I was sitting in the stands on Tuesday night watching the Orioles lose to the Blue Jays when I became very aware of the fact that these may be the last few days of Brian Roberts' Orioles career. There are a few ways it could go for him after this year, but the truth is that his days of being an above-average baseball player are over. Even if he wants to stay in baseball, there may not be a place for him on the Orioles.
No one will ever confuse Brian Roberts for Cal Ripken, but their careers do have one big similarity: for many years they were one of the only bright spots on a losing baseball team. This season is the only year of Brian's career in which he has played on a team with a winning record (if you don't count his 17 games played in 2012), and if his career IS ending, he'll never have a playoff appearance.
There are three possible options for Roberts at the end of this season. He can re-sign with the Orioles, sign with another team, or retire from baseball. If he does sign with another team I expect it'll be a short lived and unsuccessful venture, much like Brady Anderson playing for the 2002 Indians.
So what are the chances that the Orioles want Roberts back next season? Even Brian recognizes that they are slim. In an interview with Steve Melewski he said, "I'm just trying to enjoy every day that I've had here and I've loved all 14 or 15 years I've been in the Orioles organization. Hopefully it's not the end, but if it is, I'm certainly grateful for every day I've had. I'm going to enjoy this last week and hopefully it's not going to be my last week."
It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Orioles need Brian Roberts in 2014. Second base will likely be one of the areas where they try to upgrade for next year, so the only possible place for him is as a bench player. And at this stage of his career he's not a defensive upgrade over most players and while he can still work the count in an at-bat, he's not much a threat to get on base. Additionally, the Orioles have Ryan Flaherty who can play above average defense at multiple positions who can fill that role, if he's not starting next season.
If Roberts calls it a career after this weekend, I'll be sad. I'll understand, but I'll be sad. He's been an Oriole so long that he played with Ripken back in 2001. He's never been anything other than an Oriole, and for a stretch of five or six seasons he was one of the better second baseman and leadoff batters in the game. He was the best Oriole for most of those same seasons, and as we rooted for doomed team after doomed team, Brian brought us quite a bit of joy. I will miss him very much.
If you think about it, now would be a good time for him to retire. He's been a major league baseball player for the team that drafted him for thirteen seasons. He's no longer great, but he's not yet terrible. He fought back from his injuries and played regularly from June 30th through the end of the season, so injury isn't forcing him into retirement. It can be his own decision.
Whatever happens with Brian, it was a privilege to see his brand of baseball for the last thirteen seasons. He'll always be one of my favorite all-time Orioles.