Continuing their tradition of featuring only teams that are either good, in big markets, or both good and in big markets, ESPN will not feature any Orioles games in 2011, according to their initial Sunday Night schedule.
Instead, the network will begin the major league season with a West Coast broadcast pitting the defending champion, Aubrey Huff-led Giants against the Dodgers. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Phillies dominate the remainder of the announced schedule, which runs through the All Star Break.
Criticizing ESPN is like shooting fish in a barrel, but baseball is something the network can and often does do well. And now that incredible-player-turned-incredibly-bad-announcer Joe Morgan has left the network to return to the Reds in a front office role, the Sunday night telecast should be a strong national showcase.
The network wants to guarantee a high rating with Yankees and Red Sox broadcasts, and the O’s face these teams a total of 36 times a year. However, until the club becomes formidable enough to once again serve as a genuine rival to these AL East behemoths, they will not be granted the national spotlight.
And watching Ty Wigginton pick a wedge during his half inning of All Star play last July does not count.
While folks here in Baltimore are gassing up and getting ready to travel to Pittsburgh for another Ravens-Steelers playoff game, it’s nice to dream that maybe one day the Orioles and Pirates will face off in a midsummer’s interleague classic pumped into millions of home through the Bristol, Conn-based network. A lot would have to happen before that dream to become a reality. After the latest offseason of doing little more than sniffing around the big free agents and settling for adequate position players( and no new starting pitching), the Orioles are not likely to take the league by storm this year. It’s nice to dream. But don’t plan your return trip just yet.