I’d been contemplating a post on the sociological impact of free agency when the news came yesterday that O’s second baseman Brian Roberts had signed with the New York Yankees. I have to admit, I wasn’t terribly sad – even though it was the Yankees. With a lifetime batting average of .278, two concussions, and fewer than 200 games played over the last four seasons, I wasn’t sure Roberts was what Baltimore needed at second base anymore. But I noticed other folks lamenting the deal in the comment sections of various news articles. So I decided to figure out what Roberts’ move to New York really means for Baltimore.
According to the New York Daily News, “Five years ago, Brian Roberts’ defection from Baltimore to the Bronx would have been huge news.” However, the article continues, Roberts’ age and his injuries over the past five years lessen the significance of the move. Commenters on that article ranged from seeing it as a low-risk deal with potential for a high return, while others were just your average ornery Yankees fans.
The Baltimore Sun, of course, ran several articles on the deal. Writer Childs Walker, perhaps, did the best sociological analysis of the deal. Roberts had spent his entire career up to this point with the Baltimore Orioles. According to Walker, “The guy has put together an incredibly interesting career. He was arguably the face of the Orioles during the gloomiest stretch in franchise history. He intersected with two of the darkest clouds in sports — performance-enhancing drugs and concussions. Nonetheless, his jersey remained one of the most popular at Camden Yards, he inspired rare affection from Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos, and he drew enormous respect from opposing players.”
Thus, the primary impact of Roberts’ leaving is that he was the one player who had been with the O’s for the greatest length of time – 13 years. In a way, he was the face of the Orioles, the guy who stuck with us during those bad times that we like to forget, someone the fans could appreciate and identify with. After all, everyone seemed to like him, and Charm City is a likeable kind of town. Roberts represented our team and our city incredibly well. Then again, maybe its time for a new era in Baltimore Orioles history.
Roberts made his debut on a Baltimore team in 2001 that included not only Mike Bordick and Cal Ripken, but also Willis Roberts, Calvin Maduro, and Eugene Kingsale (remember them?). That year, the O’s were 63 and 98. Although we steadily improved from there, we didn’t even get to .500 until 2012. Somehow, it’s just hard to imagine a player leaving after going through all that. Of course, that’s the fan perspective. There are other factors to consider, such as the business aspects of it all.
The Sun’s Peter Schmuck summed the whole thing up rather nicely: “Orioles fans will see this as a major betrayal by a much-loved player who was paid $40 million over the past four years to play very little because of a laundry list of injuries, but Roberts isn’t going to have many more chances to get a World Series ring at this late stage in his career. … It’s not like the Orioles front office beat down his door to keep him here — and it’s probably time for the Orioles to move on at second base, anyway. But it’s the evil Yankees, so it’s still going to sting a little.”
Yeah. It’s the evil Yankees (hey – his words, not mine!) (at least not this time). And that’s the thing I find most fascinating about the situation – the propensity of the Yankees to sign former Orioles, and vice-versa. Maybe we’re more alike than we like to admit.
But I’ll save that to contemplate another day. In the mean time, I wonder if B-Rob will still wear no. 1 in New York?
Enjoy the Big Apple, Brian!