It was bound to happen sometime. It happens in every career. Retirement. Most of the time, you’ve done it so long that it’s hard to walk away from it. That’s the case for former Orioles All-Star second baseman, Brian Roberts.
Roberts was drafted by the Orioles in June of 1999 out of South Carolina as a shortstop. He made his professional debut in 1999 with the Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds playing in 47 games and he held a .240 batting average.
The next season in 2000, Roberts started with the Gulf Coast League Orioles before being promoted to Class-A Frederick.
On June 14, 2001, Brian Roberts made his Major League debut. Roberts had been converted to a second baseman due to the Orioles already having a shortstop and they wanted to improve his versatility.
Roberts moved around an awful lot over the next few seasons as he kept going from Triple-A to the Major Leagues.
In 2003 when Jerry Hairston Jr. was placed on the disabled list, Roberts took over at second. That season, Roberts batted .270 in 112 games and was 23 for 29 in stolen bases which was good enough to be tied for eighth in the American League.
In Spring Training of 2004, Roberts once again battled Hairston for the starting second baseman role. Roberts won due to Hairston suffering a fractured finger. When Hairston was activated from the disabled list, the Orioles chose to keep Roberts at second and move Hairston to right field.
Roberts was named Player of the Week in August of 2004 because of how hot Roberts’ bat was. He batted .347 with ten doubles in 107 at-bats. The week Roberts won Player of the Week, he batted .531 over six games. Roberts finished the 2004 season batting .273 with 175 hits in 159 games. He also had 50 doubles which was third best in the majors. His 50 doubles broke an Orioles single-season record originally set by Cal Ripken Jr. and the single-season American League record for doubles hit by a switch hitter.
Before the 2005 season began, the Orioles traded Jerry Hairston Jr. and minor league prospects Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for slugger Sammy Sosa. This trade meant Roberts would be the starting second baseman.
That season, Roberts lead the American League in batting average for a few months but failed to win the American League batting title. In July, Roberts was elected by the fans to his first All-Star Game which was held in Detroit.
During the second half of the season, Roberts began slumping at the plate and the Orioles began to drop in the division. On September 20, 2005, Roberts suffered a dislocated elbow in a game against the New York Yankees and ended his season.
Over the next few seasons, Roberts played exceptionally well despite having a few stints on the disabled list. During the 2007 season, Roberts displayed his speed by stealing 50 bases and finished tied for first in the majors with Carl Crawford.
In 2009, Roberts broke another doubles record. Roberts hit 56 doubles which broke the previous Major League switch-hitting and Orioles team record for doubles that had been set by Roberts himself.
After having his amazing 2009 season, injures began plaguing Roberts. In 2010, Roberts missed most of Spring Training with a herniated disc in his lower back. He recovered in time for Opening Day but had a slow start to the season before suffering an abdominal strain and being placed on the disabled list yet again. On September 27, 2010, Roberts suffered a concussion after he hit himself in the head with his bat in frustration after striking out, thus ending his season.
Roberts suffered yet another concussion on May 16, 2011 at Fenway Park after sliding into first base headfirst. He would miss the rest of the season.
Roberts began the 2012 season on the disabled list before starting a rehab assignment in May. However, Roberts suffered a groin strain during a rehab game and was placed back on the disabled list only to have season ending hip surgery on July 29.
Roberts was healthy during 2013 Spring Training but suffered a ruptured tendon behind his knee on the third game of the Orioles season.
After the season, Roberts signed with the New York Yankees for one season worth $2 million. On Roberts’ return to Camden Yards, Roberts launched a solo home run over the right field wall. On Aug. 1, Roberts was designated for assignment and was released on Aug. 9. Roberts remained a free agent for the remainder of the 2014 season before announcing his retirement on October 17.
During his 14-year career, Roberts batted .276 with 1,527 hits, 97 home runs, 542 RBI’s, 367 doubles, and 285 stolen bases. Roberts did not put up hall-of-fame numbers, but I believe Roberts could be inducted into the Orioles team hall-of-fame.
Roberts played the game hard. He wasn’t afraid to come out of a game with dirt stains on his uniform. Roberts was blessed with speed and he used it to steal 285 bases. Had injures not affected a few of his most recent seasons, Roberts would likely still be the Orioles second baseman even at the age of 37.
Roberts was not known as a tremendous power hitter from both sides of the plate, but as a great guy and player. Roberts often did community work, including his annual charity event where fans had the opportunity to bid on autographed Orioles memorabilia. Roberts was a guy who provided hustle and heart, and therefore will be missed by the Orioles fan base. Maybe one day, Roberts’ son Jax, who was born in 2013, will be playing for the Orioles just like his dad did.