As I sit looking out over the field at Camden Yards prior to the Orioles’ series finale with Tampa, there’s no doubt that these O’s are of a different feather than they’ve been in the past. Yesterday afternoon I watched FOX’s national game of the week between the New York Mets and The Miami Marlins. The commentators were discussing the NL East, and they talked about what a great story the Washington Nationals were turning into. They made a point of mentioning the Nationals’ record, which in effect is the same as that of the Orioles. I kept waiting for them to talk about the O’s, but that never happened.
The point of this column is not to say that the O’s are getting overshadowed by the Nationals, although it does serve as a lead-in to next weekend’s Battle of the Beltways! Nevertheless, it’s a given that the O’s will be “media darlings” in Baltimore; but every team gets top billing in their home markets. But when does the rest of the league start to take notice? Furthermore, when do these Birds become a “story?” By that, I mean that media such as ESPN love to pick up on great stories and follow them through. The 2008 Rays are a perfect example; a franchise that had never seen a blonde ray of sunshine once in it’s existence suddenly finds itself in the World Series. That story’s been beaten to death, and justifiably so. So…if the 2012 Orioles continue on their current pace, isn’t that a great story in it’s own right? The franchise that gave MLB the likes of Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Brooks & Frank Robinson, Mike Flanagan, and of course Cal Ripken Jr. returning from the ranks of the fallen? 14 straight losing seasons, and now Buck Showalter shows up and turns the Orioles around; to me, that would be a great story to say the least.
Lots of people would argue that networks such as ESPN shows a bias towards teams such as Boston and NY due to the fact that those are larger media markets. I don’t feel that’s the case; those teams have had sustained success over a longperiod of time, so of course they’re going to lead headlines. Furthermore, ESPN also has one heck of a “story” to cover in what appears to be the fall of Camelot up in Boston with the Red Sox right now. I don’t buy into the fact that the national media doesn’t want to pick up a story about the Orioles because it directly contradicts their efforts in propping up the Yankees and Red Sox. However again, if this keeps up…won’t they have to pay attention at some point?
I only use the Nationals as the initial example because of the fact that they were the team that was mentioned on the FOX telecast yesterday. However I suppose that my point is that they have the same record as the Orioles (take one game since the O’s have played one more), so if they’re a team that’s turning into a “story,” should the Orioles be as well? I think that part of it is that the Orioles are a team that they kind quietly goes about their business without much fanfare. They don’t seemingly “pose for the cameras,” as some teams do. (And I’m not saying that’s right or wrong.) The 2004 Red Sox were a great story first and foremost because of the 86-year curse, but also because they were considered a “fun group of guys.” I think that the Nationals are turning into the same kind of crew, especially with the young and brash Bryce Harper. Again, the Orioles seemingly go about their business in a quiet manner taking things one game at a time.
In fairness, the Orioles got out to a similar start in 2005, only to fade in the second half. (Having said that, the national media didn’t hesitate to pile onto the Orioles in the wake of that swoon combined with Rafael Palmeiro’s positive steroid test.) However I feel that the difference between this team and that team is that this one is young. That was an older and more veteran team, which wore down in the hot summer months. However that’s beside the point; it might be fair to say that the national media doesn’t want to be played for a fool either. However again, I think it’s an interesting point; why don’t the Orioles get the print and publicity since they’re obviously far exceeding expectations. If this continues, at some point they’ll have to take notice.
For the record, later in the day I was listening to a sports show on the radio and the host brought up (to a guest caller) the “upstart Washington Nationals.” The guest said that the Nats were a great story, but the real story and the real interesting team to watch in the mid-Atlantic region were the Orioles. His point: people thought that the Nats would be improved this season. Perhaps they’re exceeding expectations a bit as well, however people expected that they’d be better than they had been. Many people thought the O’s would be worse if anything. However those people don’t know the situation; they don’t call them the “Fighting Showalters” for nothing!
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