$0.02: Beaver Believers: Repeats like this are rarities
There are a number of ways to qualify the outlandish odds behind Oregon State’s stunning run to a repeat NCAA baseball title at the College World Series, but Beavers coach Pat Casey may have found the best. He simply called it “magic.”The orange-wearing rodents from Corvallis won last year’s national title in storybook fashion, continuously fighting off elimination after an 11-1 loss in their opening game in Omaha. This year, the debacle from which they rebounded occurred much earlier. OSU began the year 23-3, but then they played so poorly that they finished the year at 10-14 in the Pac-10, putting them in sixth place. Few expected much from the reigning champs in the NCAA tournament.After an opening-game defeat at Virginia in the first round, however, they did not lose again. In sweeping poor North Carolina in the best-two-of-three final – the second straight year the Tar Heels have claimed bittersweet runner-up honors to the Beavers – OSU became one of just five teams in the 61-year history of the CWS to repeat.
The only difference is that none of the others – Texas, Louisiana State, Southern California and Stanford – comes from a place where it rains all the time and where the weather remains chilly deep into spring.Neither did any of the other repeaters have to deal with such personnel losses as the Beavers did. Six of the eight OSU starting position players last year left the team, as well as the squad’s top two starting pitchers and its all-American closer. Even coach Casey nearly bolted, deciding at the last minute to spurn a lucrative offer from Notre Dame.In the end, Oregon State went 5-0 in Omaha, a rarity for a tournament with such parity, and trailed only one inning out of 45. It’s their fans who are known as “Beaver Believers,” but you can bet the players and coaches identify well with that nickname, too. …Your lock to become major league Comeback Player of the Year is a bona fide star who stands 6-foot-5, weighs 245 pounds and wears No. 25 for the Chicago Cubs. He is Derrek Leon Lee, a hero two years ago but an injury-ravaged also-ran last year.Lee nearly won the Triple Crown in 2005 before a freak injury last summer limited his playing time and his production. He went from hitting .335 with 46 ding dongs, 107 RBIs and 50 doubles in 158 games, to playing only 50 games in 2006, when he clubbed eight round-trippers, drove in 30 and hit .286.
This summer he’s returned to form, hitting .350 with 26 doubles and 96 hits in 70 games. His dinger numbers are down (he’s cracked just six), but if I had a vote for comeback POY, I’d still give it to Lee. …The New Zealand America’s Cup team has a massive amount of pressure on its sails to dethrone Switzerland this month, considering the Kiwis pride themselves on their sailing like Castro prides himself on his independence – and given they’re up against a landlocked nation in the Swiss. …For the sake of disharmony, let’s say Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are both playing for the Lakers next season. I’m still picking the Spurs. …Just like I’m picking Greg Oden, not Kevin Durant, with the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft if I’m Portland. …The Rockies have become one of the most exciting teams in baseball this month (see the Yankees sweep, which stunned baseball on a national stage), but they’ve also become one of the most agonizing (see last Friday’s choke job in Toronto, as well as Monday’s in Chicago).
I just don’t think they’ll be able to limit their mistakes enough to make a serious run at the playoffs. …In parting, TV ratings are hardly everything, but the AP pointed out Tuesday that Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico drew a whopping 41 percent more American viewers on its obscure Spanish-language cable station than Anaheim’s Stanley Cup-clinching victory over Ottawa did on NBC. If I were an NHL rep, that would embarrass me.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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