Ravens make spring grade

Terps face late summer test Commentary

May 09, 2001|By John Eisenberg

Opinion: It won't be as easy when cornerstones such as Peter Boulware and Chris McAlister are free agents, but the Ravens deserve an "A" for this off-season for bringing back 10 of 11 starters on defense and performing the necessary upgrade at quarterback.

Fact: New Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen after the spring game at Byrd Stadium in late April: "I expect to fill this place Sept. 1 [for the season opener against North Carolina]."

Opinion: It's going to take weeks to get there and weeks to unfold at the drip-drip rate that the NBA is scheduling playoff games, but the Spurs-Lakers Western Conference finals will be the one series worth watching - and a de facto championship series.

Fact: Johnny Oates produced a winning record in six of the eight full seasons he managed in Baltimore and Texas.

Opinion: Jerry Narron, the former Orioles third base coach who has replaced Oates on an interim basis, is a solid, low-key baseball guy who could excel if given the chance to develop. (A chance, in this case, meaning better pitching than the mess that cost Oates his job.)

Fact: Who ranks third behind Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson for most games played as an Oriole? Drum roll, please - the late Mark Belanger, followed by Eddie Murray, Boog Powell and Paul Blair.

Opinion: Ripken has established club records in all major career categories except one, and he won't get that one - triples. (Brooks Robinson hit 68, 24 more than Ripken.)

Fact: The only cities with teams still alive in both the hockey and basketball playoffs? Los Angeles and Toronto.

Opinion: A Michael Jordan comeback obviously would make the Washington Wizards more interesting in the short term, but for the long-term health of the franchise, it's more important that Jordan perform well off the court (as president of basketball operations) than on.

Fact: The Orioles' .224 team batting average is one point below the club record for lowest average, set 33 years ago.

Opinion: Regarding that little news nugget about CART drivers pulling out of a race two hours before it started because they were worried about blacking out from going 235 mph: Sounds like some people staging races need to pay a little more attention to their consciences.

Fact: More than $71 million was bet on Saturday's Kentucky Derby, counting all (on- and off-track) sites. That's a record.

Opinion: That was a weak, weak objection claim by place-horse jockey John Velazquez after the Derby. There was no apparent contact, just solid, aggressive riding from Jorge Chavez on Monarchos.

Fact: In case you had forgotten, Chavez was the jockey aboard Artax when a fan tried to punch the horse after walking onto the track on Preakness Day two years ago.

Opinion: Monarchos was dominant in the Derby, but he won't scare off possible Preakness entrants whose connections are on the fence about running.

Fact: Golf's John Daly told the Dallas Morning News that he hasn't had a drink in more than a year, has stopped taking various medications and has lost 50 pounds. He has made the cut in nine of 12 events this year and has far surpassed his 2000 earnings.

Opinion: The Orioles' regrettable decision not to offer a salute to the Ravens by letting Brian Billick throw out a first pitch at Camden Yards looks even worse now that heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman has performed the honors.

Fact: Rochester Red Wings manager Andy Etchebarren has banned designer sunglasses from the field. According to Etch, too many players "wanting to look sharp" were losing balls in the sun.

Opinion: Not to say men's tennis has an identity problem in America, but three of the world's top five players are Sebastien Grosjean, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Arnaud Clement, and most U.S. sports fans would guess they played for the Colorado Avalanche.

Fact: Did you catch what Pat Riley said after the Miami Heat was swept out of the NBA playoffs? "If I were my boss, I'd fire me."

Opinion: If the Orioles could get a quality bat from a desperate team, such as the Rangers, in exchange for, say, Jason Johnson, they should do it. True, Johnson has great stuff and is just coming around, but he will be 28 later this year and there's no sign of a "savior" hitter developing in the farm system.

Fact: For the record, D. Wayne Lukas won't break any kind of streak if he fails to show up at Pimlico with a Preakness horse this year. He also missed the race in 1997, 1984 and 1982.

Opinion: It's really early, too early, but here's what another winning season for the Ravens could produce: a guy who a) will be a free agent after next season, b) recently said staying with the Minnesota Vikings "doesn't really matter," and c) excelled in Brian Billick's system in 1998. Talking about Randy Moss, of course.

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