The Gilmer Bannana Slugs ended their season this weekend and for the town of Gilmer and most of the players the end could not have come too soon. There isnít much good you can say about this season unless you are delighted by numerous record breaking lows. The Slugs up to this point in the SL season lost more games than any other in SL history and that is just the start of their monumental offensive and pitching woes. With some of the teams still finishing up their season the Slugs led the league in most hits, most singles, 2nd in batting average, and 4th in home runs and yet they are the bottom feeders in walks, runs created per game, and on base percentage. The Slugs had one batter hit a home run every 11 at bats and one batter who hit a dong every 140 at bats. Andy Ashby was 7th in the league with a 4.08 ERA and yet had the most losses, 22, in SL history. Mark McGwire walked 161 times and the rest of the team only walked 274 times. Big Mac had 62 dongs, second most in SL history, but only had 109 RBIís. Dante Bichette was probably the worse pick in SL history, going in the 10th round - although the Slugs 11th pick Tony Womack comes in a close second. Not that Womack didnít do his job, led the league in steals, he just could have been picked probably eight rounds later, and Bichette just plain sucked.

There were some bright spots in the season. Womackís league leading 75 stolen bases, Big Mac walking 161 times in 155 games, Tony Gwynn hitting .304 on the season which should have won him a batting title but the Slugs skipper Doug Basler used him as a pinch hitter in seven or eight games at the beginning of the season and so he doesnít have enough plate appearances. Al Martin stole home against Arvada to score the final run of the Slugs season and the most gratifying statistic was having the only winning series be against manager Steve Swinea and his Chicago Shazam - the Slugs finished 13-7 against the Shazam this year. Other great moments in the Slugs season include, Gary Disarcina getting a double with one out in the 9th that stopped both Pedro Martinez from pitching a perfect game and from the rest of the managers having to hear about the perfect game every time they played Bob; Tony Gwyn hitting two game winning and one game tying home runs in one series against the Shazam and the fact that the Slugs gave Mike Bejamin a chance to play in the SL, albeit for only 40 games.

Vinny Castilla, Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn and Billy Wagner all had quality SL seasons. The problem was those five guys, while they played as well as the should have, could not out score or out pitch the rest of the teams who had sometimes 10 or 11 players putting up similar numbers. It was like the Slugs were playing with a team that had the salary of the Kansas City Royals while every other team in the league had more money to buy players than the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Cleveland Indians. The Slugs have come up with three solutions for that problem: 1. The team is going to move from Gilmer. 2. All decisions, both drafting and managerial will be given to manager Doug Basler - who had no part in the draft this past year by the way. 3. The third solution presented itself in that Kerry Wood will not be available for next yearís SL and so the Slugs will not have to worry about his 6.40 ERA or his 2.5 home runs per nine innings.

The first solution was a necessity since the beginning of the season. Nobody in Gilmer really ever had any interest in baseball and planting a major league team there was a hopeless endeavor. After the first 40 games the fifteen or so die hard fans stopped going to the games and started watching them at the Gilmer Road House, one fan and Road House regular Shawn Hampson was quoted as saying, "Why would I go to the stadium to watch these scrubs play when I can sit here at the bar pay three dollars less for a glass of beer and can drink as much as I want after the seventh inning?" Rumor is in the making as to an overseas ball club, somewhere in England most likely, although it isnít clear if the SL commissioner will accept that because of the time differences and phone bills. All in all it was a good learning experience both for the players and the young skipper and if there are any teams in the future things couldnít really get worse. Until next season - keep your ear to the grindstone.

Skip Bayless
Tribune Staff Writer