Ryan Roberts was not a real power hitter. He was not an average hitter. He did not steal a ton of bases. He was not a Gold Glover. So what or who was Ryan Roberts? He was a hustler. He was a great teammate. He was a fan favorite. He was a gamer. He was clutch. He played the game with incredible emotion. In short, Ryan Roberts cared. He cared about winning, he cared about his teammates, and he cared about the fans.
Ryan Roberts signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 2008 after bouncing around with the Rangers and Blue Jays organizations for the previous three seasons. Roberts appeared in just 18 total games in those three years and got just two hits in 27 at-bats.
Roberts made the opening day roster in 2009 for the first time in his career. He rapidly became the most noticeable player in the field with his 30-plus tattoos. However, it was the way that he played the game that quickly made him a fan favorite. Whether he was stealing a base or diving for a grounder, you could bet that his uniform would be dirty after every game.
Roberts enjoyed by far his best season in 2009, finishing with a .279 batting average (17 doubles, two triples, seven homers), 25 RBI, 40 walks and 41 runs scored, in just 305 at-bats.
Unfortunately for Roberts, 2010 was not kind to him. After enjoying so much success during the previous season, Ryan struggled and hit just .197 in 36 games. Roberts even admitted that he became complacent and began to take things for granted. Roberts spent a large part of that season in AAA and was desperate for a return to the big show.
Roberts spent the offseason doing everything he could to improve and get back to the major leagues. His hard work paid off as he was once again named to the opening day roster in 2011. However, he was the last man in, thanks in large part due to an injury to another player. Roberts knew it might be his last shot, and he was not about to let it slip away. He started the season by hitting .313 with five homers and 15 RBI in April. Due to other players not being productive or being injured, Ryan spent the entire season with the big league club, and he was one of the biggest unsung heroes of the 2011 team and finished with 19 homers and 65 RBI.
Roberts provided arguably one of the most exciting non-playoff moments in Diamondbacks history on the second to last day of the season when he hit a two-out walk-off grand slam to beat the Dodgers by one in extra innings and kept Arizona’s hope for home-field advantage in the playoffs intact.
Roberts continued his break out season by hitting another grand slam, just a week later, in the NL Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ryan Roberts was an everyday second baseman at one point. Then he was an everyday third baseman. He even played in the outfield when the team needed him to. Roberts batted in every spot in the lineup except third and cleanup. Some days he started, some days he pinch-hit, and some days he did not play at all. Ryan Roberts was the ultimate team player.
Earlier this week, Ryan Roberts was designated for an assignment and then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. It is no secret that Arizona was not getting the production that it needed out of Roberts at the third base position this year. Admittedly, I had been calling, most of the season, for Arizona to make a move at that spot. And yet, now that the Diamondbacks have indeed changed things up and sent Roberts to Tampa, I regret ever thinking those things.
Without me even realizing it, Roberts had become one of my favorite players, for many of the reasons I stated near the beginning. Simply put, he was fun to watch. If you needed a big hit, he would deliver. He was not afraid to put his body on the line when racing for a foul ball near the stands. And you could tell, when he failed to move a runner up, or get a runner in from third, he was genuinely upset—not because he wanted to add to his RBI total, but because he wanted to help his team win.
Being able to root for Ryan Roberts for the past three-and-a-half years has truly been a blessing. On behalf of all Arizona fans, it has been a pleasure watching you play baseball. You will truly be missed in Arizona, and we wish you nothing but the best in Tampa Bay.