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Royals Rumblings - News for February 9, 2024

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The long-eared owl population increased in Turkish capital
A Superb Owl!
Photo by Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu via Getty Images

This time next week, we’re going to be talking about how Pitchers and Catchers have already reported!

The Royals signed a number of pre-arbitration contracts yesterday

Keeping with the transactions theme, Darragh McDonald at MLB Trade Rumors listed players who could go to the 60-Day IL:

It’s worth pointing out that the “60 days” don’t start being counted until Opening Day. Although a team can transfer a player to the 60-day IL quite soon, they will likely only do so if they aren’t expecting the player back until end of May or later. Transferring a player to the 60-day IL also requires a corresponding move, so a club can’t just make the move in isolation...

Royals: Kris Bubic, Kyle Wright, Josh Taylor

Bubic underwent Tommy John surgery in April of last year and will have to miss at least some of the 2024 season. Whether he winds up on the 60-day IL or not will depend if the club thinks he can return before June. Wright underwent shoulder surgery while with Atlanta last year and will miss all of 2024. The Royals acquired him in a trade, hoping for a return to health in 2025 and beyond. Taylor was already on the IL due to a shoulder impingement in June of last year when he required surgery on a herniated disc in his lower back. His current status isn’t publicly known.

Speaking of Bubic, Jaylon Thompson caught up with the lefty as he’s rehabbing:

Bubic is over nine months removed from Tommy John surgery. He is making strides through elbow rehabilitation. The recovery process includes rotator cuff and forearm strengthening to regain a full range of motion.

Additionally, Bubic has also worked on a few changes to his mechanics. He gradually increased his throwing exercises. There are days where he is tossing baseballs from certain distances at a capped number of throws.

“This is kind of the best time, in my eyes, to potentially try to change something,” Bubic said. “I’m not saying overall or anything, but try to, you know, change an arm action or change a set position or something like that.”

Bubic also wants to resume changes made to his pitching arsenal as well. Last season, Bubic entered spring training working on a slider. The pitch was implemented to generate a better breaking action against left-handed hitters. Bubic also utilized a full stretch delivery to help stay balanced and attack the strike zone. Bubic plans to stick with a similar setup when he returns.

I’m just going to put this horizontal rule here so we can get the bad news out of the way. If you want to skip this section, feel free.

Also, at The Star, Mike Hendricks has the headline “Royals form campaign for new ballpark, Chiefs upgrades. You’ll hear more post-Super Bowl”. If you want to read more about the ins and outs of financing an ad campaign of how a group of millionaires and billionaires want your help funding a stadium they still can’t provide any details about, enjoy.

Supporters of a 40-year sales tax to help pay for a new Royals ballpark and renovations to Arrowhead Stadium took the first steps this week toward financing a ballot campaign by forming a campaign committee as required by the state of Missouri.

A written statement organizing The Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals in Jackson County was filed electronically Monday afternoon with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The committee’s address is Kauffman Stadium. Sarah Tourville, the Royals’s executive vice president and chief commercial and community impact officer, was listed as co-chair. And the team’s chief financial officer, Whitney Beaver, was listed as campaign treasurer.

As mentioned in the comments one of the last couple of days, Independence is trying to throw its hat in the ring to get the stadium. Here’s a story from Fox 4:

It’s a late pitch, and maybe a wild one, from the city of Independence, hoping to land a new Kansas City Royals stadium.

At Wednesday night’s city council meeting, Independence City Manager Zach Walker said they might propose the Independence Center location to the team. Part of this is because the people who own the mall have the building up for sale.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Business Journal’s Thomas Friestad talks about how the Royals could also smash their way to a new ballpark with eminent domain:

The Royals don’t yet have full control of a stadium location but could announce their pick any time, as an April 2 stadium sales tax vote approaches for the team and the Kansas City Chiefs. If the owners of any Crossroads properties refuse to sell, the scope of any forcible takings may become apparent only after ballots are cast.

