During the offseason, the O’s had several goals in mind. One of which was to get their young stud outfielder Nick Markakis signed to a multi-year extension. Another was to do the same for their veteran second baseman.
Brian Roberts, the team’s switch-hitting leadoff hitter, was signed to a four-year, $44 million extension, giving Orioles’ fans assurance that Charm City’s favorite player was staying with the club.
As the team moves through its rebuilding stage, many people asked the same question: “Where does Roberts fit in?”
Some thought of dealing him, and several offers have arisen over the past two seasons. In 2008, it was rumored that Roberts had been dealt to the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Sean Marshall, Sean Gallagher, and shortstop Ronny Cedeno. This lie was essentially shot down.
In 2009, other Chicago trade talks swirled, centering now around the city’s American League affiliate, the White Sox. There was distinct whispering going around that the O’s had offered a deal to the Sox, sending Roberts to the AL Central for pitcher Gavin Floyd and young second baseman Chris Getz.
In due time, this idea also diminished.
Now, the O’s knew Roberts was there to stay, and now all that was needed was consistent production from their veteran infielder.
Instead of dealing him for prospects, the team had a new plan of action: Keep him at the top of the batting order for the next four years, setting up the hitters behind him. With the recent arrivals of rookies Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold to go with Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, having Roberts leading off each game could only help.
With his ability to swipe bags with ease (40 SBs in ‘08) and rip doubles off the outfield walls (51 2Bs in ‘08), he is the perfect hitter to set up the rest of the lineup.
Now, though, B-Rob (as many O’s fans refer to him as) has re-acquired a new tool he has not unlocked since 2005: Power.
So far this season, he has hit 14 home runs, second to his career high 18 only four years ago. In his last six contests, he has ripped five long balls, proving to fans and analysts alike that the man still has it in him.
So how does this bode for the future?
To put it simply, very well.
Though I do not expect Roberts to hit 15 homers year-after-year, it is still encouraging to know that he has lost little-to-no power over these past few seasons.
With the batting order slowly filling up with young stars bursting with power potential (First baseman Brandon Snyder and third baseman Josh Bell should be joining the big league club sometime in the next season-and-a-half.), it is always good to know the leadoff hitter can also bring some “pop” to the plate.
Is it just me, or does the future of O’s baseball just get better with every new day?
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