Breckenridge " Young, feisty Rays make you forget how bad they were |

Breckenridge " Young, feisty Rays make you forget how bad they were

Devon O'Neil / My $0.02

In watching the ALCS come to a climactic, improbable end Sunday night, I could not get a few things out of my mind.

First, you know how bad the Pirates are nowadays, right? And the Reds? And the Rangers? And the Orioles and Nationals and Mariners?

Well, it is worth reiterating that none of them was as horrific as the Devil Rays last year. Given what we have witnessed over the past six months, sometimes it takes a bit of conscious thought to remember that.

But it’s true. Tampa was the absolute worst team in baseball, the league’s freckled penguin, its resident punchline ” just as it had been for a decade. A decade!

And yet in contrast to years past, the Rays didn’t go out and chase the high-priced vets as all their larger-market cousins do when they’re choking on futility. They made some intelligent trades, sure, and signed a couple of key free agents, like aging closer Troy Percival. Otherwise, though, they simply believed in themselves and forgot they were supposed to stink worse than dog poop smeared on your nose.

They also told the establishment to shove it. They brawled with the Red Sox ” the defending world champions ” and kept yapping afterwards. In these playoffs, they beat two teams that had combined to win three of the last four world titles.

Every time someone asked the question, “Are the Rays for real?” Tampa seemed to come up with another statement-making victory.

By now, nobody wonders whether the Rays are for real. Only how long they might be as real as they are.

After all, no matter what happens in the World Series (this guy, for whatever it’s worth, is taking the Fightin’ Phils in six), you’re looking at an American League champion with a Game 7 lineup that averaged 26 years old. Raymarkable. …

By the way, Grant Balfour, Tampa’s feisty, fireballing Aussie reliever, has a funny name for a pitcher, especially one who doesn’t walk a lot of guys. …

Bernard Kohl, the Austrian climbing specialist who won the king of the mountains title at this year’s Tour de France, admitted last week to blood doping before the Tour began, an admission that came in the wake of a positive test for CERA, the latest “undetectable” performance booster to have been detected.

According to news reports, the remorseful Kohl said he cheated because he was afraid he wouldn’t land a new contract and, in response to the positive test, defended himself as “just a man.”

His defense was supposed to mean he is allowed to make a mistake. And he is. So why did it, in particular, ring so hollow in a sport whose recent history is full of similar “men”? Because these guys simply refuse to learn from the countless disasters which precede their own.

That’s why I have such a hard time forgiving them as men ” they have every opportunity to actually be one, yet instead they pursue the opposite course: weakness in the face of desperation. Only when that course fails do they realize the virtues of manhood, and I don’t think they should qualify at that point. …

Our Stats of the Week come from Washington State’s football team, which remains historically feeble. The Cougars lost 69-0 to USC last weekend, the fourth time this year they’ve given up 63 or more points to a Pac-10 foe.

Not only did Wazzou get outgained 408-17 in the first half, its offense also managed only four first downs the entire game and failed to cross midfield even once. I’ve never heard of anything like those three stats in a major college football game. …

Maybe it’s time we started taking the 6-0 Titans seriously as potential Super Bowl contenders. They are basically a blueprint for how to win without flash in a league overflowing with it.

Statistically, they have 18 sacks and have given up just two. They average more than 150 rushing yards per game, using a sleek, fast back (rookie Chris Johnson) as well as a large, slower one (LenDale White). They have given up seven touchdowns in six games. Their kicker hasn’t missed a field goal. …

Sunday in the NFL was an excellent day to be: at Soldier Field, a Packers defensive back, Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, Sebastian Janikowski’s ego, 90th birthday boy Ralph Wilson. …

But not such a great one to be: Brad Johnson, a Lion, a Bungle, Seneca Wallace, covering Andre Johnson. …

In parting, at the Broncos-Jaguars game two weeks ago, I asked the guy who sits at the gate to the players’ parking lot which Denver player drives the nicest car. He said, “Brandon Marshall. Jaguar XK.” I checked: It retails for about $80,000.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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