You might never cheer for a team with a second baseman better than Brian Roberts was in 2005. His career ends on a sadder note, a half-decade ruined by injuries. In honor of his career, we're reprinting all 14 comments written about him for the BP Annual, from the first in 2001 ("after having surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow") through last winter's ("myriad injuries have limited…"). Enjoy.
|2014||The discussion on Roberts begins and ends with his health record, as myriad injuries have limited the once-excellent second baseman to just 192 games (30 percent of the schedule) in the last four seasons. Knee, hip, groin and concussion have been the culprits, so it's not one particular injury or even one particular area of his body. Now 36, the outlook isn’t great. The injuries have not only robbed him of playing time but have conspired with time to sap his skill, yielding a well below-average stat line when you sum up the last four years. (See also his PECOTA projection.) On the plus side, Roberts was on the field for the final three months of the 2013 season. It's something!|
|2013||They say that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Perhaps they should also say, “Those with glass bones shouldn’t play baseball.” Roberts has shown a serious case of reverse Unbreakable syndrome over the past three years, making four 60-day DL trips and spending a grand total of 420 days on the shelf thanks to maladies as varied as concussions and a hip labrum tear, not to mention a few weeks with nagging injuries that didn’t merit roster moves. Even in his brief time on the field last year, Roberts looked to be an absolute mess, and two of his biggest assets, speed and defense, may have declined to the point that he will no longer be a suitable starter even if he recovers from hip surgery.|
|2012||Another year, another 100+ day DL stint. What else is new for Brian Roberts? In 2010 it was an abdominal strain that kept him sidelined; in 2011 it was a concussion. Talent isn't a question with Roberts; his ability to stay on the field is. The problem now, however, is that he's 34 years old and hasn't played a full season since 2009. Even if he can stay healthy in 2012, it's hard to know what to expect. His primary asset has always been his speed, but he's lost quite a bit of it over the past two seasons and is unlikely to ever steal 30 bases again. He could probably still pop a dozen or so homers in a full season and get on base at a clip of .350, though, which would be plenty of value for the O's. The team will be much happier if we're right about Roberts's PECOTA-projected .262 TAv, than if he has another year at .217.|
|2011||Showalter got all the credit for reinvigorating the Orioles, but a good share of the applause should have gone to Roberts for handling the practical, as opposed to the motivational, side of things. Having missed all but four games with a herniated disk, as well as a connoisseur’s collection of other injuries, Roberts’ late-July return pushed the defensively ineffective Ty Wigginton and Julio Lugo off of second base; Roberts isn’t Frank White with the glove, but he’s an all-time great compared to that pair of keystone impostors. The impact on the pitching staff was hard to overstate. However, even after returning, Roberts missed time due to a bruised shin, a hip strain, a sore knee, and “concussion-like symptoms,” the last apparently the result of his knocking himself in the helmet with his bat. Signed through 2013, the question now is whether Roberts can return to the .290/.370/.444 form of 2007-2009 and stay intact long enough to reward the Orioles for the $30 million still headed his way.|
|2010||Another year, another 30 steals, another 50 doubles (joining Stan Musial, Paul Waner, and Tris Speaker as the only players to have three 50-double seasons). Roberts signed a contract extension prior to the season that will keep him a Bird through 2013, when he'll be 35. Signing any player through age 35 is a risk, but Roberts has been as healthy and consistent as is possible. Players of comparable age and performance active this decade include Miguel Tejada, Derek Jeter, and Ray Durham, all of whom held reasonable value from the ages of 32-35.|
|2009||Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was that Roberts stayed with the Orioles all year, despite frequent rumors that had him headed somewhere for something (usually Wrigleyville, for lots, or little, or anything else in between). The talk this winter is about getting him signed to a contract extension. This presents a thorny dilemma. As one of the top leadoff men in baseball right now, Roberts would be very hard to replace, particularly as the Orioles have no one in their system remotely comparable. He's also very popular. On the other hand, his age is such that he may not not be a valuable contributor by the time the Orioles are in contention (whenever that will be), and it's unlikely his market value will be any higher than it is now.|
|2008||If Roberts can finish out his contract with two more years remotely like his last two, he could pass Bobby Grich as the best second baseman in Oriole history, despite his playing during a much more bleak period in the franchise's existence. That assumes that he'll stay an Oriole; with a salary roughly half of Miguel Tejada's, he might actually be the team's most valuable trade commodity. An underrated player and an absolute workout fanatic, he could be a steal for whatever team acquires him.|
