O's signing keeps Yanks at top of list


Opinion: Who says the Orioles weren't involved in the World Series this year? If they hadn't rushed in to keep Albert Belle from signing with the Yankees, Belle would have landed in the Bronx and wrecked the chemistry there, Bernie Williams would have gone to the Red Sox and Atlanta would have won the Series. So there.

Fact: The Yankees' 22-3 postseason record over the past two years is a .880 winning percentage, which would result in a 143-19 record over a 162-game regular season.

Opinion: Tony Banks might be Brian Billick's Plan C at quarterback, but Banks' blend of experience, mobility and talent makes him the best of the three options. (And at least he played somewhere last season, unlike Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case.)

Fact: Fully recovered from his torn Achilles' injury, Obinna Ekezie has had double-doubles in each of the Vancouver Grizzlies' past two exhibition games and apparently has the team made.

Opinion: The furor over Jim Gray's interview with Pete Rose is laughable. Rose is no victim. He's a deceitful, media-savvy hustler who'd heard each of Gray's questions a thousand times. Maybe the timing wasn't perfect, but it was nice to see a hard-hitting TV interview for once instead of the usual, panting fluff from Ahmad Rashad.

Fact: In case you missed it, John Elway told Newsweek the biggest regret of his pro career was that the fans of Baltimore took it personally when he said he wouldn't play for the Colts. "It wasn't personal," Elway wrote.

Opinion: Frank Robinson and his 586 home runs and all-out approach deserved to make the All-Century team -- ahead of Rose, for one.

Fact: Included in FedEx's $200 million, 27-year stadium-naming deal with the Redskins is the right to rename the team the FedExskins. (Just kidding.)

Opinion: Don't be surprised if Braves manager Bobby Cox retires in a year or so, if not sooner. He's had a great run, and Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz are starting to decline. It's a good time to take a bow and hit the door.

Fact: They call it the "junior" circuit, but the American League has won seven of the past 10 World Series.

Opinion: Even if the Ravens lose Sunday and fall to 2-5, there'll still be something to root for this year -- Atlanta's continued collapse. If it keeps up, the 2000 first-round pick the Ravens acquired from the Falcons in the spring could become a top-five pick instead of the low first-rounder the Ravens expected. That could lead to the young franchise quarterback so sorely needed.

Fact: Smoltz on the Yankees: "You can just tell there's no selfishness."

Opinion: The Ravens are desperately rooting for the Browns to beat the Saints on Sunday. The Ravens play in Cleveland next week, and they, of all teams, want to avoid becoming the first team to lose to the Browns.

Fact: The University of Miami has had informal discussions with Atlantic Coast Conference officials about leaving the Big East to become the ACC's 10th member.

Opinion: Put it all together, and more than anything, Mike Tyson's career is just weird.

Fact: Da Hoss, the miracle horse who won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1996 and 1998 and barely raced in between, won't be back to defend his title next week.

Opinion: Regarding Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's seething locker-room tantrum after Sunday's loss to the Cowboys: Pretty soon he'll learn, as 5-year-olds eventually figure out, that you just can't win every game.

Fact: The Broncos, Falcons, Jets and Vikings -- last year's NFL final four -- are now a combined 7-21 this season.

Opinion: Sunday's game between the Rams and Titans is a first -- a big game between franchises that moved in the '90s.

Fact: The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee named the three most important developments of the 20th century as the forward pass, the T-formation and the Super Bowl. The sack dance and the salary cap got honorable mention. (Just kidding.)

Opinion: The Ravens' excellent defense, which hasn't allowed a 100-yard rushing or receiving performance all season, deserves better.

Fact: Hold on tight and read this from Banks' career stats in St. Louis -- 44 starts, 36 touchdown passes, 42 interceptions, 46 fumbles.

Opinion: In a sense, Billick is in a no-win position starting Banks against the Bills. If Banks plays well, fans will wonder why Billick tried Mitchell and Case first. And if Banks plays poorly, fans will wonder why Banks was acquired in the first place.

Fact: Steve Francis shined Hakeem Olajuwon's shoes in a Rockets commercial filmed earlier this week.

Opinion: Jim Palmer or Tom Seaver belonged on the All-Century team ahead of Roger Clemens.

Fact (From the "College Degree Required" Dept.): The NBA's new defensive rules prohibit hand-checking above the free-throw line and allow only a forearm check below the line, prohibit physical play in the "lower box" and put a five-second possession limit on back-in dribbles. Got all that?

Opinion: Living with bad calls is better than living with the NFL's latest instant replay system, which works about as well as a Rich Kotite offense.

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