You see what I did there with that title?! First off, I hope that everyone in Birdland had a very Merry Christmas yesterday. One gift that was not unwrapped for any franchise yesterday was Prince Fielder. I would argue that the Fielder sweepstakes are the highest and most speculated since Mark Texeira a few years ago (and yes, I’m well aware of how that turned out for the O’s). I’m including the push for Albert Pujols, which we saw unfold just a few weeks ago. (Admittedly part of why this is a bigger deal is due to the fact that Pujols signed relatively early in the free agency period.) Whether the Orioles sign Fielder or not remains to be seen, although Dan Duquette has been fairly nebulous on the topic aside from saying that the Orioles were interested. Is there more than meets the eye?
One thing that would probably be definitive if Fielder came to Baltimore would be that we’d probably see the O’s get more national TV coverage. Granted the Milwaukee Brewers weren’t featured on Sunday Night Baseball as often as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cardinals, however once Fielder started becoming a big time slugger they started getting a few national games. That also had a lot to do with the team around him coming of age as well, and I think that we could very well see that happen with the Orioles if a player of his caliber came to town.
I could very well see a scenario where Fielder comes to play for the Orioles and suddenly some games are being scheduled on national television. There’s really no single regular season contest in any sport which can compete with the pagentry of Monday Night Football, however ESPN’s Sunday night game is baseball’s version of that. For the most part the entire league plays their Sunday games at 1 or 1:30 PM (local time), however they pick one game of the week and schedule it on Sunday night for the entire country to see. Again, it wouldn’t have the hoopla of a Ravens/Steelers Monday nighter, but it would create some excitement in Birdland.
For what it’s worth, the O’s are at Toronto on Sunday April 15th, at Boston on Sunday May 6th, at Tampa on Sunday June 3rd, at Tampa on Sunday August 5th, home vs. Toronto on Sunday August 26th, at NYY on Sunday September 3rd, home vs. NYY on Sunday September 9th, at Boston on Sunday September 23rd, and home vs. Boston on Sunday September 30th. Those are just the AL East games, which obviously might contain some interesting storylines with Prince Fielder on the O’s. If he came to Baltimore, I could also see that first Sunday game (4/8/12) against the Twins being put in primetime for ESPN, and perhaps the 4/22/12 game at Anaheim when the Orioles would take on Albert Pujols and the Angels. Sunday May 20th and Sunday June 24th are also dates to circle, as those are the Sunday dates in the annual Battle of the Beltways with the Washington Nationals (another team rumored to be in on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes). Perhaps a player of his caliber would convince ESPN to make a push to take one of those two games as opposed to the Yankees and Mets or Cubs and White Sox.
Here’s the other thing; I’ve noticed that they try to match the Sunday Night Baseball game up with the FOX national telecast on Saturday afternoons. FOX picks three or four games to televise at 4 PM EST on Saturdays, however they designate one “national game.” (In essence you get that game on your local FOX affiliate if your local team isn’t being shown on FOX that day.) So if ESPN is television Orioles/Red Sox on Sunday night, often times FOX will designate Orioles/Red Sox as the national game on Saturday afternoon. So in that sense it would kind of be a two-in-one package of national exposure for the Birds.
All of this is speculation, including the idea of Fielder playing for the Orioles. (Keep in mind that at this time of year most writers have little more than speculation about which to write anyways!) For all I know Prince Fielder would sign with the O’s and the league/networks would turn a blind eye to it. However something tells me that we’d see the O’s get more national exposure with a player like Prince Fielder. For what it’s worth, if Fielder ends up in Chicago or St. Louis (two or the Brewers’ division rivals), I’d call that an epic failure on the part of the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization for not resigning him and letting him go to a rival.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala