Note: This is part one of a series on the coverage of the Orioles in the media.
Publication name: The Sun (aka The Baltimore Sun to avoid confusion with other papers with "Sun" in the name)
Beat writers: Roch Kubatko, Joe Christensen
Average in-season coverage:
- if a game was played, one game recap about 24 column-inches (800-900 words) long
- one team notes story 600 to 900 words in length
- brief recaps of Oriole minor-league affiliates
- "Orioles Focus" column on Sundays
- minor-league notes column, usually on Mondays
- Orioles-related opinion columns appear irregularly during the week
- bite-size opponent scouting report appears before the first game of each series
- feature-length articles in the "Orioles at 50" series have appeared infrequently this year
Print edition rates: newsstand $0.50 Mon-Sat, $1.66 Sun; subscriptions are cheaper, depending on the package
Print circulation area: Baltimore City plus counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard
Web page: http://www.baltimoresun.com/
Link to Orioles coverage: http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/
RSS feed of Orioles coverage: http://baltimoresun.com/templates/misc/blogxml.jsp?slug=/sports/baseball
Web site notes: Pre-final drafts of Orioles news stories appear on the web site the night before being published in the print edition. The final versions appear online at about 4:00 a.m. on the day of publication. Free registration is required to access most stories and some areas of the site. Stories are archived on the site for two weeks. A fairly active Orioles bulletin board is also linked to the site. Stats and box scores on the site come from The Sports Network, which supplies the basics but doesn't offer nearly enough detail to satisfy the statheads.
Archives: Articles since 1990 are archived electronically by the Newsbank and Proquest services. The Sun's web site offers paid access to the Newsbank database, but free access is usually available from Maryland public libraries. Articles prior to 1990 can be viewed on microfilm in libraries throughout Maryland as well as at the Library of Congress in D.C.
Corporate ownership: The Sun is owned by the Tribune media conglomerate, which counts among its assets the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday. An account on the Sun web site will also work on other Tribune news properties, and vice versa.
If you were limited to one source for your Orioles news, the hometown Sun would be your best choice. The only major paper serving Baltimore, the Sun offers the most comprehensive daily coverage of the Orioles of any publication in the print and Internet worlds. The paper's opinion columns on the Birds have lost some of their sharpness in the last few years, but a recent roster reshuffling portends a change for the better in that area.
Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko are competent writers who also report on MLB in addition to their Orioles coverage. Kubatko, the principal Orioles beat writer, is the senior of the two, having been on the Orioles beat since 1997; his byline has appeared in the Sun going back to at least 1990. Christensen has been covering the O's since the 2002 season, and this month he assumed the national baseball writer's duties formerly held by Peter Schmuck. Neither Christensen nor Kubatko has star-quality storytelling ability, but their articles are straightforward, readable, and occasionally insightful.
Schmuck, who has covered the Orioles and the national baseball scene for the Sun since 1990, was the main writer of the "Orioles Focus" and "On Baseball" Sunday columns and other MLB-related stories until this month. (The Focus column functions as a running commentary on recent developments in the Orioles' season.) On August 1, Schmuck started writing a zinger-packed sports column that will appear Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in the Sun, leaving Christensen to take over most of Schmuck's former responsibilities. Schmuck is an able writer with a long list of connections in baseball, so his new column should be worthy of reading.
Late last month, longtime sportswriter John Eisenberg returned to his columnist position at the Sun after a hiatus of nearly three years spent writing books and doing special-assignment reporting for the paper. His return to writing columns is a positive development for the Sun and its readers. Eisenberg writes snappy, insightful prose, and while he is not the most ingenious or the wittiest columnist out there, he is a welcome addition to the paltry supply of Orioles commentary in the papers these days. Laura Vecsey has given it a fair shot in the interim, but there is value in having a columnist in Eisenberg who has covered the local team over a long period of time and in the process has acquired an intimate sense of its history and tradition (not to mention a lot of good sources).
Eisenberg's sabbatical, which came barely a year after Ken Rosenthal departed the Sun for greener pastures in 2000, created an opening for Vecsey in 2002. Descended from a family of New York sportswriters and seasoned from eight years of writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, she has a playful wit and a good read on the Oriole clubhouse. But she does not offer much in the way of hard analysis, and a few of her columns have devolved into fluffy, icon-building paeans. For those reasons, and perhaps because of her outsider origins, she has not established the must-read status that Rosenthal attained before he left the Sun. But to her credit, her columns on the Orioles have grown more incisive over time, although they have become much less frequent of late.
The Sun's coverage does not indicate any awareness of sabermetric principles. The paper is a general-interest publication, so I suppose that they feel they must serve the lowest common denominator and use only traditional baseball statistics like batting average and RBI.
The Sun is not the alpha and the omega of Baltimore Orioles coverage, but it comes the closest of any independent source to achieving that ideal.
Correction (Aug. 13): Kubatko started on the Orioles beat in 1997, not 1998 as previously stated.