Farewell to Baltimore Oriole Brian Roberts
After 13 years with the Orioles, second baseman Brian Roberts, a two-time winner of City Paper‘s Best Oriole award, is departing for Yankee pinstripes, signing a 1-year deal worth $2 million plus incentives, according to a report in The Sun.
Though the O’s have had a lamentably stagnant offseason, this makes sense as a baseball move. The team acquired a second baseman, Jemile Weeks, in the deal that sent closer Jim Johnson to Oakland; they already have Ryan Flaherty, who showed improved play in the second half of the 2013 season; and behind Flaherty, likely starting the year in AAA, is one of the organization’s best position player prospects, Jonathan Schoop. Despite how admirable it was for Roberts to battle his way back onto the field after dealing with injuries for parts of four years, it was pretty clear the veteran’s time in Baltimore was up.
But damn, BRob, the Yankees? Fuck.
This is especially bittersweet for the fans, because Roberts was always one of our guys. When the Birds were in the midst of their long stretch of cellar dwelling, Roberts was one of the few reasons for hope. You’d watch him dive for grounders in the hole, turn slick double plays, swipe bases, work lead-off walks, line double after double into the gap, and think, Okay, this is a piece to a really good team. This is a core guy we can build around. And then when it finally happened, when the other pieces came together in 2012 for a 93-69 season and a magical playoff run, the one guy who waited the longest after years of getting pummeled by the Yankees and Red Sox (save for the first half of 2005), wasn’t there to enjoy it. And he didn’t get to enjoy it in one of the cruelest, unjust ways: After rehabbing from the effects of two concussions, the first of which came at the end of 2010, Roberts’ 2012 campaign ended abruptly after 17 games when he tore his labrum.
That was one of the few dark sides to a bright, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride of a year (the biggest one being losing to the Yanks in the playoffs. Again: Why did it have to be the Yankees, BRob?!). Talking to The Sun just before joining the team as a postseason spectator, Roberts was understandably upset about his own misfortune, but he said all the right things regarding the organization’s turnaround: “This is something that I’ve wanted to experience for a long time. It doesn’t take a genius to know it would feel a lot better on the field, but at the same time, I’m extremely happy for the organization and the city and the fans and the Angelos family and everyone who’s worked so hard through so many struggles the last 15 years to experience this.”
The Yankees have had a bit of a topsy turvy winter, losing outfielder Curtis Granderson and second baseman Robinson Cano while managing to sign catcher Brian McCann and plucking outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury away from Boston. And now Roberts. Since this is the Yankees we’re talking about, there is a good chance they’re going to drop millions more and build a team — albeit a team with a lot of question marks and fading stars — that will give the former Oriole a decent chance at experiencing late October baseball for himself.
For now, the Orioles brass needs to go beyond the recent signing of closer Grant Balfour, reported by Roch Kubatko at MASN, and prove to fans the organization is trying to put a playoff-caliber team on the field for 2014. Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette’s feet dragging to this point has been maddening, but the reality is his plans likely didn’t involve the longest-tenured Oriole. And that’s okay.
But there’s little doubt that, come 2014, when that first game against the Yankees, April 7 in the Bronx, arrives, seeing shots of Brian Roberts with pinstripes and a bit “NY” on his chest will be tough to stomach.