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Easy on Ripken; pitching is O's problem


Opinion: Let's give Cal Ripken a chance to heal his injured back before we decide he's finished. A guy who plays in 2,632 straight games probably deserves a one-injury deductible on such skepticism, don't you think?

Fact: The Orioles have seven of the first 50 picks in baseball's amateur draft in early June. That's the upside of losing free agents.

Opinion: Unless Scott Erickson and Juan Guzman both start consistently pitching like they belong in the top half of a rotation, it won't matter who is injured and who is managing because the Orioles will end up miles out of the playoff race.

Fact: The NFL draft is over for another year, and we're still waiting for a historic first: A team that doesn't say, "We can't believe the guy we wanted was still on the board."

Opinion: The Ravens shouldn't consider sending anyone other than Jermaine Lewis back to return punts next season. Lewis' brilliant returns might be the team's biggest scoring threat, given the numerous offense-related questions still being asked after the draft.

Fact: The Rams had a better offer for Tony Banks but sent him to the Ravens anyway, because Rams coach Dick Vermeil knew Banks wanted to come here to revive his career.

Opinion: The Saints gave up way too much for Ricky Williams. Mike Ditka deserves credit for having guts and taking a chance, but his team still has numerous holes Williams can't fill. (Players to block for Williams, for instance.) The Saints needed the eight draft picks more than any one player.

Fact: Now that the Ravens own the Falcons' No. 1 pick in next year's draft, the Ravens have to root for the Falcons to sink like a rock after making the Super Bowl last season.

Opinion: The chances of the Falcons having another dream season are pretty long. The pick will probably end up something like No. 20 in the first round.

Fact: Eric Davis is hitting .214 with 13 strikeouts in 42 at-bats for the Cardinals.

Opinion: It's just a hunch, but the rematch with Cuba next month at Camden Yards probably isn't the top priority in the Orioles' clubhouse these days.

Fact: The Orioles do lead the league in one category: free-agent right-side infielders going on the disabled list after suffering serious hand injuries while attempting to make catches (two). So there.

Opinion: Lakers coach Kurt Rambis and general manager Jerry West could make a lot of money selling a video of the moment when they told Dennis Rodman to take a hike.

Fact: The Bullets/Wizards have employed six head coaches since they last won a playoff series. Whoever takes over next season will be No. 7.

Opinion: NFL scouts are putting way too much emphasis on combine workouts and not nearly enough emphasis on what players do on the field.

Fact: The Ravens have drafted only one quarterback, running back or wide receiver in the first two rounds (Patrick Johnson last year).

Opinion: Wayne Gretzky's final day was perfect, sentimental but not overly so. It was a fitting end for maybe the last superstar in any sport who put his game and his teammates ahead of all else.

Fact (from the Way Too Serious Files): NFL executives and ESPN announcers still called each team's draft headquarters a "war room" last weekend, even though a real war was going on.

Opinion: Bob Baffert is right not to run his sensational but smallish filly, Silverbulletday, in the Kentucky Derby. A losing run in a probable 20-horse field could wreck a horse of real promise.

Fact: General Challenge, the likely Derby favorite, also trained by Baffert, is called "Rodman" around the barn because he acts nutty.

Opinion: Someone gave Duke point guard William Avery some bad advice. NBA teams aren't lusting for him.

Fact: In case you missed it, Packers team president Bob Harlan recently said staying in Lambeau Field was "economically not feasible."

Opinion: The funny part about Larry Bird's perfect record against the Celtics as a coach (7-0) is that you know it's driving Lil' Ricky Pitino nuts.

Fact: The Cleveland Browns have a dozen former 49ers on their roster.

Opinion: Anyone claiming the Browns will make the playoffs in 2000 should have to put up some of their own money.

Fact: How far have NHL offenses sunk? The San Jose Sharks are the first team in 28 years to make the playoffs despite having scored fewer than 200 goals.

Opinion: It's hard to keep track of what chance Darryl Strawberry is on now. Third? Fifth? Seventh?

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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