After a nearly decade and a half span of baseball irrelevance, it is nice to see the Baltimore Orioles near the top of the Major League Baseball standings. The O’s are proving that 2012 was not a fluke, sitting at third place with a 10-8 record in the tight American League East, having just taken two out of three at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, my pal Nick who is a big Baltimore fan pointed out to me that there is a touch of bittersweetness about their new-found success. There is an excellent player that has spent his entire career in Charm City who has not really had a chance to enjoy much of this run. Second baseman Brian Roberts was put on the disabled list two weeks ago and as of right now is not particularly close to returning any time soon. Last season as the O’s were shocking all of baseball with their Wild Card showing, Roberts played in only 17 games, not appearing in a game until June 12th and his final contest was July 1st. Being the longest-tenured player with the Orioles, if there is anyone who deserves to bask in the glory of this team, it is the 35-year old former All-Star.
Brian Roberts was drafted by the O’s in the first round of the 1999 draft and made his Major League debut on June 14th, 2001. He became the starter at second base for good during the 2003 season amassing over 500 plate appearances and hitting .270. Over the next six seasons, he established himself as one of the premier players at his position. In 2004, he led the American League in doubles with 50 and led the circuit in two-baggers again in 2009 with 56, the most ever by a switch-hitter. With 51 doubles in 2008, he is one of only four players (the others being Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Paul Waner and Stan Musial) to record 50 or more doubles in a single season three times. In 2007, Roberts led the league in stolen bases with 50 and had a streak of six consecutive seasons of 25 thefts or more from 2004-2009. His best campaign came in 2005 when he belted a career high 18 home runs and knocked in 73 runs to go along with a .314 average. His rewards included being named the starting second baseman in the All-Star Game and an 18th place finish in the MVP race. However, since 2010 a series of injuries have derailed an excellent career. A herniated disk and an abdominal strain limited him to 61 games that year while he suffered a head injury on May 16th, 2011 and never appeared in a game the rest of the season. After rejoining the club in June 2012, he suffered a groin strain and then elected to have season-ending hip surgery.
Roberts’s latest injury came during the third game of the 2013 season when he ruptured a tendon behind his right knee. It is anybody’s guess as to when he will return. Given his recent lengthy history of ailments, it may be a while before we see him again. Some will speculate the reason he has been injured so much is that he is an admitted steroid user although he has claimed to have used only once. I would like to believe him. Before his career is through, I would like Roberts to get into the middle of one, bona-fide playoff chase. Given his stellar performance during the darkest days of the Oriole franchise, it would be tremendous if he could close out his career with one final flourish in a series of games that have great meaning.
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