Baltimore Orioles: Brian Roberts Announces Retirement


March 25, 2013; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts (1) works out prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Former Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts announced his retirement on Friday on the Fox Sports Radio show of Steve Gorman.

Roberts played 13 seasons for the Orioles before signing a contract with the Yankees for 2014, appearing in 91 games and hitting .237.  He was DFA-ed and released in early August to make a space for the acquisition of Stephen Drew.

Roberts was a first-round draft pick in 1999 as the 50th overall selection. He played two years of college baseball at the University of North Carolina where his father was the coach. He was the ACC player of the year his sophomore season in 1998 and a first team All American.

After his father was fired that year, Roberts transferred to the University of South Carolina. Playing short stop now in the SEC, he stole 67 bases which remain as school and conference records.

In his early seasons with the Orioles, there was the frequent back-and-forth considerations of playing either Roberts or Jerry Hairston, Jr.  After Roberts batted .273 with 50 doubles and 29 stolen bases in 2004, Hairston was traded along with two prospects to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa.

In 2005, Brian Roberts had his first of two All-Star seasons, batting .314 and hitting a career high 18 home runs. He was again an All Star in 2007 with a .287 average and 50 stolen bases.

Though his average had dropped to .283 in 2009, he was again a doubles-hitting machine, knocking a total of 56. By the end of this year, he had a career average of .284 with 318 doubles, 33 triples, 77 home runs, and 256 stolen bases.

Roberts signed a lucrative four-year $40 million contract for 2010-2013. At the time there were some skeptics who wondered if he was worth that amount, though Roberts had been a largely consistent and healthy player.

But it all began to fall apart in 2010. First there was a herniated disc problem in spring training, followed by an abdominal strain early in the season after playing only four games. He returned for the 96th game of the season, though suffered a concussion near the end of the season when he hit himself in the head with a bat. (I hate when that happens!)

In 2011, he suffered a worse concussion in a headfirst slide into first base. This haunted him for the better part of two years. Along the way, through various attempts to return to the field, there was hip surgery, a groin pull, a ruptured tendon, etc. He was never the same, though he played in 77 games for the Orioles in 2013, batting .249.

Signing his $2 million contract with the New York Yankees last year, the deal hit quite a number of Orioles fans as a bit traitorous, especially given the presumption that Roberts bled orange. Some further statements to the effect that every kid grows up dreaming of possibly wearing pinstripes did not help the perception. (That statement did not sit well with me, to be honest; I grew up in northern New Jersey, and as a little boy only ever dreamed of wearing black and orange with an Oriole logo on the cap.)

Yet at the same time, Brian Roberts is one of the most likeable of Orioles players when seen at a FanFest event or in an interview. But yet again, beat reporters seemed to indicate that on the inside of the team, he was difficult to truly know well.

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What will his legacy be in Baltimore? A beloved an appreciated player who was a bright spot in a sea of mediocrity and poor team performance? Or will it be that he is forever remembered as one who jumped from the light into the realm of ultimate darkness and evil with the Yanks?

I believe that after a couple of years it will be more the former than the latter … for two reasons …

Brian Roberts did not play well or long for the Yankees, he did not really hurt the Orioles during his tenure there, and he did not help them get into the playoffs at the O’s expense.

And secondly, it is probable from what has been seen of Jonathan Schoop that his defense and power numbers and eventual hitting successes will make Brian Roberts be little more than a distant pleasant reminiscence.