For those who consider themselves the casual Orioles fan, Roch Kubatko is a blogger, sometimes turned TV guy, who works for the cable network MASN. His blog titled “School of Roch” is considered the definitive place to get up-to-date info on the happenings in Birdland. I can remember one minor league baseball executive telling me that he gets his info from Roch. So needless to say, this guy is in the know. We at BSR feel fortunate that we had the chance to get to know the man behind the blog. Enjoy!
You are a native Marylander and have lived here most of your life. So Are you guilty of any Maryland-isms (the accent, eating the mustard in crabs, etc)?
I’m told that I have a Maryland accent, but I have no idea what that means. Probably because I have a Maryland accent. I say “ocean” funny, or so I’ve been told by out-of-staters. My ex-wife was from Michigan. You should hear the way they pronounce “roof.” It sounds like “ruf.” And yes, I love the mustard in the crabs. And thanks for referring to it as “mustard.” I thought it was the crap for a lot of years. Now I’m told it’s the cholesterol. I’ll just stick with “mustard.” And believe me, I dig out that stuff with my finger and eat it before I do anything else. I’d eat it right out of the jar if they sold it. But don’t eat the “devil,” as my parents called it when I was a kid. It’s just the lungs, but they made it seem like I’d drop dead if I even looked at it. That’ll scare the pants off you when you’re 10.
Who is more popular on Facebook- you OR Amber Theoharis?
Actually, Amber isn’t on Facebook, though she’s listed. Someone must have started an account for her. She swears that she isn’t on it and won’t join it. But I have no doubt that she’d be far more popular. Heck, I tried to friend her twice before realizing it wasn’t really her.
Do you have more leeway as a “blogger” or do you have to follow the traditional journalism rules?
There’s more leeway in the sense that I don’t always feel compelled to include quotes or make the extra phone calls before posting something. Also, I was never a columnist at The Sun, so the blog provided my first opportunity to give my opinion and editorialize. And it’s a lot easier to sneak in a “that’s what she said” in a blog. And really, isn’t that the most important thing?
From a journalistic perspective, what are the differences of covering a losing team vs a winning team?
Covering a losing team makes me want to hang myself with my shoe laces around June. And I see it’s June 1 as I answer this question. Might be a good time for the press box attendants to remove my laces and belt when I walk inside. It’s just easier to cover a winning team. Everyone’s in a better mood, they’re less defensive, there’s more energy among the media, it’s easier to come up with questions. I mean, how many times can you ask about runners left in scoring position or the bullpen giving it up or a runner making a mistake on the basepaths? It’s like the record’s skipping and nobody can tap the needle. (How’s that for an old-school reference? I’m wearing my REO Speedwagon concert t-shirt as I type this.) My first year on the beat, full-time, was in ’97. Wire to wire. Thought it would be that way every year. Haven’t covered a winning season since then. So maybe it’s all my fault.
What is more challenging. covering as a color analyst or getting information out of Erik “Lock Box” Bedard?
It would be easier to do color commentary blindfolded and wearing a ball-gag than getting a decent quote out of Bedard, and it wasn’t always that way. Something changed with that guy. But hey, if he’s winning 18-20 games a year, he can spit on my shoes. I don’t care. I just found it disappointing that he took such pleasure in making our jobs more difficult. I know some of the questions are lame, but he amps up the pressure when you know he’s going to be short with you. He actually is quite comfortable with certain reporters when the cameras and recorders are off. He’s fine to chat with at his locker or along the fence in spring training. Not a bad guy. Just a really bad interview.
What does working for MASN afford you that you didn’t have at the Sun?
Really cool MASN shirts and a fatter paycheck. Actually, it’s very similar beyond maybe some extra TV time, though I was getting plenty of that at The Sun, too. It’s not like I’m fed information because I work for MASN, which I know was a concern among the other beat reporters. Heck, The Sun is usually first with the 25- and 40-man roster transactions, so somebody is taking care of them. I’m just happy to be rid of the nightly deadlines. I don’t miss having 2 minutes to re-write a story when the closer blows another save. I don’t miss writing game stories. Now THAT’S a grind when you cover a losing team. You run out of angles after a while. Hey, they’re still not hitting. Hey, they still can’t hold a lead in the late innings. How many different ways can you spin a 5-1 loss?
If you could go back and be there for one moment in O’s history, which would it be?
The night Garrett Atkins hit that walk-off grand slam. What? Didn’t happen yet? OK, let me try again. The night Sidney Ponson didn’t refill his plate for a third time. OK, seriously, I would have loved to blog the night Tippy Martinez picked off three Blue Jays with Lenn Sakata behind the plate. I listened to it on radio, but to see that in person and to have fun with it in a blog…priceless. And of course, the Doug DeCinces walk-off homer against the Tigers on June 22, 1979. The night Orioles Magic was born. Also listened to it on radio (weren’t any home games televised when I was a kid?)
Can you give us some hope? When is it going to get better?
I thought they would hover around .500 this year. Maybe I was a year early. I keep envisioning a rotation that includes Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen, Arrieta and Britton. I envision Wieters becoming the player that everyone predicted (that many scouts and executives can’t be wrong.) I envision Nick Markakis being the next Paul O’Neill, a popular comparison. I envision Adam Jones being a 40-40 guy and hitting the cutoff man. Hang in there. It’s going to get better. And we still have our Maryland crabs, even if the Orioles can’t cut the mustard (see what I did there?)