The Savannah Bananas are Hot Garbage
Some bill it as "the future of baseball." It's actually an affront to sports
Once again, the Savannah Bananas are getting a lot of undeserved attention.
In case you haven’t heard, the Savannah Bananas are a college-aged baseball team in the Coastal Plain League. Instead of playing, you know, baseball, they focus their attention on stunts to make the game more “entertaining.”
Stuff like this.
How can an out be recorded on a play that involves somebody who isn’t even a player on the team? Who knows, but this is the kind of goofy stuff that the Bananas do all the time.
The Bananas play what is called no baseball, bun “banana ball.” Which means:
Walks are sprints.
No mound visits.
Can't step out of the batter's box.
Hitters can steal first base.
If a fan catches a foul, it's an out.
Each inning is a winner take all.
Two-hour time limit.
Basically, it takes baseball and turns it into an absolutely confusing mess of a sport that is only vaguely related to baseball. Arena football is more like regular football than “banana ball” is to baseball.
Of course, the media eats this stuff up because they seem to think that baseball as a sport that is dying.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. Just look at rights fees and attendance across baseball. Attendance is down 1.3% across baseball. That’s a good thing considering there is always a slight issue with attendance after a work stoppage, weather issues across the sport, and the inflation that is wrecking the economy. If you removed the desperate situation in Oakland from the equation, attendance would be steady if not up a bit.
Now I’m sympathetic to the Bananas insofar as that it’s hard to get folks to come to lower level baseball. This is even more so when you talk about unaffiliated baseball, where there is no guarantee that you will ever see these players play ever again. So I get the fact that minor league teams need gimmicks to get people to come out to the ballpark.
In the early 90’s, the Saint Paul Saints (then of the American Association) pioneered this trend for minor league teams. Mike Veeck used some of the skills his grandfather, Bill Veeck, pioneered in Major League Baseball to get eyeballs and attention to his independent league club. And it worked.
But what Veeck didn’t do was mess with the integrity of the game. What the Bananas are doing is turning the sport into a carnival sideshow unworthy of the name. If we are being charitable, the Bananas are to baseball what the Harlem Globetrotters are to basketball.
But do you notice than nobody wants to import the Harlem Globetrotters gimmicks into an NBA game?
Baseball fans enjoy baseball because it’s baseball. We’re not going to watch some sort of weird state fair attraction. We are going to sit for three hours to watch baseball. We enjoy the strategy. We enjoy the action. We enjoy the gameplay. While there are places at the margins that reasonable fans may agree changes can be made (pitch clocks? Enforcing rules to keep batters in the batters box? Shortening commercial breaks from 2 minutes 30 seconds to 2 minutes?), real fans don’t want to see the game changed.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has already screwed with the game enough with seven inning doubleheaders for two years, the three-batter rule for relievers, and the universal DH. Next will almost certainly be radical realignment after the next round of expansion. The game is already being tinkered with in ways that its fans do not want to see. Radical tinkering like what’s going on in Savannah would just make the remaining fans lose interest in the game.
MLB executives say they are watching for any ideas that might make their game more “fan-friendly.”
“There is something special going on in Savannah,” says Morgan Sword, an MLB executive vice president. “They are celebrating the game of baseball in a unique way and fans are embracing it.”
Yeah, it’s “fan-friendly.” But is it baseball? Most baseball fans would tell you it’s anything but. Do baseball executives really think that adopting the mantra of “we most destroy baseball in order to save it” is going to end well?
Savannah Bananas management may think they are “the future of baseball.” And yeah, they are doing well at the gate. But you can call it whatever you want, but it a’int baseball. As far as I’m concerned, the Savannah Bananas and their “banana ball” are hot garbage.
Even worse, it’s an affront to sports in general. The game itself, it is meant to be a competition between athletes. This version of baseball reduces the athletes to little more than an afterthought. It defeats the purpose of owning a professional baseball team in the first place.
And let me leave you with the famous quote from Field of Dreams:
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.