In a statement Thursday, the Royals said condemnation, if required for a downtown ballpark, would not come at any extra cost to taxpayers. Project terms can call for private developers to reimburse governments for any acquisition and legal costs they incur during eminent domain proceedings. Representatives with Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office did not say what support the city would offer for condemnation.

While we’re on unsavory topics, Rob Manfred. I could just stop there. He says he’s disappointed with the A’s and Las Vegas but “comfortable with where they are in the process”. He then wet blankets the idea of MLB players playing in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. And he lawyerly non-commitals a bunch of things like that baseball is maybe on its way to 32 teams (as has been widely expected for a decade - once the A’s and Rays settle), streaming and Diamond are still up in the air, and that he loves rolling around in piles of today’s money even if it costs him a lot more of tomorrow’s money (I may have made that last one up).

Back to the happier news of Royals blogs.

David Lesky gives us... The 2028 Project.

But what happens on the field will likely tell the tale of what the Royals long-term future with him is. They now need to start showing him that they can regularly compete for not only division titles, but World Series titles. I don’t think he signs this deal that he signed without some assurances that money would continue to be spent, but it goes beyond money with winning every single year. The infrastructure of the organization needs to be strong enough that they don’t have to go out and sign a bunch of 30-somethings to short-term deals. Yes, it works for now for the 2024 season, but it’s not sustainable.

The Royals need to build something sustainable in order to have an opportunity to retain Witt beyond the guaranteed years of his new deal. I think there are three main things that need to happen in order to keep him happy and willing to stay in Kansas City longer than the next 5-7 years...

If all this spending that they’ve done to this point in this offseason is about getting the new stadium and it works, well they better spend. Part of the draw and allure being put out there is the revenue stream it will afford the team to be able to run bigger payrolls. If that stadium and connecting entertainment district open in 2028, you better believe they’ll need to be spending the additional revenue as they promised or else they’ll have plenty of questions to answer.

Craig Brown also talks about the Witt signing and its greater meaning:

As the stadium feels like a fait accompli at the moment, the timing of the Witt extension makes me wonder if the Royals are inadvertently following the path of the Cleveland franchise from 30 years ago. There’s a lot of discussion about the franchise following the Atlanta model in building their ballpark with an entertainment village attached. If the team is serious about competing, they’d be better off emulating Cleveland for how they simultaneously build a new stadium and a contending team.

As the Cleveland ballclub was set to leave the dilapidated Municipal Stadium and move to what was then Jacobs Field, the team, led by General Manager John Hart, had the crazy idea of bringing winning baseball to a market that had last seen the postseason in 1954. Cleveland was terrible. From the advent of division play in 1969 to 1993, the team never finished higher than fourth in the AL East. With the new stadium set to open in 1994, Cleveland had a nucleus of young ballplayers ready to take the field. Kenny Loftin, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez were just a few of the youngsters, joined by veterans such as Eddie Murray and Dennis Martinez. The timing was right for the team to make the move.

The first year in the new yard, Cleveland was in second place, just a game out of first when the strike ended the season. The following year, they qualified for the postseason and advance to the World Series. From there, they went to the playoffs in five of the next six seasons. The Royals aren’t close to where Cleveland was when they opened their ballpark as far as talent goes. But securing the services of Witt certainly goes a long way.

In what I can only describe as a “BLOCKBUSTER CROSSOVER EVENT”, Royals Reporter Kevin O’Brien wrote: “On Monday, my co-host Cristian Martinez and I were joined by Farm to Fountains founder and Royals prospect expert Preston Farr and Royals pitching prospect Noah Cameron on a special episode of ‘KC Chase to the Pennant’.” That means. Royals Reporter, Farm to Fountains, and Royals Review all teamed up to interview a top 30 Royals pitching prospects. Does it get any bigger than that? The story can be found here.

