Andrew Stetka: A nod to ESPN, and national coverage for O’s

Many Orioles fans groan whenever the team plays a game on national television. It happens sparingly, but when the Birds get placed on a Saturday afternoon FOX telecast or ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” as they were this weekend, the performance isn’t usually up to par. There’s something about the bright lights of the national stage that seems to make the O’s shrivel. This is, of course, just coincidence. There’s not actually anything about the team’s performance or lack thereof on national broadcasts that should be feared. It simply seems that way to many fans. Whenever the O’s are in front of a large audience, eyes roll among the fan base.

And while the O’s lost both times they were featured on national TV this weekend, there was some positive to take from it. Mainly, the coverage they received from ESPN. I hear groans all the time from fans, Twitter users, Facebook posters and blog commenters about how the “Worldwide Leader” doesn’t show enough love to the Orioles. We are, after all, talking about a franchise that has been extremely successful over the last six years. But truthfully, Orioles fans (and Baltimore sports fans in general), have a bit of Napoleon syndrome when it comes to wanting national attention. Baltimore is the little brother city along the northeast’s I-95 corridor. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston will always receive more attention than Baltimore. It’s just a matter of size and stature. It’s the same reason ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast features the Red Sox and Yankees virtually every time they play a weekend series. Those teams draw more eyeballs than a contest like last night’s between the Orioles and Indians.

I watch every Orioles game on MASN and enjoy it immensely. But I also enjoy seeing the Birds on national TV like I did this weekend for the sole purpose of hearing a different voice. The weekly ESPN broadcast does a great job of not only showing a baseball game, but featuring stars of both teams and sharing storylines. Many don’t like it because the focus of the broadcast doesn’t put the game first, but frankly that’s not the point of it. If you take the broadcast for what it’s intended to be, it’s more enjoyable. That broadcast is there to wrap up the week in baseball from a national perspective, and it does a great job of that. Seeing the Orioles under that spotlight is fun because it puts shine on players like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

I’ll be bluntly honest, even though it’s obvious - this was a pretty awful weekend for the Orioles. They were swept by the hottest team in baseball and have fallen back under .500. They remain a full three games out of wild card position with four teams to leap over. Things looked much brighter about a week ago. There’s still time, but stretches like the one the O’s are currently on mean they will probably be swinging golf clubs instead of bats come October. But at least for a few moments this weekend, I took solace in the fact that there was some positive talk around the team from a national standpoint. I was relieved that the Orioles got some national attention in mid-September. They are playing meaningful games late in the season for the sixth year in a row. It’s not that just being in it is good enough for me, but there is something to playing games that count for something. Perhaps that’s just the Napoleon syndrome showing in me.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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