I love watching baseball on TV, but can't take the Orioles any longer

Baltimore's wretched team has ruined one of life's great pleasures for me

July 11, 2011|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

TV baseball has been one of the great pleasures of my adult life. Coming home at 8 or 9 p.m. after a long day of covering a media world that has gone nasty and mad, I would click on MASN's coverage of the Baltimore Orioles the way some folks might pour themselves a glass of wine.

Hearing analyst Jim Palmer explain for the 10,000th time that "baseball is game of adjustments" had the same soothing effect for me that I expect hearing the litany of the saints or the saying of the rosary has for some devout Catholics. (And I mean that in a good way. I love Palmer's commentary, and I think Baltimore is lucky to have him.)

But by the end of Sunday's game with the Boston Red Sox, I was through with Orioles' TV baseball. After more than 20 years of faithfully following the team on TV, I cannot take it any longer.

By and large, it is not the coverage that has driven me from the tube. Technically, MASN does a solid job; it throws a lot of resources at the games anyway.

But given the abysmal performance and culture of losing that clearly remains despite Buck Showalter, all the pleasure of following the Orioles night after night is gone. All that remains is frustration and anger -- and now, I find myself yelling at the TV when Rick Dempsey or one of the other post-game folks starts pulling punches about how awful this team is.

It was pathetic to hear analysts telling me Friday night that we should be proud of Kevin Gregg, the Orioles' so-called closer, for throwing in and in and in on David Ortiz. According to MASN, this was a sign of life and determination on the part of the Orioles -- showing just the kind of toughness they needed to play in the AL East. Heck, maybe, it would even be the spark to get them going.

Right, unless you watched this hapless crew on Saturday and Sunday find new ways to lose -- and look like they didn't belong on the same field with a team like the Red Sox. I'm sorry, save the propaganda about the Orioles being on their way back for someone else.

The most discouarging thing to me was reading pitcher Zach Britton's whiny quotes after he got sent back to the minors. Britton was upset because he believes he has a right to learn how to pitch in the big leagues. I thought Showalter was supposed to have explained to these guys that those days are long gone -- they are supposed to win in the big leagues. That's what I mean about a culture of excuses and losing.

But I am a media critic, not the Orioles beat writer, and we have a terrific reporter in Jeff Zrebiec covering the Orioles for the Sun. So, I will leave analysis of the franchise to him. I also exclude him from this last bit of media criticism from me, because he is one guy who has been calling the Orioles out.

It certainly is not at the top of the list, but I believe that one of the reasons people like Vladimir Guerrero come to Baltimore and play so poorly is that the media is so soft on them. If Baltimore talk shows hosts and analysts went after ball players here when they are lazy or stupid or fail in the clutch the way our media counterparts in New York or Boston do, I bet we'd get a much better effort out of them.

Mainly, what it appears that guys like Guerrero do when they come to Baltimore is put on weight. Maybe less buffet and more pressure to perform is what we need. And a media that at least tried to demand accountability from these high-priced, under-performing athletes could help with that.

So, congratulations Orioles, you have done what some really bad teams couldn't do -- you have driven me from one of my favorite nightly media rituals.

I was a regular viewer of the Detroit Tigers in the 1970s when they were awful and I worked at the Detroit Free Press. I stuck with the Texas Rangers in the 1980s when I worked at the Dallas Times Herald and the team was so bad I cannot remember the name of one player today.

For a couple of years in the 1990s when Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson were calling the shots and the Orioles could proudly stand toe to toe with the New York Yankees and Red Sox, following them on TV was way beyond a glass of wine in terms of pleasure. It was more like a double martini with a valium chaser -- and no hangovers.

Thanks for those TV memories anyway, O's.

Goodbye and good luck. And I really do hope you give me a reason to watch again -- someday. But I have to be honest, I am not holding my breath.

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