From 2001-2013, the Orioles had arguably one of their best leadoff hitters and second basemen in franchise history in Brian Roberts. Between his two All-Star appearances, three years of 50 doubles, his four years of 30+ steals, five years of 170+ hits, and five years of 3+ WAR, Roberts was always one of the bright spots during a grim period in Orioles history.
Near the end of his career, it seemed to be defined by injuries and misfortune more than his play on the field, which hurt even more considering the turnaround of the franchise starting in 2012. Playing 192 games combined from 2010-2013, that left a bad impression with many fans especially after signing a $40 million extension – one of the largest team deals at the time.
Following the end of that contract extension, Roberts found himself without a job on the Orioles due to the promotion of Jonathan Schoop. With that, Roberts tested the free agent market and eventually found himself a home with the New York Yankees. This also did not help with Orioles fans’ impressions of Roberts.
Like with anything in life, people always want to have a “what have you done for me lately?” mentality, especially when it comes to sports. We see this all the time with players now like Chris Davis, Kevin Gausman, and even Adam Jones. With Roberts though, context and the full scope of his career matters.
I started watching baseball in 2004, Roberts second full season in the big leagues, and instantly he became my favorite player. I tried to impersonate his batting stance in little league while begging to play second base, and I was upset that the Orioles’ team store never had his shirt until they finally got them around mid-2005 I believe.
A few personal memories of Roberts that will always stick with me are the first time I met him which was at the 2006 Fanfest. He was at a photo booth and I remember never being so nervous to meet someone in my entire life. Mind you, I was 9 at the time. After the picture was taken, I remember telling him he was my favorite player and he just seemed real happy to be there with the fans. Fast forward to March of that year, my dad and I went down to Spring Training for the first time. After one of the games, we saw people walking towards a Range Rover waiting outside the Orioles’ parking lot at their old stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. Come to find out, it was Brian Roberts. I just happened to have a copy of my picture that we took at Fanfest in hopes that I did end up meeting him down there and hoped to get it signed. After some of the crowd left, I made it up to his window and handed him the picture and asked if he remembered me. He said he did and that just made my world as a kid. Whether or not he was telling the truth, it is exactly what 9 year old Connor wanted to hear, or any kid for that matter.
Fast forward to a few years later, I was at Fanfest once again. This time, it was held at Camden Yards when they held it there for a few years. The way the autograph tables were set up was that the players were sitting at tables on the warning track and the lines went through the seats and rows. After I find the Roberts’ station, we wait in line near the back because he was one of the more popular players at the time, obviously. As the timeframe for autographs was winding down, other players started to leave other stations and I was worried I would not be able to get my autograph this time. After maybe 10 more minutes, almost every other player left their respective station, leaving Roberts as the last player signing at the entire event. Only until it took one of the volunteers to almost drag him away from the station, Roberts stayed as long as possible to make sure as many fans got autographs as possible.
While I did not get an autograph from him that time, it showed me what kind of person Roberts was: one who cared when many star players on bad teams don’t seem to. It is something I will never forget about him.
This is why I always defend Brian Roberts. Regardless of every bad thing that may have happened during his career, he was a player who cared on Orioles teams where many other players seemingly did not.
I am very happy he is being honored by the franchise with being put in the Orioles’ Hall of Fame this upcoming season. It is an honor I personally feel he deserves for his work ethic on the field to how he treated fans off of it.