It was interesting to hear that “improving velocity” was the priority for Cameron this offseason. That was one thing Preston and I planned on asking him about specifically, and he came out early in our interview and mentioned that he knew his velocity dipped at times last year and that contributed to his struggles, especially in Double-A. What’s even more intriguing is the fact that the org is helping him in that process. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t feel like something we heard very often with the Royals’ pitching development team during the Dayton Moore era.

Speaking of Farm to Fountains, Michael Farina profiles Chris Stratton:

His curveball is especially exciting by nature. It generates more than 3200 RPM and breaks almost nine inches horizontally, both indicating that this is a truly elite pitch—or, at least, it should be. It’ll be interesting to see how Royals staffers work with Stratton as the development of Cole Ragans, and James McArthur suggests they have a good idea of how to get more out of a pitcher’s repertoire when it contains elite breaking stuff.

Even if the breaking balls are getting hit more than anyone wants them to, Stratton still provides a great floor of reliability with his fastball command, as evidenced by his 3.91 ERA and 3.51 FIP over his last four seasons. Last year, he threw 82 innings to a 3.92 ERA which would not only have made him the best reliever on the Royals over the full season, but also the most worked.

Blog Roundup Time:

I know I had promised more Legos this week. However, we’ll get back to that next week.

Since the Kansas City football squadron is in the big game, we have to present more Superb Owl facts, as per tradition (since we’ve done it once before). And, let’s be honest: cute animal pictures sell. So I’m going to steal Minda’s bit here for a week.

Last year we linked to this Audubon list of owl facts. However, this year I’ll feature a couple of new facts:

Owls are zygodactyl, which means their feet have two forward-facing toes and two backward-facing toes. Unlike most other zygodactyl birds, however, owls can pivot one of their back toes forward to help them grip and walk.

Owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees. A blood-pooling system collects blood to power their brains and eyes when neck movement cuts off circulation.

How about some owl egg facts from the Owl Research Institute:

​Eggs are usually laid one to four days apart. The female owl sits on the eggs to keep them warm. This is called incubation. Only female owls incubate eggs. During the incubation period, the female loses the feathers on her belly in order to transfer more body heat to the eggs. She presses the warm bare skin, or brood patch, against the eggs. She lies on the nest in the incubation position, with her head low and stomach down, keeping the eggs warm all the time. Baby owls, called owlets or nestlings, hatch 3 to 5 weeks after the eggs are laid, depending on the species. Because eggs are laid on different days, the female will generally begin incubation with the first egg, and the eggs will hatch in the order they were laid. This is called asynchronous hatching, which results in different age nestlings within the same nest. The first nestlings to hatch can be one to two weeks older than the last ones to hatch.

Owl hearing facts from the British Trust for Ornithology?

Interestingly, the two ears are asymmetrical in their positioning in most owl species, the left ear positioned lower than the right, and the two also out of line in the vertical plane. Such asymmetry generates a tiny amount of separation between when a sound hits one ear compared to the other; this allows an owl to better pinpoint the source of a sound than is the case with human hearing and our symmetrically placed ears.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West talks about their flying prowess:

Short-eared Owls are one of only two owl species living on the Hawaiian Islands. Arriving naturally, it is believed that they may have traveled down from Alaska... Short-eared Owls may travel great distances, with migrations of 1200 miles documented. These migrations may include long distances over water. One Short-eared Owl was recorded landing on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, 653 miles from land.

National Geographic Kids tells us about owls and their food (...and more):

Great horned owls eat a wide variety of prey—from small rodents to skunks and geese. Like other owls, these birds sometimes swallow their prey whole and later regurgitate pellets composed of bone, fur, and other unwanted parts of their meal.

I know I used an NFL PrimeTime clip a couple of weeks ago, but that didn’t count as a song so I’m not breaking my “can only use songs once a year from any given game/artist/etc”. My place, my rules. This time it’s one of the classic songs from NFL PrimeTime, “Power Surge”: