The Arizona State Sun Devils just completed a historic run at the College World Series.
They became the first #1 overall seed to go winless.
The CWS is tough. ASU will just have to give it another go next year…the 30th anniversary of the Devils’ last national championship.
Thirty years is a long time. Can you truly be considered a national power if you haven’t won a championship in three decades?
The ASU baseball program is certainly powerful. Going to Omaha 11 times in 29 years is impressive. But when you look at the teams that have been equally successful since 1981, something is missing for the maroon and gold.
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Florida State is still alive in this year’s tournament, but if the Seminoles can’t come all the way out of the losers’ bracket it will make 20 total trips to the College World Series without a single championship. Does that make FSU the ASU of the East?
Four different Pac-10 teams have won it all since the last time ASU hoisted the trophy: Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford and USC. Smaller West Coast programs like Pepperdine and Fresno State have also brought home the hardware during that span.
What’s wrong with ASU?
The easy answer for 2010 is ace pitcher Josh Spence’s injury. But that didn’t stop the Devils from going 52-8. It didn’t prevent a 4th straight Pac-10 championship.
ASU’s cuatro-pete atop the Pac-10 has only produced a total of three wins at the College World Series.
Is it Pat Murphy’s fault? He was the head coach for 15 of the 29 years and this year’s team was made up of his guys. Were they wound so tight they woke up at night thinking they were in the middle of a fake fight?
When the Sun Devils came through Tucson in May you could see the team was built in Murphy’s image. They ended warm-ups with a football-like circle of screaming and chest-and-thigh-slapping that converged into a mass jumping huddle.
As the teams lined up for the national anthem you noticed that every single player had the same high socks. They all played the same way too: Patient at the plate and aggressive on the base paths. They were like a machine.
And that’s the problem.
Maybe you need a guy who strikes out 70 times but has a knack for getting big hits under pressure. Maybe you need a pitcher who looks like he pulled his uniform out of a dumpster but always finds a way to work out of a late-inning jam.
Whatever the “it” is has been missing from the ASU baseball program. Piles of regular season wins. No problems in the early rounds of the postseason. But no championships.
All hat and no battle.
What if there was a college basketball equivalent? John Calipari has been to the Eight 8 six times without winning a championship. How big a story would it be if he went another eight times without cutting down the nets?
(By the way, the Calipari comparison may fit even better if the NCAA decides to go Reggie Bush on the Sun Devil baseball program.)
It can’t be denied that getting to the College World Series and losing is better than not getting there at all. The Arizona Wildcats and seven other Pac-10 teams would gladly trade places with ASU this year.
It’s better to be the Buffalo Bills than the Cleveland Browns. It’s better to be John Chaney with 741 wins and no Final Fours than the countless coaches and programs buried in losing.
But whoever ends up as the permanent head coach of the Sun Devil baseball program will have a really big question to answer.
What’s wrong with ASU?