Found July 02, 2013 on
MLB Injury News:
When Brian Roberts trotted onto the field on Sunday night for the first time since April 4th, Orioles fans everywhere were holding their collective breath. When would it happen? Would it be a hamstring coming around second, or a fastball to the pinky in his second at bat? There were endless possibilities, but one thing was going through everybody’s minds– please don’t get injured.
The words “healthy” and “Brian Roberts” do not fit into the same sentence in the minds of Orioles fans. A quick Google search of articles relating to Roberts over the last four years will produce lines like “As Roberts faces yet another injury… ” and “With Roberts headed for another stint on the DL… ” Roberts has appeared in only 118 games over the last four seasons. He hasn’t played more than 60 games in a season since 2010.
After almost a decade as the Orioles’ Golden Boy, Roberts hit a skid in 2010. Injuries plagued him over the next several seasons, including a head injury in 2011 that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He attempted to come back in June of 2012, but was only back a few weeks before being sidelined once again with a groin strain. He elected to have season-ending hip surgery and did not play again in 2012.
After the 2012 season, the announcement that Roberts would be returning to the field to start the 2013 season came with mixed responses. Many fans were quick to express that they had given up on Roberts, no longer considering him a part of the Orioles team. “Jaded” was heard more often than “hopeful.” Some of the faithful held on, however, ready to accept this new season as a fresh start with the lasting effects of his concussion finally behind him. Then came April 4th.
Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES): Brian Roberts injured his right knee sliding headfirst into 2d and was just helped off the field. Poor guy can't stay on the field.
Jonathan Bernhardt (@jonbernhardt): And whoever had 3 games in the Brian Roberts DL pool, please claim your prize.
Scott Reiss (@ScottReissCSN): OK who had Day 4 in the pool? RT @karlravechespn: Brian Roberts hurt his right knee stealing second base in 9th inning up 6-2.
Once again, Roberts was headed to the disabled list, only three games into the season. For many, this injury was the final straw, the punch line to a bad joke. He just can’t stay healthy, and it’s time to move on. Right? Not necessarily.
There are plenty of players that would be easy to give up on, but Roberts isn’t one of them. He is likable; a charitable family man with an inexhaustible willingness to sign autographs and to smile for photos. When a player nobody likes gets hurt, it’s easy to write him off, however this is not the case with Roberts. Fans certainly appear to be tired, frustrated, and without much hope, but many desperately want to keep believing. The reception he received upon returning to the big leagues on Sunday night is as good an indication as any; he walked on the field to a standing ovation at every at-bat. Baltimore fans are still not ready to give up. Roberts was the face of the Orioles during some of their worst years; the fans owe it to him to see him through his worst, and hopefully through to the other side. Roberts, himself, is frustrated but determined, and half the battle is having the willingness to fight, which it seems he does. He is old enough at this point that he could easily give up after all the injuries. But he hasn’t. His head injury, his most dramatic, almost sidelined him forever. The fact that he has had the determination and the willingness to fight through and to return to the field says it all.
Now that Roberts is finally back in an O’s uniform, do they need him? Fans may love him for what he has contributed in the past, but does he have a place on this team? In his absence, Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla have filled his position. After a disappointing start to the season, Flaherty has recently become a hot hitter and is making a case for his spot on the field. With prospect Jonathan Schoop ready to be the second baseman of the future, the second base position is a question without an easy answer.
It’s often said that second basemen age faster than many other position players. Being successful at the “young man’s position” that is second baseman is difficult as players enter their 30’s. Roberts would be kidding himself if he expected to hit the field as the same second baseman he was five years ago. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue to play good baseball, he just has to make the right adjustments to his game. There are examples all over the league of aging second basemen that never make it back from injuries. There are also a number of success stories involving second basemen that return as designated hitters or pinch hitters and do quite well. Carlos Baerga is a great example. He went so far as to retire from major league baseball after a few injury-riddled years only to return as a designated hitter and to contribute solidly for a few seasons. Roberts’s first start on Sunday night was as the designated hitter, a role that could be a great fit for him. Although Roberts is slated to return to his second base position for his next start, I think he might find more success at DH in the long term.
After his first start on Sunday, there were plenty of well-wishers, but also plenty of doubters, armed with the same injury-themed jokes.
Tim Gilman (@timinBaltimore): If Brian Roberts comes through here, absolutely don’t pie him after the game. Too risky.
The Baltimore Orioles are in second place in the AL East, only 2.5 games back of the Red Sox. If Roberts can stay healthy and tune out the jokesters, he may be able to remind O’s fans why he is their Golden Boy and reach the first post-season of his career. No matter what happens, he will able to say he didn’t go down without a fight.
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