Despite wintry conditions, the 2012 edition of the Orioles' annual FanFest is under way at the Baltimore Convention Center.

While plenty of fans are here to collect autographs and participate in Q&As sessions with Orioles players, the event doesn't seem to have the same buzz as last year, when fans were still glowing from a hot finish under manager Buck Showalter.


While the fans I talked to praised FanFest for the access it gave them to Orioles players and personalities, they weren't as positive when talking about their expectations for the team this coming season.

"I think by May, they'll be in pretty bad shape," said Tim Neal, of Chambersburg, Pa., before cautioning, "but don't blame Buck Showalter."

Neal said he believes the team won't be competitive until it is willing to spend more on players.

"I wish they'd spend some money," Neal said, indicating he'd like to see the Orioles take an approach similar to one of their neighbors to the south. "If you look at the Washington Nationals, they already look like a wild-card [team] this year."

Eric Breach, 28, set the bar for 2012 a little higher, believing the Orioles will reach a mark they haven't since 1997.

"I'm hoping we're at least .500," said Breach, a season-ticket holder and Baltimore native. "I think .500 is realistic — anything [above that], no."

Still, Breach couldn't help but have loftier aspirations: "But, hey, there's always hope for the playoffs."

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