In fact, O's failure is matter of opinion

Fact: It makes quite a statement about the decline of pitching standards in the major leagues that Pat Dobson, the former Orioles 20-game winner who died Wednesday, had a losing lifetime record (122-129) over 11 seasons, but also had a lower career ERA (3.54) than 239-game winner Mike Mussina (3.63).

Opinion: Just one question about the Orioles' predictably doomed pursuit of free-agent top dogs Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee: Why even bother? Oh, and one more question: How many years of being put off by the escalating free-agent market does it take for you to stop being put off by the escalating free-agent market?


Fact: People tend to forget that Dobson had a brief second stint with the Orioles. He was the pitching coach for one year under manager Davey Johnson and was fired after the 1996 season to make room for Ray Miller. The firing was, um, not Davey's idea.

Opinion: I believe the Ravens when they say they believe the Super Bowl champion Steelers are as dangerous as ever despite having won just four of 10 games this season. When tight end Todd Heap said, "Other than a few more turnovers earlier in the season, they look the same to me," he had a look on his face that said: I ain't kidding.


Fact: The Ravens have never swept their home-and-home season series with Pittsburgh.

Opinion: It's hard to know where the Terps would go bowling if they don't beat Wake Forest and Georgia Tech to win the ACC title. They probably wouldn't go to the Chick-fil-A Bowl because it reportedly wants Virginia Tech. They probably wouldn't go to the Gator Bowl because it would want a team with fewer than four losses. My best guess is they would play Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla., or appear in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 30 in Charlotte, N.C., against, that's right, Navy, which has already accepted a bid.

Fact: About 13,000 tickets remain unsold for the ACC championship game next Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., and that's not counting the 10,000 that will go to the winner of tonight's Maryland-Wake Forest game.

Opinion: Two local writers have published fine books: The Glory of the 1966 Orioles and Baltimore, by Mark Millikin, and Racing My Father, by Patrick Smithwick.

Fact: In case you missed it, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is being handed out at a dinner in Baltimore this year after 19 years in Louisville. The dinner is Dec. 8 at the Tremont Hotel. Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and Ohio State's Troy Smith are among the finalists for the award that honors college football's best senior quarterback.

Opinion: The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network should show more of the Orioles Classic broadcasts from the club's championship heyday. That is fun stuff, even if it reinforces how far the team has fallen.

Fact: Less than eight weeks after the infamous football brawl between Miami and Florida International, both head coaches are out of work. Yesterday's firing of Larry Coker at Miami came just a week after FIU's Don Strock resigned.

Opinion: What does it mean that 17 of the NFL's 32 teams had winning records in 2005 but only 13 do now? It means (duh) there's less good football being played this year, for whatever reason.


Fact: Allen Wronowski, the head pro at Hillendale Country Club, recently was elected secretary of PGA of America, golf's ruling body in this country. Wronowski, 52, is now in line to become vice president and then president of the organization. He would become the second Hillendale pro to serve as PGA president, following Bill Clarke.

Opinion: If you're an NBA junkie, you need to check out the statistical Web site. It crunches fascinating numbers, such as how each team fares on a net points basis when each player is on the court.

Fact: The disappointments continue to roll in for Maryland's senior basketball class of 2006. Only Chris McCray made the NBA, and he's at the end of the Milwaukee Bucks' bench. Travis Garrison was just cut by the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League, Nik Caner-Medley broke his foot in a summer league and is working toward getting his degree. John Gilchrist, who left a year early, is playing for an Israeli pro team.

Opinion: The Jamie Walker signing constituted a nice start to the rebuilding of the Orioles' bullpen, but they still have a looong way to go.

Fact: Add defensive lineman Trevor Pryce to the list of Ravens expecting the Steelers to be their usual, smash-mouth, championship-caliber selves tomorrow at M&T; Bank Stadium. "Oh, it should be a slap-in-the-mouth, fun, jolly ol' time," Price said.