Reading the blogs over the past few days, most notably Peter Schmuck's blog on baltimoresun.com, I have noticed a rising trend among fans who think that Brian Roberts should be traded before the deadline. I know some of this is in response to Roberts' recent struggles at the plate (he is 0-10 in the last three games and was not in the starting lineup today) but what is more alarming to me is the number of fans who want to trade Roberts because of his attitude.
Many fans cite the fact that Roberts doesn't sprint to first every time he puts the ball in play as proof that his heart isn't in the game and he doesn't want to be here. I personally am a fan of hustle and sometimes it does bother me that Roberts half-asses his way to first, but I tend to forget about those plays (and rightfully so) when he legs out a double on a hit that would be a single for most players, even players as fast or faster than him or when he steals two bases and scores a run after a lead-off single (which has happened multiple times this season). If Roberts sprinted to first on every play (like a rookie trying to make a good impression) he probably would be on base a few more times over the course of the season but I am willing to look the other way on that given he is on pace for about 170 hits and has a .353 OBP, and especially given the fact that he is one of our most consistent hitters (along with Huff and Mora) in clutch situations (those of you hounding Roberts for his recent struggles please go back and watch the highlights from the Mets and Phillies series'). Roberts has been one of the Major's top lead-off hitters for the past five seasons so if he wants to jog to first on a ground ball hit to second base then I'm ok with it, in my mind he's earned the right to do that.
Those people who say Roberts' manerisms convey a poor attitude and are proof that he doesn't want to be here couldn't be anymore off base. Just because the guy doesn't wear his emotions on his sleve doesn't mean he is disgruntled or upset. Roberts knew that the team was in rebuilding mode when he signed his 4-year extension this past off-season and if he didn't want to be apart of that process, he would have taken his services elsewhere (Lord knows there is a high enough market for proven lead-off men). I would like to point fans who have doubts about Roberts' attitude to his video blog on MASNsports.com. In his most recent update he talks about the direction the team is heading and how the recent success has been fun. Roberts definitely has a passion for the game and wants to win and for some players, including Roberts, being loyal and trying to win with the team you came up with is seen as a welcome challenge.
Roberts could have demanded to go to a team that is a World Series contender but the fact that he signed the extension is proof enough for me that he wants to win and wants to do it as an Oriole. Anyone who thinks he isn't having fun should watch the replay of the post game last night when Reimold got the pie in the face- Roberts can be seen with a big smile on his face. It is good to see this positive emotion from Roberts. I know he expects alot of himself and gets angry at himself when he struggles and I think all the recent criticism from the fans has been unfair. Seeing him with a smile on his face after a win is reassuring that he is still having fun being an Oriole.
Let's go back to the idea of trading Roberts. I am a firm believer that you don't get better by trading your best player. Now I know that some people will argue that Markakis or Jones or Huff is our best player but a large part of why those three are so good is because of Roberts. With 84 hits (including 25 doubles), 15 stolen bases, and a .353 OBP (not to mention his 7 HR and 54 RBI), Roberts is one of the top five lead-off men in baseball and trading him would have a ripple effect that would hurt the team's chances at becoming a legitimate contender in the next couple seasons. Sure we might be able to get some good prospects in a trade and we wouldn't lose anything defensively if we made Andino our full time second baseman once Izturis retunrs but the offense and intangibles that Roberts brings are irreplacable in my mind.
If this team is going to compete in the next few years (I am on record for saying I believe it will), we need proven players like Roberts (and Huff) to lead the way. The Orioles have had an identity crisis since Cal Ripken Jr. retired and (other than the negative image associated with Peter Angelos' ownership) in my mind Brian Roberts has been the face of the franchise since then. In the coming years the O's will likely be identified by the likes of Markakis, Wieters, and Jones, but for now (and for the last five years) Roberts is the man and he should recieve the respect from fans that he has earned. I would like to ask all fans who have been critical of Roberts as of late to show him the same loyalty he showed you when he signed the 4-year extension and instead of running off to Chicago or LA or some other team that has World Series hopes this season, made a committment to the Orioles organization and the city of Baltimore in hopes that the seemingly bright future will result in a shot at a world championship.
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