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Orioles in the media: MLB.com

Note: This is part three of a series on the coverage of the Orioles in the media.

Publication name: MLB.com; Baltimore Orioles' site may go by baltimore.orioles.mlb.com, orioles.mlb.com, or TheOrioles.com, all of which point to the same site

Beat writer: Gary Washburn

Columnists: none who cover the Orioles regularly

Average in-season coverage:

  • Daily:
    • game recaps (about 800-900 words)
    • team notes (usually 800-900 words)
    • live game webcasts (Flash required); audio or video broadcasts require paid subscription
    • official box scores, statistics, roster transactions
    • audio and video broadcasts for subscribers
  • Other:
    • player features (usually 800-900 words)
    • team press releases provided by the Orioles' public relations office

Print edition: none

Web page: http://www.mlb.com/

Link to Baltimore Orioles front page: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/index.jsp?c_id=bal

Link to Orioles news coverage: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/bal/news/bal_news_index.jsp

Link to Orioles press releases: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/press_releases/index.jsp?c_id=bal

RSS feed of Orioles news: http://mlb.mlb.com/partnerxml/gen/news/rss/bal.xml

RSS feed of MLB news: http://mlb.mlb.com/partnerxml/gen/news/rss/mlb.xml; feeds for other teams' news are also available on the site.

Web site notes: News stories are posted on the site within hours after games or other newsworthy events occur. Stories do not expire. Online features include a continuously updated scoreboard of all MLB games; current and historical statistics provided by Elias Sports Bureau, the official stat-keeper for MLB; schedule; team promotions; minor-league updates; team history; fan forum; community outreach; and a section for kids. Multimedia features are available, although game video and audio require a paid subscription. Other commerce-related areas are fantasy leagues, a memorabilia store, ticket sales, and ballpark information. And MLB.com is the only place to find MLB's official rules on the Internet.

Archives: A searchable archive of articles goes back to 1999. Search options are limited, and the engine is faulty in that it seems to list two instances of every matching article.

Corporate ownership: Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., is a spinoff company owned jointly by MLB's 30 teams. It was created in 2000 to concentrate on the distribution of so-called new media content related to MLB.


MLB.com, the official web site of Major League Baseball, is a mammoth Internet-only media operation serving MLB and its interests. The site both benefits and suffers from its close association with MLB. On the one hand, it is the exclusive Internet source of official information from the league and individual clubs, and its deepening inventory of exclusive audio and video offerings cannot be ignored. On the other hand, the site lacks the trenchant commentary and in-depth, probing stories that can be found in the independent media.

The mlb.com domain includes the central MLB site, mlb.com, and a network of thirty team-specific sites (e.g., baltimore.orioles.mlb.com) that share essentially the same template and technology. This homogenization dates to 2000 and 2001, when MLB.com bulldozed the motley set of team-run sites that had sprung up in the 1990's and subsumed them under the MLB.com umbrella.

The initial result of that amalgamation was not an improvement. Compared to most of the team sites they replaced, the new branches of the MLB.com tree were bland, bloated, and relatively uninformative; indeed, in many cases they were a downgrade from their predecessors. Teams were able to contribute content to their pages, but had to adhere to a new structure imposed from above. It made for an awkward transition.

But over the last few years, the MLB.com family of sites has steadily improved its offerings and usability. MLB.com's content, audience, and revenue have increased substantially every year—so substantially, in fact, that MLB has considered opening up MLB.com and its parent company, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), to public investment. By introducing innovative, informative, and fan-friendly offerings in the areas of textual news, statistics, and video and audio content, MLB.com has become a successful and profitable property for the league.

The Birds' home on the Web, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com, is a valuable information resource, though far from a perfect one. Like the lyricized home on the range, there seldom is heard a discouraging word about the team on the site, so the dividing line between journalism and promotion can be difficult to gauge at times. And while orioles.mlb.com does an adequate job of collecting a lot of facts about the Orioles in one place, it is far from exhaustive. In particular, the team history is skimpy; there is relatively little information about the great Oriole teams of yesteryear and the tradition they engendered. There's nothing on Memorial Stadium, the Orioles' home from 1954 to 1991. Although there is an all-time team roster, former coaches and executives get no mention whatsoever, and there is no reference to the Orioles Hall of Fame. One would expect more from a team and a game that value tradition so highly.

The Orioles' official site offers an abundance of ticket information for followers of the team. Those interested in attending games at Camden Yards would be wise to visit the promotions page before making plans to buy tickets, and a quick check of the ballpark information page before departing for the game will help make the spectating experience go smoothly.

The interactive fan features include an active message board; a page to sign up for team newsletters or a vanity e-mail address; polls; and other attempts to rope fans in and keep them involved.

The beat

Gary Washburn has been covering the Orioles for MLB.com since March 2002. During the season, Washburn regularly contributes game recaps and around-the-horn-style team notes similar to those found in the Baltimore Sun. Occasionally he or another writer will produce a feature story on a notable player or event, but nothing really lengthy or penetrating. Brief minor-league notes appear infrequently.

Washburn's writing is succinct and comparable in content and quality to the output of his peers at the Sun and the Washington Post. His game recaps are posted online quickly after the games are completed, matching or beating the turnaround times of the competition. And since every team has its own beat writer on MLB.com, a take on each game from the opposing team's perspective can be accessed with a click or two.

While MLB.com is not known for its scoops, Washburn has broken a few minor news items. This year, one of his stories was the outlet for Javy López's midseason concerns that he was being overworked at catcher. Washburn also revealed that Rafael Palmeiro's option for 2005 will vest if he plays more than 140 games in the field this year. But on the whole, it does not appear that teams provide the site's beat writers with special access unavailable to the rest of the media.

As if to clarify that point, every article posted to MLB.com is followed by the line “This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.” This claim, on its face, attempts to clothe each story with objectivity by distancing it from the official information that appears elsewhere on the site.

But remember that MLB.com is owned by the teams. The site exists to promote MLB and its interests; it does not exist to make MLB look bad. So you won't find much dirt being dug up by this site; MLB.com is not the place to go to find out about clubhouse intrigue, management-labor tussles, drug scandals, and commish-bashing. While the team coverage has some journalistic value, it's important to remember that the site's provenance ultimately limits the ability of its writers to be openly searching or critical of their subjects.


There is no opinion columnist dedicated to following the Orioles for MLB.com. The Perspectives page on the main MLB site contains a variety of pleasantly benign commentary, including some first-person takes from players and executives. Sometimes, but not often, the Orioles will get exposure there. But opinion writing may well be the weakest area of MLB.com, so this part can be ignored without the risk of losing much.

Extra features

Where MLB.com earns its keep is in its extensive assortment of features unavailable elsewhere on the Internet—or elsewhere, period. While the juiciest multimedia content requires payment, a lot of valuable information can be viewed for free.

The site hosts a full plate of searchable and sortable statistics, including splits and historical data, all supplied by MLB's official statisticians at the Elias Bureau. However, the grid display of the statistics is unaesthetic and inconvenient to navigate. (More on this in the next section.) Major- and minor-league roster and schedule information is kept up to date and goes back a few years. The information about scores and schedules is as good as anything on the Internet. In particular, the box scores are chock-full of interesting numbers. Individual player pages contain stats and brief histories covering every year of the player's career, like the information one would find in a press guide.

Another worthwhile and free offering is the Flash-powered Gameday netcasts, which provide real-time play-by-play data on a game in progress. Other sites like Yahoo! and ESPN.com offer similar applets, but MLB.com's version is more attractive and informative, and it contains exclusive data such as pitch locations and maps of where batted balls ended up.

MLB.com's premium audio and video products are innovative and useful, although only paying users with broadband connections will experience the full benefit. Through MLB.TV and Gameday Audio, displaced fans may watch or listen to games of their favorite teams on the Internet. (To preserve the broadcast rights of MLB's partners, geolocation technology prevents users within the local area of a team from accessing live local video broadcasts online.) A separate service allows fans to follow games on their cell phones. The prices for accessing the content are reasonable and should not dissuade the true fanatics out there.

As if live broadcasts weren't enough, the site makes game footage available indefinitely afterward in a digital archive. In addition to full-length games, the site provides condensed games that allow subscribers to replay just the consequential events of each game. For the quickest fix, there are highlights packages for individual games. A nifty addition to the box scores provides the ability to instantly bring up video footage of a play by clicking on the relevant part of the box score.

Not all audio and video content on the site requires payment. MLB.com Radio, the Internet radio outlet of MLB, is provided gratis, and a limited selection of highlight clips and interviews is also accessible without charge.

