With K.C. in picture, O's can't be worst


Fact: In the wake of the Los Angeles Clippers' astounding rise to respectability, ESPN.com asked voters to anoint a new "worst franchise in sports." The Orioles made the list of 21 finalists but were ranked 20th in the voting as of late yesterday afternoon. The Kansas City Royals were No. 1.

Opinion: Until recently, the Clippers, who lead Denver 2-0 in their first-round NBA playoff series, had no competition for the "worst" crown. Since moving from Buffalo to California in 1978, they have finished over .500 only three times and never won a playoff series.

Fact: The Orioles' average attendance for their first 13 home games of 2006 (25,914) is down 20 percent from their per-game average over 81 games in 2005 (32,404).

Opinion: Every NFL personnel executive will say "we got the guy we wanted" after Saturday's draft, but more than half will say privately, "I wish those [fill in the blanks] hadn't taken that [fill in the blank] before we could."

Fact: Not to pile on, but the last time the Clippers (nee Braves) won a playoff series, the president of the United States was (drum roll, please) Gerald Ford.

Opinion: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ruined the concept of Fan Appreciation Night for every other sports franchise when he gave out free airline tickets to every fan in a sold-out arena earlier this month. Floppy hats and half-price hot dogs will seem pretty lame from now on.

Fact: The Ravens have drafted more players out of Oklahoma (five) than out of Miami (four).

Opinion: Former Blast coach Tim Wittman deserved a harsh punishment from the Major Indoor Soccer League for getting into a physical altercation with officials after a March 18 game (he was suspended for two years), but serious sanctions from a league that changed its playoff format at the last minute to get games on ESPN2 are hard to take.

Fact: If you fly into St. Louis, grab a cab and head for the new Busch Stadium, you immediately see a highway billboard reading, "Welcome to Baseball Heaven."

Opinion: Maryland basketball players D.J. Strawberry and Ekene Ibekwe are talented guys, but they shouldn't bother filing for the NBA draft before Saturday's deadline. They would have until June 18 to pull out if they discovered the market for them wasn't hot, and it won't be.

Fact: Sweetnorthernsaint, the speedy Kentucky Derby contender based at Laurel Park, actually was foaled in Florida. But there is a Maryland-bred among the contenders: Point Determined, one of trainer Bob Baffert's three likely Derby starters, was bred by Dr. Tom Bowman, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, and partner Milton Higgins at their Eastern Shore stable.

Opinion: Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez made a fool of himself when he said women have no place in a major league dugout. There are tons of female athletic trainers, and the members of a team's training staff, whether male or female, have a right to be in the dugout. (The San Diego Padres stretched the boundary a bit with the massage therapist who alarmed Hernandez, but that's not the point.) It would be great to see a female major leaguer come along to quash such outdated thinking.

Fact: Thanks to Rich Dubroff for pointing out that, since the first Super Bowl was played in 1967, 26 of the 32 NFL teams have played in the big game (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Detroit, Arizona and New Orleans have not) while 24 of the 30 major league baseball clubs have played in the World Series (Texas, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Washington and the Cubs have not).

Opinion: I will believe that Melvin Mora and the Orioles have agreed to a contract extension when one is announced. But it's a good sign that owner Peter Angelos apparently has raised his offer at long last, seemingly indicating a desire to get this done. (And an understanding that the failure to do so would be an on- and off-field disaster.)

Fact: From the Dept. of Mildly Annoying Developments: Sidney Ponson is pitching far better for the Cardinals than he did for the Orioles in 2004 or 2005, compiling a 2-0 record with a 3.31 ERA in three starts so far.

Opinion: It's hard to believe the Ravens just aren't going to address the offensive line after its subpar 2005 performance. They might be expecting more "growth from within" than Edwin Mulitalo, Brian Rimpf and Adam Terry can provide.

Fact: Juan Dixon just finished his best pro season statistically, averaging 25 minutes and 12 points a game, but his Portland Trail Blazers had the NBA's worst record at 21-61, and their future is hardly promising.

Opinion: The Detroit Pistons will win the East. The Dallas Mavericks will win the West. The Pistons will take the NBA Finals in six games. john.eisenberg@baltsun.com

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