The New York Yankees have signed second baseman Brian Roberts to a one-year deal that is worth $2 million with incentives.
Late last night, just about the time Justin Tucker was kicking a 61-yard field goal to win the game for the Ravens, a tweet from Ken Rosenthal came in that dampened the spirits of this Baltimore sports fan:
Sources: #Yankees likely to sign free-agent 2B Brian Roberts.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2013
My immediate reaction was, of course, NO. No no no no no. There have been rumors (mostly from Jon Heyman) over the past few days that the Yankees are interested in Brian Roberts, but this was the first once saying that it's likely. I told myself that "likely" doesn't mean that it'll happen, of course. The Orioles have been "close" to signing Grant Balfour for a week now. But now word has come out this morning that they have indeed come to agreement:
Brian Roberts and Yankees have agreement for 1-year deal worth around $2 million plus incentives, sources tell @Ken_Rosenthal and me.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 17, 2013
When the Orioles traded for Jemile Weeks, I faced the fact that Roberts' days with the Orioles are over. I speculated that he might retire, and frankly I still sort of wish that he would. But that's very selfish of me.
For a lot of years, Brian Roberts was a very good baseball player on a lousy baseball team. He was the heart of the Orioles during the dark days. With the Yankees he has the chance to be an average player on a team that will probably be a winner, and whose chances of going to the playoffs will be pretty good. It's hard to fault Roberts for wanting that, especially after the Orioles made it clear that they weren't going to bring him back.
When I look at it from that perspective, it's easier to swallow. Will my stomach hurt when I see Brian Roberts in a Yankees uniform? Absolutely. But this isn't about a fan favorite spurning his team to take a few extra million from the Yankees. He's getting $2 million, which in baseball terms is chump change. His motivation is that he wants to play baseball, and he wants to play for a team that will win. The Orioles don't want him, so why not?
I was in the press box for the last game of the season this year, and long after all of the fans had left, Brian Roberts came back out to the field. He was holding his infant son in his arms, and they spent some time out there. He walked out to second base and along the warning track and finally he gave Camden Yards one last long look and went back into the dugout and into the tunnel. It appeared to me that Brian was, just in case, saying goodbye to Camden Yards. It made me a little sad, like I was watching the end of an era. It turns out I was. If Brian does return to Camden Yards in 2014 he'll be in another uniform, and it will be weird.
Since B-Rob signed not just with another team, but with the hated Yankees, there will no doubt be Orioles fans who take it personally. If you're one of them, I hope you'll take into account the circumstances of it all and do your best to remember what a great Oriole Brian Robert was, and what a great person he is. I'll cheer for him upon his return to Camden Yards even though he'll be in pinstripes, and I hope I won't be the only one.