To many fans outside the Baltimore Orioles’ organization, Robert Andino’s recent trade to the Seattle Mariners was but a blip on Major League Baseball's radar.
But to loyal followers of the Birds, Andino’s split was a hard to take. Watching “the curse of the Andino” leave reminded fans yet again that baseball is less a game, more a business.
But since this trade, I have heard several Orioles fans around town shrug and say, “I’m not too worried. We still got Brian Roberts.”
Refreshing to hear. Perhaps these fans believe a smidgen of loyalty still exists toward men like Roberts.
It is indisputable that Roberts is a good spirit and scrappy player, one that O’s fans had come to respect and admire. Roberts was drafted by the Orioles in 1999. He rose through the team’s minor league ranks en route to making his major league debut in 2001.
A two-time All-Star, Roberts’ exciting, blue-collar play gave fans hope for a brighter future—this during difficult summer days, when hope was hard to come by.
A tad more than a decade since taking his first at-bats as an Oriole, Roberts owns a career batting average of .280 to accompany 84 home runs, 482 RBI and 339 doubles. He also has 275 stolen bases.
Respectable statistics indeed.
But do not tell this to the callous pundits who point to Roberts, 35, as being nothing but an aging, injury-prone player who is one fastball to the helmet removed from a second potentially career-ending concussion.
Rallying off this observation, these people call for Baltimore's brass to trade Roberts before the wheels fall off.
But people who are ready to hand the second base reins to Ryan Flaherty should also heed lessons from the 2012 Detroit Tigers regarding the second base position.
Going into the 2012 season, the Tigers were expected by many in the national media to sprint from the gate, gain more speed and hit the afterburners down the stretch toward a World Series victory.
But to the chagrin of many, the Tigers stumbled from the gate and limped around the major league track like a weary, dehydrated horse. Many pundits bewildered as Detroit needed a five-game winning streak to climb to two games above .500 at the All-Star break.
To fans who watched the Tigers on a daily basis, the crystal-clear weakness at the second base position bred a string of new expletives.
Moans and groans near and far, Ramon Santiago batted .216. Danny Worth hit .215. And Ryan Raburn hit a measly .172 at second base.
Make the torture stop! How many Tigers fans rolled out bright red carpet for Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante when the Tigers traded for him and Anibal Sanchez in late summer?
Talk about Christmas in July: Detroit eventually got its house in order in time to win the AL Central and earn a slot in the World Series.
While Infante was not the sole reason the Tigers improved, solidifying the second base position allowed Jim Leyland and Co. to address a few other issues impeding the Tigers from realizing their potential.
With this wisdom applied to the Orioles, Dan Duquette must be careful to avoid the same mistake with a second base position that is already slim pickings.
While Ryan Flaherty is waiting in the wings to possibly become the Orioles' future second baseman, Roberts (barring setback) deserves an opportunity to rise from tragedy to conclude his career on a positive note.
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, Roberts is working hard in Florida to achieve this end.
Per Roberts (from Kubatko):
I'm doing as well as I've done in the last three years. I'm pretty much doing everything. Health-wise, I'm probably ahead of where I'd normally be in the offseason for the first time in a long time.
To watch Roberts return to full-throttle form for the Orioles would be inspiring. Roberts not only blends with Nick Markakis to give the team strong leadership, but his bat at the top of the lineup gives the Birds a new dimension.
Furthermore, if Roberts retains speed with his surgically repaired hip, the Orioles will have a healthy blend of speed and power that will help this team in what is sure to be a very competitive AL East division in 2013.
For Buck Showalter, Roberts gives him great flexibility with his lineup every day. Markakis and Roberts at the top of the lineup will allow Showalter to bat Nate McLouth ninth in the lineup (if he re-signs).
Better yet, Showalter could bat McLouth, Roberts and Markakis at the top of the lineup. This would set a huge table for Adam Jones in the cleanup spot. It would also take pressure off J.J. Hardy, who could move to the five spot (or sixth spot if Showalter had Chris Davis batting fifth).
This does not even account for what will happen when Nolan Reimold returns to the team in 2013.
The Orioles' front office knows this about Roberts: When healthy, he still has more gas in the tank to help this team.
A healthy Roberts is good for the Orioles. And the Birds need to give him a chance to return to a team that appears ready to take that next step forward.
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