|2007||Roberts was slow to recover from the awful elbow injury that ended his 2005 season; even though he was on the field to start 2006, he wasn`t reallyback. For the first half of the season, Roberts was little more than a slap-hitter, albeit an effective one–a .330 average with nine steals, like he had in April, is plenty valuable, even without any power. He was still hitting .309/.376/.395 when he popped his first dinger near the end of June, compared to .271/.327/.420 afterwards. Chicks may dig the long ball, but Roberts was a more valuable player when the injury forced him to ignore it.|
|2006||Roberts was the biggest reason the Orioles jumped out to an early lead. While he cooled off significantly in the second half (.335 EQA before the All-Star break, .280 after), his "after" performance would still have marked the best season of his career. You can`t talk about building on the season, though, because of the September 21st collision with Bubba Crosby that just about tore his left arm off. The surgery to repair his elbow went well, and he is expected to be ready for spring. The severity of the injury was such that we won`t know if his abilities have been compromised in any way until we`ve seen him play.|
|2005||Roberts has been going head-to-head with Jerry Hairston for the second base job for the last three years, and finally seems to have won it. Overall, 2004 wasn't appreciably different from any other year in his career: moderate average, takes walks, steals bases, a steady defender. One big difference? Doubles.
In 1901, the American League's first season, a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers named John Anderson hit 46 doubles, setting a league record for doubles by a switch-hitter that would stand for more than 100 years. Since those 100 years expired, four different player made a run at this record, each one getting a little closer. Ray Durham hit 42 in 2001; Carlos Beltran hit 44 in 2002; Bill Mueller hit 45 in 2003. It was Brian Roberts who finally broke it in 2004, hitting 50. He also became the first Oriole ever to hit 50 doubles in a season. It would be safe to expect fewer doubles, but similar overall production in 2005.
|2004||For the second year in a row, Roberts came into the season playing second fiddle to Jerry Hairston, and for the second time it wasn't clear who the better player was, or is. Roberts's regular season was just a continuation of a strong performance in the Puerto Rican league last winter (translated .306/.391/.446). Between Roberts, Hairston, and now Fontenot, the Orioles are facing a second base glut. There was a lot of talk about moving Roberts back to short, but they only managed to test that out for two games in September, and the Tejada signing torpedoes the idea entirely.|
|2003||Roberts’s season was literally up and down. It started down in the minors so that he could play every day. But he was playing so well that in May he was called up and briefly took the second base job away from Hairston. He slumped after a hot start, so Hairston took the job back, and Roberts went back to Rochester at the All-Star break. A week later Bordick gets hurt, and they wanted Roberts to replace him, except that the Orioles were in Toronto at the time, and Roberts had left his passport at his mother’s, so Luis Matos got called up instead. A few days later Chris Richard was supposed to be activated, only he hurt himself in pregame warmups, so now Roberts got his call, only to go back down four days later when Richard isn’t really hurt. Then he got sick, played poorly through August and not at all in September, before turning around and being one of the top hitters in the Puerto Rican winter league. It would have been worth it to give him a full year at short to see what happens, but the Orioles have signed Deivi Cruz to man the position after Bordick’s departure.|
|2002||In the organizational tradition of David Lamb and Jesse Garcia, Roberts has been praised for his fielding, so his performance in 2001 was a disappointment. He was coming off of elbow surgery in 2000, and his throwing was erratic. Nine of his 14 major-league errors at shortstop were on throws—not that a stiff-backed David Segui helped much. Roberts hit well for his first two months, but once teams saw him again, his bat disappeared like a teenager's allowance. If his defense doesn’t recover, he has no future beyond the International League.|
|2001||Brian Roberts missed most of 2000 after having surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, then he had to drop out of the Arizona Fall League because the elbow was bothering him again. He was drafted and signed out of college in 1999, so there’s not a lot of professional performance to evaluate. What performance there is suggests he can eventually be an average major-league shortstop. Even if his bat doesn’t develop, his glove willl likely be good enough for him to make the majors as a backup. Ed Rogers should give him a challenge, if he needs the motivation.|
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