Maybe it was a coincidence that temperatures warmed this week, but when I heard Joe Angel on the phone, it suddenly felt like baseball season.
Angel, the Orioles' radio voice and the best part of any broadcast - radio or television - associated with the team, is back on WBAL (1090 AM) as the season begins Monday. He has been in Florida with the team, and though he expressed some optimism, Angel acknowledged the Orioles are still full of unsettled spots.
"It's kind of hard to figure out what they might be able to accomplish," Angel said Wednesday.
He pointed to the starting pitching as a strength, however.
"I think the pitching is good enough to be able to compete," Angel said. "They have five starters who can give you a chance to win that day."
But once past the starters?
"I think the bullpen is a real question mark," he said.
And the questions don't stop there.
"Is he going to be the Miguel Tejada we saw early in the year or the one we saw late in the year, which was an aberration? Is Miguel Tejada going to be Miguel Tejada?" Angel said of the All-Star shortstop.
"Is [outfielder] Jay Gibbons going to be healthy?"
Angel said he was encouraged by how well second baseman Brian Roberts has performed in coming back from his elbow injury.
"Brian Roberts looks great - maybe that's the best part of spring training," he said. "He looks like the Brian Roberts of last year."
Angel said he appreciates the veteran presence of Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine, especially for how they "will settle that clubhouse down," but doesn't feel it's a good sign to see them constantly in the lineup.
"If [Conine and Millar] are playing once in a while, that's what they were brought in for," Angel said. "But if they're playing a lot, it's a question."
The bottom line?
"I'm optimistic that the club will be very competitive because of the starting pitching."
Angel will continue to work in rotation with Fred Manfra and Jim Hunter, depending on who's working the TV broadcast that day. Angel said he doesn't even check the schedule. "I just show up and see who I'm going to be working with," he said.
WJZ/Channel 13's coverage of the Orioles opener Monday begins at 2 p.m., an hour before the telecast of the game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Sports anchor Mark Viviano and several of his WJZ colleagues will be on the pre-game show, which will feature pieces on manager Sam Perlozzo and new first baseman Millar.
Hunter will call the game with analysts Jim Palmer and Buck Martinez.
CBS (Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9) has a two-hour preview show starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow leading into the men's Final Four. Ever-amiable Greg Gumbel hosts, along with those analysts we've all had quite enough of, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis.
Among the planned segments are a coaches' group discussion with Michigan State's Tom Izzo, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, who all can explain how they lost to George Mason. CBS also will have a piece on UCLA's legacy, in which Bill Walton's comments presumably are edited down so they make sense.
Interest in the NCAA women's Final Four has spiked in Israel because of the presence of Maryland guard Shay Doron, who is Israeli. ESPN Israel is carrying the semifinal games live, which puts Maryland-North Carolina on the air there at 2 a.m. Monday.
NCAA vs. NASCAR
In national ratings Sunday, Fox's NASCAR Nextel Cup telecast edged CBS' George Mason-Connecticut NCAA game, 6.2-6.1, a difference of 1 million viewers. (The two basically went head-to-head; the basketball game ended 45 minutes earlier.) In Baltimore, though, it was no contest. With a heavy local presence on both teams, the basketball game drew 7.3 percent of the audience to 3.0 for the NASCAR race.
ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd stopped by Metaphors R Us on his way to work yesterday so he could offer this as an example for how we will react to Barry Bonds' setting the all-time home run record while carrying the taint of steroid allegations: It's kind of like, Cowherd said, being at a wedding where everyone sitting in the church knows the bride slept with the best man the night before.
Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell
Golf: Warm up for the Masters with NBC's coverage of the BellSouth Classic (tomorrow and Sunday at 3 p.m., WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4). It's not Augusta National, but they are playing in Georgia. And NBC's Gary Koch said of the TPC at Sugarloaf: "This golf course is surprisingly difficult. It is one that I think is certainly good preparation for the Masters."
Baseball: It's Opening Night with the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew covering the Cleveland Indians at the world champion Chicago White Sox at 8 p.m. This is the 17th year for the combo of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. If you don't like listening to Miller, then you just don't like baseball.
Football: The NFL draft is fast approaching. Don't let it sneak up on you. SportsCenter will preview each team's draft during the 6 p.m. show, starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Of course, we will be hearing from the pompadoured king of the draft, Baltimore's Mel Kiper Jr.
[Compiled by Ray Frager]
Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for March 22-28 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):
Program Date Ch. Rtg.
Florida-Villanova 3/26 13 9.4
LSU-Duke 3/23 13 8.5
G. Mason-Wichita St. 3/24 13 7.9
G. Mason-UConn 3/26 13 7.3
Florida-Georgetown 3/24 13 6.8
UCLA-Memphis 3/25 13 5.8
UCLA-Gonzaga 3/23 13 5.4
LSU-Texas 3/25 13 5.2
Maryland-Utah-a 3/27 ESPN 3.4
WWE Raw-b 3/27 USA 3.1
a-women's game; b-10 to 11:15 p.m. [Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]