O's expectations dim despite bright spots

The Baltimore Sun

Presenting this week's sports media notes while wondering why talk of recession never seems to involve my waistline:

It's a baseball verity that hope springs eternal. But Orioles fans are certainly being more realistic as the club embarks on trying to rebuild. ESPN analyst Steve Phillips agrees with the diminished expectations.

"It's going to be a long season," Phillips said of the Orioles during a conference call Wednesday.

Still, he said there are a few players to hang your Orioles hat on.

"Jeremy Guthrie [and] Adam Loewen may be part of the long-term solution," said Phillips, former general manager of the New York Mets. "Nick Markakis is part of the long-term solution. There are some pieces around which to build on."

John Kruk was also on the ESPN conference call, but he declined to comment on the Orioles, saying he has already riled Baltimore fans enough. He was likely referring to his comments last year when Sam Perlozzo was fired -- he said no one should want the Orioles manager's job because the team was "an absolute mess."

On that same call, somebody -- OK, me -- asked how much the Baseball Tonight crew would end up talking about steroids.

Kruk said: "If Barry Bonds goes to court, we're going to talk about it. If someone hits 30 home runs in the first half of the season, we're going to talk about it. ... But if you talk to fans, if you talk to kids, they couldn't care less [about steroids]. The want to know about their favorite teams."

Phillips agrees that fans have gotten their fill of steroids. (Hold it, maybe I should rephrase that ...)

"I think people are numb to it. ... I really don't think from a fan's perspective it's had much of an impact at all," he said, citing increased attendance in the majors.

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will carry two hours of live coverage from the Orioles' FanFest at Camden Yards next Saturday at 1 p.m. MASN's Amber Theoharis, Jim Hunter, Rick Dempey and Buck Martinez will be joined by radio guys Joe Angel and Fred Manfra.

So here's a goal for UMBC and Mount St. Mary's in the NCAA tournament: If you can't spring an upset, at least get one of your highlights into CBS' "One Shining Moment" montage after the championship game.

That will be a proud Terrapin at the microphone calling the Maryland women's NCAA basketball tournament opener Sunday, but don't expect Pam Ward to cut the Terps any breaks. In fact, given her history when she has called Maryland football games, Ward might hear from fellow alumni that she has been too tough on the Terps in her play-by-play.

"We all strive to be impartial," said Ward, who will call the tournament on ESPN along with analyst Nancy Lieberman.

Ward said she has watched the Terps several times this season on television and bemoaned their tendency not to put teams away when holding substantial leads in the second half.

"I don't know if they get bored. ... I think they need to wake up," she said.

So when Ward is doing the call, she said, "I'm probably [going to be] harder on them, because I expect so much more of them."

When ESPN Radio's Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg appeared with David Letterman this week, Golic discussed his steroids use while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Golic said he was coming back from an injury -- that seems to be a common thread in steroids and human growth hormone stories -- when he began injecting himself with steroids, but he quit fairly quickly because he was experiencing 'roid rage.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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