Numbers show O's can fold wild-card hand

May 29, 1999|By JOHN EISENBERG

Fact: Still think the Orioles can contend in '99? Consider: For them to finish with the same record as Boston, last year's AL wild-card winner, they have to go 74-42 for the rest of the season, starting with last night's game in Oakland.

Opinion: B. J. Surhoff is playing well enough to make the AL All-Star team, but he needs a day off now and then to avoid a repeat of what happened last year, when he played in every game but wore down and hit 20 points worse after the All-Star break than before.

Fact: The National League is hitting .351 against Greg Maddux this season after going .220 against him over the past five seasons.

Opinion: No amount of organizational excuse-making can absolve Albert Belle's pathetic total of one double in his first 161 at-bats as an Oriole.

Fact: In today's news from Former Oriole World, Davey Johnson has demoted Rick Dempsey from third base coach to bullpen coach for the Dodgers.

Opinion: Arthur Rhodes is a terrific emergency closer with Mike Timlin struggling, but the fact that Rhodes can't pitch two nights in a row makes him a doubtful choice as a long-term answer.

Fact: "I'm where I need to be now," says Scott Erickson, who, surprisingly enough, went 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in May.

Opinion: Another reason why the Orioles shouldn't rush 19-year-old phenom Matt Riley: Sidney Ponson pitched 339 1/3 innings over five seasons in the minors before jumping to the majors. A nice, slow track. And look at Ponson now, an established starter for the foreseeable future -- at age 22.

Fact: Angels starter Tim Belcher says: "I don't even worry about ERA anymore in this league. It's absolutely ridiculous. We're playing in smaller parks and they're hitting Titleists."

Opinion: Pacers over Knicks in five.

Fact: With his decision to run Silverbulletday in the Belmont, Bob Baffert will try to deny a Triple Crown to two of his biggest-spending clients, Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of Charismatic, who split their stable between Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas.

Opinion: The Orioles' worst move of the past few years? You can debate that for hours, but don't forget the decision to leave Estaban Yan unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft. Yan, now with the Devil Rays, would solve what's ailing the Orioles' bullpen.

Fact: Not to make you feel old and useless, but Daniel Snyder, the guy who just paid $800 million for the Redskins, was 4 years old in the Woodstock summer of '69.

Opinion: Duke's basketball program has so much pull that it won't miss the four players who have left prematurely since the end of the season, but it's still kind of refreshing to see people not doing what Mike Krzyzewski tells them to do.

Fact: The New York Mets' 1999 media guide is 512 pages, longer than the Bantam Classics reissue edition of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment."

Opinion: The winner of the NHL's Western Conference final between the Stars and Avalanche will go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Fact: Who's got game? Forty years ago, the NBA averaged 198 points a game. This year, 158.

Opinion: The Chicago Bulls are crazy not to trade the first pick in the NBA draft in a year when the rookie crop lacks a franchise player.

Fact: In five of his six seasons in the NBA playoffs, Shaquille O'Neal has been eliminated in a sweep.

Opinion: It's hard to remember a playoff series more satisfying to more fans than the Spurs' thunderous sweep of the Lakers.

Fact: Jennifer Capriati, winner of a clay-court tournament in Europe last week, says she can get all the way back to where she was as a teen sensation "and better."

Opinion: Pete Sampras can give up trying to win the French Open. His window for winning the one major title that has eluded him has closed.

Fact: After the New England Patriots reneged on a deal to move to Connecticut, the New Haven Ravens, a Double-A minor-league baseball team, staged a "Connecticut Hates the Patriots" promotion. A Pats helmet was smashed on the field before the first pitch.

Opinion: No offense to Tony Tarasco, but when the Yankees call him up from the minors, you begin to see why they aren't as dominating as they were a year ago.

Fact: The Minnesota Twins are offering outfield seat season tickets for $99, and they'll throw in a Kirby Puckett autographed bat.

Opinion: One word of driving advice now that Mike Tyson is out of jail and back on Maryland's roads again: Yield.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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