And although it only happens once a year, the amateur draft coverage on MLB.com is worth mentioning because the site is essentially the only source of real-time draft updates. Unlike the NBA and NFL, there is no TV special to introduce top baseball draftees, and even radio coverage is spotty after the first round, so the Internet is the best way to go. MLB's scouting reports and videos of draftees are not particularly enlightening, though.

Sabermetric take

As previously stated, the statistics on the site are plentiful and up to date, and they have the "official" imprimatur attached to them for what (little) it's worth. But their presentation and navigability are frustratingly lacking. The stat pages are slow to load and display a miserly amount of information per screenful. Just twenty rows of stats are shown at a time, and each page shows only a fraction of the available batting or pitching categories. As a result, the user is often forced to click multiple times to navigate across or down and find the numbers desired. Apparently the makers of these pages would rather have users click than scroll.

The types of statistics made available by Elias on the site are mostly vanilla. With a few minor exceptions like OPS and WHIP, MLB.com sticks to the classic measures of player performance: batting average, ERA, etc. There are no park adjustments or line-drive percentages or complicated defensive metrics. There a few oddities like ground outs (GO) and fly outs (AO), which are similar to but not as useful as STATS's ground balls (GB) and fly balls (FB). One useful Internet exclusive on the site is the graphical hit location charts available from individual player pages.

MLB.com's ability to combine two statistical splits on command is unparallelled, but many other sites use STATS's splits data, which provide a better overall presentation in most cases. And while MLB.com's historical stats are adequate, other sites (particularly Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet) do a superior job in that area.

Given MLB.com's clumsy approach to the presentation of statistics, it should not be surprising that hard-hitting analysis using statistical evidence is virtually nonexistent in the reams of articles on the site. Most stories sprinkle in a few numbers here and there, but nothing that a casual fan would not understand. It's generally entry-level reading, as the writers show only a vague awareness of rudimentary sabermetric concepts such as park effects and on-base percentage.

Aspiring general managers might appreciate the site's fantasy baseball area, which contains a variety of strategic games.


For the latest updates about the Orioles on the Internet, MLB.com is a dependable and entertaining resource. The site is an endless trove of information that serves baseball junkies well, and it has shown innovation and improvement over the years. In particular, its commendable game broadcasts and archived video tap the enormous potential of the Internet to provide interactive, information-rich media on demand. But fans looking for critical analysis on the site will be disappointed.

(Note: this site receives no financial benefit whatsoever for the outgoing links to MLB.com on this page; they are provided merely for the reader's convenience.)

Clarification (Sep. 9): The appended note to this article initially stated, “this site receives no financial benefit whatsoever for outgoing links.” That statement, while true for the links in this article, is not true for this site in general. This site receives a small commission on sales that result from its links to Amazon.com on the Orioles Bookstore page. However, it receives no commission from its links to MLB.com or its affiliated products (for the moment, anyway). The appropriate clarification has been incorporated into the aforementioned note.

Update (Dec. 1, 2004): While browsing the history section of the Orioles' site, I noticed that a brief section about Memorial Stadium was added to the ballparks page. It's a good start, but I expect a more substantial description of the stadium where so many of the indelible memories of the franchise happened.

Update (July 31, 2005): An article by Alan Schwarz in today's New York Times reports that mlb.com's historical statistics database comes from Total Baseball, not Elias. I am in the process of confirming this information. Also, since last year the Orioles' site has added information such as a list of the team's coaches in history. Again, although the site is far from perfect, it's getting better all the time.

Update (June 1, 2006): Added RSS feed information. Removed reference to montreal.expos.mlb.com for obvious reasons. Several other aspects of the review are outdated as well, but I'll just let them be; after all, this was written nearly two years ago, and people should take that into account when reading it.

Comments (2)

Mike Lotocki:

I enjoyed your page, and I was wondering if it would be at all poosible to provide the specific media outlets the Baltimore Orioles use. i.e.: Radio station, T.V. station, Billboard company, etc. Thank you,
Mike Lotocki


You can find information about Oriole broadcasts on our broadcasting page. Some of this information is likely to change for next season, though, because of the new Washington baseball team in the region. So be sure to check again in February or March.

I'm not sure which (if any) billboard company the Orioles currently employ—you may want to call the Orioles and ask their marketing and communications department about that—but I know that they have used the services of local firm Trahan, Burden & Charles for many of their advertisements in the recent past. The archives of the Baltimore Business Journal are a good source for that kind of information.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 25, 2004 2:36 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Cust's last stand with the O's?.

The next post in this blog is A few August thoughts.

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