networks were putting their best feet forward to set ad rates for the next year.

Poor Fox Kids. In the early 90s, they had surpassed the Big Three networks, with Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the aforementioned superhero cartoons, and Warner Bros. Animation programs. Saban basically took over and life was good, for a time. But then the Big Three tossed away their cartoons for news and Fox affiliates were wanting the same. Meanwhile, upstart WB stole away hits Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series from Fox. And then came Pokemon. And Yu-Gi-Oh! And blew right by them.

By February 2000, we were looking at the remains of a once great empire. The five shows I had were Monster Rancher, Digimon, Nascar Racers, another Digimon, and then Beast Machines. I’m pretty sure there was some incarnation of Power Rangers at the start of the block but I didn’t tape it. If you don’t think Power Rangers was huge: “In 1994 alone, licensed Power Rangers merchandise made Saban over a billion dollars in profits.”

But, by this time, Pokemon clones were all the rage. WB’s lineup consisted of Superman, (something I didn’t tape), Pokemon, MIB: The Series, Pokemon, and Batman Beyond. My best guesses at the missing titles were Static Shock, Max Steel, or Yu-Gi-Oh, but the first two started later in 2000 and the latter came stateside in 2001.

Notice the counter-programming. Two episodes of Pokemon opposite two episodes of Digimon. The most “teen” shows of the bunch were at the end in Beast Machines vs Batman Beyond. MIB: The Series and Nascar Racers - well, we’ll get to them in a little bit.

Though we’re going to jump back and forth between the mix of shows, let’s start with Pokemon. I’m not sure what I could say about Pokemon that hasn’t already been said. But I feel like, in a way, I rediscovered cartoons through Pokemon. I loved its simplistic 80s cartoon feel. Yes, it was toyetic in that every episode focused on a different Pokemon. But that sells short what would become a media empire with an annual GDP larger than numerous small countries. The recurring villains, Team Rocket, were comic relief that you cheered for. Despite what purists might claim, the translation was good and it did what good translations did: it was not literal but adapted to the audience. You learned a lesson, you sung a song- it was all from the 80s playbook but adapted to kids for the next generation. One of those weeks featured Pikachu Re-Volts, one of the best episodes outside of the iconic first season.

Digimon was a competent Pokemon-clone, but was unfairly maligned as being just a Pokemon knock-off when it really wasn’t. Yes, it starred cute toyetic creatures in the “real world” but also had a little bit of a Matrix-esque “what is the real and what is the computer world” going on. The voice acting maybe wasn’t top shelf and the translators took a lot of liberties to make the show palatable to westerners, but it was a minor hit in its own right. These taped weekends was the climax of one of its biggest stories, the Myotismon arc. Two long running story lines met as the digital baddies came to the real world and the day was saved by a new hero, the prophesied eighth child.

Monster Rancher was another show that kindof got lost as a Pokemon-clone but really wasn’t. Whereas Digimon struck a good balance for a younger aged show, Monster Ranger couldn’t really find an audience. It was too smart for younger kids but not quite smart enough for older ones. I think it’s hard to overstate just how big of a hit Pokemon was and others were just trying to catch even a fraction of that lightning in a bottle, even if you were really square pegging that round hole for an American audience.

I don’t know how many people remember Men In Black: The Series. Like it’s Adelaide Productions and Sony Television successor Jackie Chan Adventures, it’s underrated in that it had sparse animation but quality writing and voice acting and both enjoyed fairly long runs of over 50 episodes and 4+ seasons. I don’t know if anyone tuned in to watch either show but they were steady shows that kept a large enough audience from turning off the TV. We were just a couple of weeks removed from the classic episode, “The Out to Pasture Syndrome”. While there was a lot of alien-of-the-week to the show, they did have some continuity, most notably with recurring nemesis Alpha, voiced by the incomparable David Warner.

The same praise could not be leveled on Nascar Racers, the short lived, commercial that probably was pitched to the network using the word “synergy” over and over. It featured mediocre computer animation and even worse writing. It lasted two seasons so I guess it didn’t bleed too much of its lead-in: kids weren’t going to turn off the TV or, god forbid, go outside when another episode of Digimon was in just half an hour.

The Superman episodes from these two weeks were the end of an era. The Timmverse would rumble on until 2006, but this was the last of The New Batman/Superman Adventures. I could (and maybe will one day) go on at length about how underrated Superman: The Animated Series was. Batman, deservedly got a ton of praise but Superman took some of what it did to a higher level. There were some simple, one off episodes, but Superman’s serialization, particularly with the Darkseid arc, is something Batman just couldn’t do.

Aside: Apokolips... Now is one of the best hours of animation ever made: from tying together Intergang to Darkseid, to adequately portraying Jack Kirby’s New Gods on a Saturday morning cartoon, to the galactic intrigue between New Genesis and Apokolips, to the nuclear threat of new Apokolips on Earth, to the eerie red-skied Steppenwolf and Parademon attacks. When the episode finally gets a chance to breathe, Darkseid is revealed. Superman fights him, but Darkseid easily defeats him. Humans rise up and the New Genesis gods come to their aid. But before he escapes, Darkseid murders Dan Turpin in cold blood, unhinging Superman. In the final scene, a Rabbi sings the Kaddish at Turpin’s funeral, a tribute to the late, great Jack Kirby (Turpin’s design in the show is based on Kirby) and many of the mourners are based on characters he created or other comic greats he worked with. They managed to sneak realistic(-ish) nuclear meltdowns, a bloodied and defeated Superman, a same sex couple, and a brutal muder past 90s standards and practices. And it’s not gratuitous, trying to amp up drama or make the viewer uncomfortable. It feels like a realistic dramatic portrayal of the stakes. All on a Saturday morning cartoon.

The episodes from the 5th and 12th were the follow up from that story and the finale for the show. In Legacy, Darkseid kidnaps and brainwashes Superman and sends him to attack Earth. Lex stops him with a Kryptonite missile and he is sentenced to death. Lois helps him escape and he goes to Apokolips and defeats Darkseid... sort of. Then he has to return to earth and face a public that will never trust him again.

FYI: Officially, the following shows fit into the DC Animated Universe: Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. Somehow, Teen Titans does not. Batman Beyond, at least season 1, was a fitting successor to Batman. It was really well done and had the feel of a high budget production with good writing for a while. Really, Terry’s rogues gallery isn’t much of a step back from Batman’s with Blight, Inque, and the Royal Flush Gang all strong, some villains like Spellbinder and Curare with room to grow, to say nothing of the creepiness in The Return of the Joker. Unfortunately, “Creator Bruce Timm has stated Batman Beyond is the most uneven series of the main DC Animated Universe shows, particular in regards to the latter two seasons”.

And this is where some of that apocryphal information that was floating around at the time may shine some light on things. There was speculation about whether there would be a season 4 of Superman and, technically, the two parts of Legacy were two of only three episodes of season 4. The rest of the season was supposed to explore the fallout from Legacy and continue expanding the DCAU. However, some of the team had already gone to work on Batman Beyond, others on Static Shock, and still others went to work on The Zeta Project. There was also a lot of talk about a big successor project, which would eventually be Justice League. The story goes that there was a lack of clarity as to what was going to be made and what was going to stick around so instead of picking the best people for the best jobs on the new shows, lots of talent jumped ship to avoid losing their job and the rest was spread too thin. I know a lot of folks who swear by Justice League and its successor, Justice League Unlimited. The scope was bigger, but the shows just weren’t as good as Batman or Superman. And, frankly, they just weren’t as smart when they could easily have been.

Finally, the other “end of an era” show was Beast Machines. It was the third major show for Canadian computer animation company Mainframe. The first was ReBoot, (one of?) the first major CGI shows on TV (I could do a whole other OT on ReBoot). After that, they resurrected the languishing Transformers franchise with the beautifully animated and reasonably well written (even if they recycled some plots and computer models) Beast Wars.

The successor to it was Beast Machines. Beast Wars was a plucky series that kindof did and kindof didn’t fit into Transformers history. Sure, everything eventually got retconned in and this summer, the new live action movie probably borrows a little from this continuity in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. But Beast Machines leaned into the core Transformers mythos, having the Beast Wars characters return to Cybertron and try to close the continuity arc mostly left alone in the previous series. It was beautifully animated, especially considering we were still in the early days of CGI. It had a lot of dark colors and emphasized the strengths of the dark, mechanical world and minimized the technological limitations of not being able to have a ton of models on screen at one time except in beautiful repetition. Some of the animation still looks good to this day (some looks a bit dated in the way that Toy Story isn’t nearly as sharp as, say, Toy Story 3).

However, well, I’ll let the excellent Transformers Wiki provide the explanation:

[Bob] Skir and [Marty] Isenberg were the story editors for the Beast Machines cartoon. Initially, Skir went out of his way to make himself accessible to the fandom, but soon found himself bearing the brunt of fan hostility when the series proved far more controversial than expected, enough to bow out of a BotCon appearance. In particular, his stated preference towards writing heroes who don’t use guns has been turned into a notorious misquote that sparks controversy to this day. Co-story editor Marty Isenberg, who stayed out of the limelight, managed to avoid most of this spectacle. The lesson here reflects badly on us all.

These couple of weeks broadcast the finale for Beast Machines that ends with plants taking over Cybertron and effectively killed off Transformers again until the (yuck) Michael Bay movies brought them back to pop culture relevance again.

Sadly, I can’t track down the particular clip I want of Legacy. But these are the aforementioned climactic scenes of Apokolips... Now, Part 2:

Also, bonus clip. On one of the commentaries for the Superman, I think it was either Paul Dini or Bruce Timm that noted that for any Superman theme song, you should be able to sing “Superman” to it. You could do it with the old George Reeves TV show theme. You could do it with the John Williams theme for the the Christopher Reeves Superman movies. You could do it with this one below.

(You couldn’t do it with Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel theme, which is yet another failing of that movie.)