When the Orioles announced the release of a DVD chronicling their miraculous 2012 season, there was cause for excitement or concern, basically depending on your own level of optimism or cynicism. The trailer was a gratifying follow-on to an amazing ride for Orioles fans everywhere, but also seemed more than a little heavy-handed in its excitement that the team had made the postseason (something most teams do more often than every 14 years). At its best, this DVD could be a legacy of the rejuvenation that Orioles fans felt in 2012; at its worst, it would be a forgettable piece of PR fluff. Well, the DVD is out, and it's safe to say that it lies somewhere in between. It has its jingoistic moments, to be sure, but for the most part the DVD is a faithful recreation of a season to remember.
The creators of the documentary knew exactly which moments defined the 2012 season for Orioles fans. The DVD both emphasizes and revolves around these crucial moments. The 17-inning game in Boston won by Chris Davis, ace reliever, gets a quality recap. Chris Davis is also prominently featured toting Nate McLouth around the infield after the walkoff win in September. Machado's pump-fake at third. Cal Ripken Day, when it was clear that Baltimore baseball was back. Tommy Hunter saluting the go-ahead home run from the bullpen in Seattle. The playoff-clinch-that-wasn't in Baltimore. The electricity of ALDS Game One. The producers emphasized every moment that Orioles fans at large would've picked, and omitted none.
The documentary is glued together by the narration of Jim Hunter, who handles the task capably. Hunter takes a DVD that could've been mere highlights and makes it into a telling story, peppered with some decent, if surfacey, analysis of the team's reliance on the home run, as well as one-run and extra-inning wins. Though at times he gets too homerish (more on that later), for the most part Hunter takes a fairly standard recap and enlivens it a good bit.
Lastly, the DVD wisely goes beyond the Orioles' playoff hunt and truly summarizes the entire year in Orioles baseball, including tidbits about Adam Jones' contract extension, Buck Showalter's thousandth win, the unveiling of the Orioles Legends statues, and the preseason hiring of Dan Duquette. This makes it feel much more complete and much less of a slapdash cash grab after the team clawed its way back to postseason respectability. I challenge you, the viewer, not to tear up a bit watching Earl Weaver's speech in light of his recent passing.
It shouldn't be surprising coming directly from the team's PR department, but the DVD at times is absurdly homerish. Players who struggled throughout 2012 (Arrieta, Andino) are only featured in their rare positive highlights, as are roleplayers who barely logged playing time with the club (Tolleson, Reimold, and I was going to mention Teagarden but it's hard to blame them for that one). At an odd moment in August, the DVD makes bizarre note of the fact that the Orioles had the best record in baseball in their previous 162 games. Sorry to say, PR guys, but the season doesn't run from August to August. There's precious little mention of the Dan Duquette Express, two-way service to Norfolk, which saw countless players sent down for their struggles.
It's strange that this should even be an issue, but the picture quality of the DVD is incredibly uneven. At times, the highlight clips come through in eye-popping clarity, but about 25% of the time, the picture is noticeably pixelated, which really jumps out at you by comparison and takes you out of the moment. A bit more mastering work would've gone a long way here.
Finally, at times it's a bit too painfully obvious that it's been way too long since the Orioles saw this kind of success. The DVD attempts to open dramatically with Andino's walkoff that sent the Red Sox home to end 2011. As much as Orioles fans loved that moment, its presence here seems like rubbing it in beyond the point of relevance. Similarly, the film's narrative drags just a bit at the end, when the team is eliminated from the ALDS, trying for an emotional finale but falling a bit flat as the viewer starts to think "isn't this the part where we lost?"
So, is this DVD worth your hard-earned $25? All in all, that probably depends on the likelihood of you ever watching a highlights DVD, which at the end of the day is all this is. For all the times the movie veers into territory where it might jump the shark, it mostly stays in bounds as a "2012 season highlights" reel, as it bills itself on its cover. It never falls all the way into being a pure commercial or completely ignoring just how much good fortune went into the team's season. So what you're left with is a DVD that won't surprise anyone; if you're the type of fan who can watch a 90-minute season highlight clip, this won't let you down.