Spring Training is an extended exercise in the slow news day. I may envy those reporters who get to travel to Sarasota each spring to watch baseball, but I don't envy the task with which they're charged - trying to coax non-cliched anecdotes and information from players, coaches, the manager, front office personnel, etc. Has anybody talked to the groundskeeper yet?
With that in mind, I offer my version of what an honest Spring Training story might look like, featuring many of your favorite Orioles media personalities.
Nondescript Player Reports to Camp in Nondescript Fashion
"Nothing's changed ... Really."
Beat reporters and feature writers at the Orioles' Spring Training complex in Sarasota struggled to find an appropriate story angle on the team's everyday outfielder after he arrived to camp on time this week, showing no discernible differences in his physical appearance, and displaying the same consistent attitude and determination that got him to the majors in the first place.
"He appears to have neither gained nor lost weight during the off-season, his attitude and focus are pretty much what they've always been, and his hair color and facial hair situation have not changed in the slightest. What the Hell?" said The Sun's Peter Schmuck. "I've got a few Hawaiian shirts I could loan him. That would at least be interesting."
Team officials indicate they anticipate the usual steady performance from the outfielder this season that he's demonstrated throughout his career and expect neither more, nor less leadership from him.
"The guy showed up exactly on time - not a second early, not a second late. Apparently he got one of those atomic clocks in the off-season. Even Buck was speechless," said MASN's Roch Kubatko. "It's one thing to screw up my storyline; he ruined my headline as well. I wanted to use 'Outfielder Arrives in the Nick of Time' but then everybody would think I was talking about Nick Markakis. Now I'm stuck trying to make something out of UPS and on-time delivery. UPS ... OPS ... hmmm. Excuse me while I get back to my laptop."
The Orioles young outfielder compounded matters when he stepped into the cage for his initial Spring Training batting practice session and hit baseballs over the outfield wall at precisely the rate and distance one would expect from a major league player hitting against a minor league instructor on his first day of camp.
"The least this guy could've done for us during the off-season was commit a crime or something," said Orioles Insider Jeff Zrebiec. "I'm not talking felony stuff. Just some sort of misdemeanor that would give us a bit of a redemption angle to work with. Sometimes I wish I covered the Ravens."
"You know I used to cover the Rays, don't you?" added Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. "The Rays have Manny Ramirez in camp this season. Manny Freakin' Ramirez.
"Those stories practically write themselves," she added, before stepping away to research non-roster invitees and see if any of them ever caught a baseball in the stands from Derrek Lee.
Other reporters expressed a desire not so much for a different team as they did different players.
"This kind of crap makes me long for my days playing Hide 'N Seek with Sammy Sosa. At least that filled my time - lots of it in fact - and gave me something to write about, if only years later" said The Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg. "I'd even take Albert Belle. Chasing trick-or-treaters on Halloween - that's rich. Oh well, at least this guy's contract is up in a couple of years; although, knowing him, he'll go ahead and sign a fair-market deal with the team. No hold outs, no hometown discounts, nothing."
A distracted Buck Showalter offered little help to the determined scribes.
"What more do you guys want from me? I gave you the term 'nuggets' right out of the gate. That's golden. Ha, see there, I did it again," said the manager as he traced individual steps down the left field line to double-check the ballpark dimensions at the Orioles' upgraded facilities. "It's too bad the guy doesn't have blonde hair. You could go for some kind of Goldilocks and the Three Bears theme and allude to the fact that he's doing everything 'Juuust Right.'"
Peter Angelos was unavailable for comment and directed inquires to general manager Andy MacPhail.
"He gives us exactly the same chance of competing in the American League East that he always has," said MacPhail, before adding, "We've gotta grow the arms and buy the bats."