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Game 39: Twins at Royals

The White Sox aren’t going away... but, in the meantime, here are the Inherited Thrones for Minnesota to face.

Kansas City Royals Vs Detroit Tigers, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas, Missouri, USA.
“Out of the darkness comes a creature / From some misbegotten time / Crawling, slinking, creeping / From some foul primordial slime” — Phil Roberts, 1957
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Good, giving, and game, 69° at first pitch

Opponent’s excellent SB site: Royals Review

TV: BS North. Radio: Don’t trust any signals that work in a tunnel

Second-year southpaw Daniel Lynch scuffled a bit in his move to the majors last year, settled in during July/August and wore out a little in September. He’s off to a good start this year, throwing a 94-ish fastball, changeup, and REALLY HARD 93 MPH slider; predictably, that one’s much more deadly on lefty batters.

He’ll be facing Devin Smeltzer in his second start of 2022, as the Twins try to figure out their ongoing “who’s starting now” shuffle. Part of the Brian Dozier trade to LA, he battled ineffectiveness in 2020 and injury in 2021, coming back to pitch five solid inning against Cleveland last Saturday. (For Twins starters this year, five innings is LONG.) Baseball injuries, while unfortunate, aren’t the worst things Smeltzer has faced; he survived cancer as a kid. Digits (career for Smeltzer, YTD for Lynch):

Kauffman Stadium, first opened in 1973, is widely admired as a baseball-only ballpark built in an era where cities were erecting multisport “concrete doughnuts.” Renovated in 2009, it’s got a lease through 2030, and has long been a popular road trip destination for Twins fans.

So, there’s no way the owner is making noise about wanting it replaced, is there?

HAHAHAHAHA of course there is! And it’s about what every stadium ploy is about, these days – real estate development around the new ballpark.

John Sherman, owner of the Royals since 2019, is a billionaire who got rich in propane sales, after inheriting enough money to start a business in propane sales. He wants a new Royals Stadium in downtown Kansas City, as part of a business district “revitalization” proposal because these ALWAYS work, and cites the fancy real estate around Atlanta’s stadium as a model to emulate. (The Atlanta development loses money for local taxpayers, naturally, while Kansas City residents oppose a new stadium in polls.) We’re still fairly early in the stadium-blackmail game on this one, but it’ll be worth watching.

Instead of that, let’s talk about Banana Ball.

Banana Ball is an invention of the Savannah Bananas, an independent collegiate wood-bat team in Georgia. The team’s co-owner (along with his wife), one Jesse Cole, was first an intern, then a 23-year-old GM for another wood-bat team. The Coles got their chance in Savannah when the former owner demanded a new stadium no Savannah taxpayers wanted to pay for.

Banana Ball is regular baseball, with wacky rules alterations dreamed up by 8-year-olds on a sugar rush or college students on Magic Brownies. Foul balls caught on the fly by fans are outs. Hitters can try reaching first on ANY wild pitch/passed ball, not just third strikes. Batters who are walked can advance as many bases as possible until the entire defense has touched the ball once, in an amped version of “around the horn.” And so on.

There’s also dancing, costumes, props, you name it. And no game can last more than two hours.

You can read a fun, free article about the Bananas by LA Times writer David Wharton at this link, or you can watch this accompanying video put together by Times staff:

If Jesse Cole comes off like quite the huckster, here (he’s also basically the team’s lead cheerleader during games), he’s learned from a legend – he consciously emulated Bill Veeck, famed MLB owner/promoter whose son Mike used to run the St. Paul Saints. Veeck, too, was a combination of Harold Hill, Ed Wood, and P.T. Barnum. Cole seems both naively assured of his on-field product and as though he’s trying too hard to sell it; his line about ours being a “TikTok world” reeks of Silicon Valley-style self-promotion, or the jai alai league owner in Mad Men. Still, it’s no worse than any minor-league owner promising Big Chances for players who’ll probably never make it in pro ball.

(I also like the yellow suit he wears at games — consciously or not, it suggests Curious George’s Man In The Yellow Hat.)

And what the hey? It looks like reasonable-enough fun. Now that Veeck the Younger is retired, it’s good that others are keeping the flame of Silly Baseball alive. (The rule about penalizing hitters a strike for stepping out of the box isn’t quite silly, that one almost makes sense.) Kids like Banana Ball. And how many kids got into loving real games after starting on something like Backyard Baseball?

Anyhoo, the Bananas played real baseball’s Kansas City (KS) Monarchs in May exhibition games, and Monarchs players apparently enjoyed it. Fans seem to enjoy the Bananas, too – they’re a helluva ticket draw.

And isn’t that more fun than reading about another rich owner trying to blackmail another fanbase to get free real estate? (Unless it’s about what might be massive bribery and political corruption in Anaheim, that story’s too fantastic not to love!)

Today's Lineups

Byron Buxton - CF Whit Merrifield - RF
Carlos Correa - SS Andrew Benintendi - LF
Kyle Garlick - DH Bobby Witt - SS
Jorge Polanco - 2B Hunter Dozier - DH
Gary Sanchez - C MJ Melendez - C
Gio Urshela - 3B Carlos Santana - 1B
Max Kepler - RF Emmanuel Rivera - 3B
Jose Miranda - 1B Nicky Lopez - 2B
Gilberto Celestino - LF Dairon Blanco - CF
Devin Smeltzer - LHP Daniel Lynch - LHP