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Royals Rumblings - News for May 12, 2023

Keeping with yesterday’s theme of School Day at the K

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Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Shreyas Laddha at The Star had a fun story about “Back to School Day at the K”:

“I was joking (that) I think it’s probably the loudest crowd we’ve had,” said Royals second baseman Michael Massey. “It was cool, though, to have the kids out and have a good game.”

Before Thursday’s game, Quatraro spoke about how his family has a background in teaching. Both his parents are teachers, as is his wife. He reminisced about the lessons he learned from school that he still uses in baseball.

...“I always loved to play sports,” he said. “It was very simple: ‘If your grades are good, you don’t have to get a job. You can keep playing sports. If your grades dip, sports are out and you go get a job.’ It was pretty simple and the expectations were early on and (communicated as), ‘Don’t mess them up.’”

Vahe Gregorian profiled Michael Massey:

But Massey also made some key psychological adjustments as he was grappling for traction and up against an alarming strikeout rate in his second big-league season — albeit still less than a year since he was called up from July 15-17 last year and then back in August for the rest of 2022...

So he took one thing he still believed — “every time that I’ve failed miserably in my career, I’ve come back as something better” — and he applied it to the current context: Anger wasn’t going to help. Neither was pressing harder or squeezing tighter, he absorbed through coaches and staff and veteran voices. What could help would be finding a way to let go a little and “try easier,” as the elusive notion goes, including by trying to leave his frustrations at the office.

With the NFL schedule release taking over some of the sports news cycle yesterday (blech), the Royals announced this change to a game in September:

Some transaction news:

You know, if we have a roster spot open...

This sound horrible. Royals legend Bo knows... hiccups?

Appearing on “McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning” on Birmingham’s WJOX-FM, Jackson said he’s been suffering from chronic hiccups for nearly a year. The former two-sport star and superstar Nike pitchman — who now makes his home in the Chicago area — was in town to play in the Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament at Greystone.

“I wasn’t there (at the Thomas ceremony) because of dealing with hiccups,” Jackson said. “I’ve had the hiccups since last July. I’m getting a medical procedure done the end of this week, I think, to try to remedy it. I’ve been busy sitting at the doctor’s poking me, shining lights down my throat, probing me every way they can to find out why I’ve got these hiccups. That’s the only reason I wasn’t there.”

Jim Callis redrafted the 2013 MLB draft 10 years later:

8. Royals: Tyler O’Neill, OF, Garibaldi SS (Maple Ridge, B.C.)

Actual pick: Hunter Dozier, SS, Stephen F. Austin State ($2.2 million). O’Neill: third round, Mariners ($650,000).

O’Neill grew up in the same town as Larry Walker and reminded evaluators of another British Columbia native, Brett Lawrie. Traded to the Cardinals for fellow 2013 first-rounder Marco Gonzales in mid-2017, he slammed 34 homers in 2021 but hasn’t been able to replicate that success since.

Dozier was one of the biggest surprises of the first round, part of a Royals strategy to save money on their top choice and spend it later on Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, a potential top-five pick until a torn labrum in his hip sabotaged his stuff. Kansas City got Dozier for $937,800 under slot and landed Manaea at No. 34 for $3.55 million, the fifth-highest bonus in the Draft. Dozier has had just one good season at the plate in the big leagues while providing poor defense, but the Royals swapped Manaea for Ben Zobrist, who helped win the 2015 World Series — so Kansas City fans have no complaints.

Two future Royals made the list with Manaea at 17 and Brad Keller at 25.

Not a lot for blogs today, but Craig and David are here to help. Both are talking about the Royals offensive prowess this month. Speaking of which

First, Craig:

Here’s the stat that just blows my mind: Entering play Wednesday, the Royals hit 14 home runs in May, second most in the majors. They added three more courtesy Messrs. Olivares, Pratto and Massey. They have now left the yard in each of the nine games of the homestand.

So consider what the Royals did overall in Wednesday’s victory. Nine runs. Thirteen hits. Seven extra-base hits. A couple of walks. Those already elevated averages above are increasing. This offense is smokin’.

If you want to make the argument the Royals are paper tigers given the competition has included six games so far against the Sox and the downtrodden A’s, that’s fine. Cynical, but fine. My argument is the Royals are still not necessarily a good ball club, but they are good enough to work over some of the lesser teams in the league. They are not as poor as we saw in April (although that was incredibly rough), but they’re not as good as we’ve seen of late.

Then, David, who proclaims “The Royals Offense Might Actually Be Good”:

At this point, it’s repeating a point made so many times, but the Royals offense should not have been nearly as bad as they were to start the season. Even with all the hard-hit balls and tough-luck outs, they still weren’t good. They were hitting .203/.260/.321. That was good for a wRC+ of 56. To put that in perspective, Nicky Lopez had a 57 wRC+ last year. They were worse than 2022 Nicky! And the final game of that 20-game stretch was getting absolutely dominated by Shohei Ohtani. There is no shame in that, for sure, but they ended that night with three hits, 14 strikeouts and two walks. It felt hopeless...

This month, the Royals have been the best offense in baseball, at least by wRC+, and have scored the most runs in baseball. But what I think is most interesting is that there isn’t a whole lot saying that they’re in over their heads. In this stretch, they’ve continued to hit the ball hard. I’m sure I wrote this the other day, but when I wrote about them needing to make more contact before we could say they were unlucky I worried the batted ball quality would suffer. But it really hasn’t.

It’s past time for our third installment of children’s book reviews. In the comments of both the first and second, there were requests for, arguably, the biggest children’s book author of all time: Theodor Giesel, aka Dr. Seuss.

The Cat in the Hat (1957) - The story on Dr. Seuss’s wiki page deserves to be republished here:

In May 1954, Life published a report on illiteracy among school children which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. William Ellsworth Spaulding was the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin (he later became its chairman), and he compiled a list of 348 words that he felt were important for first-graders to recognize. He asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and to write a book using only those words. Spaulding challenged Geisel to “bring back a book children can’t put down”. Nine months later, Geisel completed The Cat in the Hat, using 236 of the words given to him. It retained the drawing style, verse rhythms, and all the imaginative power of Geisel’s earlier works but, because of its simplified vocabulary, it could be read by beginning readers

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958) - The original is an amazing classic. I’m not sure what more I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. It stands the test of time. The sequel, well, is a classic sequel. The main characters are back, a little flatter than before. They have a similar problem, a little wackier than before. The prose is a little less fresh and the resolution more shorehorned (not that the original was neat and orderly). It’s still whimsical and fun but there are a lot better places to go to get your Seuss fix.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960) - I originally thought that if I had to pick one book to hold up as the quintessential Seuss, this would be it. But the more I think about it, the more I feel it’s the literary equivalent of Animal House - there’s a number of sketches loosely held together by an inconsistent overarching plot. The book is all over the place, even for Seuss. We start out with fish and end with a list of a dozenish weird pets and characters. But along the way, we get lost talking about a character named Ned, some sheep, and just some weird digressions that aren’t in a number of his other books. It’s one of Seuss’s most popular books, one of my favorites, and another classic, but, after more thought, if I were picking the definitive Seuss book, it would probably be...

Green Eggs and Ham (1960) - It’s tight and focused, yet still whimsical and abstract. The core is a lesson about trying new things but, at the same time, you’re being asked if you want to share them with a fox or eat in a box. The book uses only 50(!!) words. Like the blue and yellow classics above it, I think most people can picture this orange cover in their head with the “I can read it all by myself” Beginner Books logo on the corner. It’s brilliant and memorable, one of the best children’s books of all time.

Fox in Socks (1965) - I realize in ranking things, it’s impossible to stay unbiased - but it is easy to recognize there is a difference between “best” and “favorite”. If the last one was my pick for best, this is my favorite. I love trying to race through the tongue twisters in Fox in Socks as fast as possible, even as the first page warns “Take it slowly; This book is dangerous”. I think my weakest section is the “Pig band/broom band” section but I am above average through the “bricks and blocks” section and, on a good day, can knock the “tweetle beetle” section out of the park.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957) - I’ve tiered out animated Christmas specials twice before and, both times, it was in the top tier. The book is also top tier, but I feel like you can’t put something that’s a seasonal institution as a personal “favorite” - it’s like it’s in a different category altogether. I struggled with how to word this sentence and it’s still not clean but I feel like The Grinch is one of Seuss’s more straightforward morality plays, if that makes sense. It lacks some of the subtlety or adornments of some of the other stories where there are fantastical creatures or new gizmos to distract. It’s a wonderful Christmas insitution and, yes, Hollywood can stop trying to make overlong versions that “feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”. If you named this either your favorite or Seuss’s best, I’m not going to argue with you - that’s legit.

Oh The Places You’ll Go (1990) - Everyone has that relative that thinks they’re really witty, giving you a children’s book at the end of high school. Actually, you know what? You could do a lot worse, even if it’s cliche at this point. It was the last book published while Dr. Seuss was still alive (note the 1990 date vs the 60s for most of these others) and full of sage advice and vivid imagery. It is unique in using both second person point-of-view and future tense. This reads like an older individual trying to gently pass along a lifetime of knowledge in easy to digest pieces. A fitting send off to a literary master.

If I Ran the Zoo (1950) - Hey, remember that whole kerfuffle where the right wing outrage machine claimed liberals were banning Dr. Seuss? Only, of course, that wasn’t what actually happened: Dr. Seuss Enterprises chose to stop printing six books and “the decision was made by Dr Seuss Enterprises and not as a result of public pressure”. This was one of the books. We didn’t have it at home at it wasn’t one I had growing up, but I do remember it from the library. Some of those pictures are, um, less than ideal and a product of an earlier time. It’s not like Dr. Seuss is without actual controversy. For instance, he supported Japanese internment during World War II, though he later “re-examined his view”. Moving on, a fun fact Wiki mentions with regards to this book: it “is often credited with the first printed modern English appearance of the word ‘nerd’, although the word is not used in its modern context”.

Are You My Mother? (1960) - Remember that Beginner Books logo I mentioned earlier? The company was founded by Dr. Seuss, his wife Helen Palmer Geisel, and Phyllis Fraser. Fraser was born Helen Brown Nichols in Kansas City, Missouri in 1916 - there’s your local connection for today’s books. Not all Beginner Books were from Dr. Seuss. This one was by P.D. Eastman. I was going to go with his other really famous book in the series, Go, Dog. Go! as it would allow me to link to “An Open Letter to the Female Hat-Wearing Dog From ‘Go Dog, Go’”. But this one has the plaudits as “the National Education Association listed the book as one of its ‘Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.” and “it was one of the ‘Top 100 Picture Books’ of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal”. Both are worthy of being in a book series with Seuss, with colorful illustration of a similar caliber, even if the prose is less whimsical.

Ten Apples Up on Top (1961) - Let’s end on another book, this one by Theo LeSieg. Who? Theodor Seuss Geisel was the full name of Dr. Seuss. Theo LeSeig was a pen name he used (LeSeig is Giesel spelled backwards) for books that he wrote but did not illustrate. This one was illustrated by Roy McKie and has a delightful watercolor cartoon quality to the art. It’s a fun book about a dog, lion, and tiger going around town with an ever increasing number of apples on their head until they get to a total count of, you guessed it, Frank Stallon— I mean “ten apples, up on top”.

(ed note: I used a Frank Stallone joke last week, didn’t I? In my defense, I wrote the bulk of this OT like 2 months ago and kept it on reserve so, really, I reused the Frank Stallone jokes like 2 months apart, even if they appear to you like I used them a week or two apart)

Anyone have other favorite Seuss books? For instance, I also love the two major “and other stories” books: The Sneetches and Other Stories and Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Anyone with some hipster take of an obscure Seuss book that’s their favorite?

“Brief” personal story aside:

Horton Hears a Who! (1954) - I take real pride in saying, without hyperbole, that this is the book I taught my son to read with. During the first year and a half of the pandemic, my wife and I homeschooled our son. He was too young to handle virtual school and couldn’t get a vaccine until the end of 2021. At the start of the pandemic, he was four years old and had gone through a couple of word explosions, like kids do, but hadn’t gotten then hang of reading in daycare. But he’s fairly sharp and a bit sneaky - he was quick to memorize - so I needed to pick a book he hadn’t read before. We needed to work through the process of actually learning how to read not just blitzing through the book once with my help and then regurgitating it in future lessons.

I learned a lot of things while home schooling. For instance, man, teachers. I mean, I appreciated them before, but this really reinforced it. I often didn’t have enough patience to suitably deal with a single kid, my own, easygoing-for-his-age kid, for a couple of hours a day, much less 8 hours a day and 20 of them, including some that are real pieces of work.

Also, that the idea of “age appropriate learning” is really key. Kids are like giant information sponges and you can teach them something advanced, beyond what they are ready for. However, if you do, it’ll take more time, effort, and emotional energy than if you were working on a subject more appropriate. Something that a 6yo could pick up in an hour may take a week for a 5yo as you have to give them the building blocks to build a foundation to learn the new material. Confession: I feel kindof bad now as a number of lists have it as one of Seuss’s hardest books with, for instance, this one listing it as a third grade book. This is where teachers and the development of good curriculum can make all the difference in education and I’m grateful for them.

But one advantage I did have with him was that he thinks a lot like I do. He has a mathematically inclined brain and way of looking at things. To work through learning how to read, we broke words into phonics and he could piece them together like an equation. Memorize a piece, master a piece, figure out ways to put pieces together - this worked for him. We went through one page a week for more than 20 weeks. This wasn’t me giving him words and him repeating them back to me - he had to work them out and it was a long, painstaking process. But, by the time he was done, he could really read and it was amazing to watch that process.

Because of that, this book, which, frankly, was never one of my favorite Seusses, will always have a special place in my heart.

I stumbled across this online and it’s such a bizarre little thing. Wes Tank is from Milwaukee and he got really popular during the pandemic for “rapping Seuss books over Dre beats from his dining room”.

I think “Fox in Socks” is easier to watch as it’s a bit shorter and the book has a more cohesive thread that runs through it. But “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”, in all of its randomness, really fits this odd format