Brian Roberts left Orioles fans wanting more
Jan. 24, 2014
"This was the only place I wanted to be the rest of my career."
MLB Network dubbed centerfielder Adam Jones the "Face of the Orioles" earlier this month as part of a poll that also garnered votes for Gary Thorne, Bill Ripken, and Kevin Millar. (Don't question the system!) While the poll means little, it provides a nice segway into the news of the week: Brian Roberts' first public comments about signing with the Yankees.
Roberts, who not so long ago was arguably the Face of the Orioles, gave the Baltimore media the Heisman on his way out of town, as Eduardo Encina reports: "After agreeing to a deal with the Yankees, Roberts didn't give The Baltimore Sun an exit interview despite numerous requests." Tsk. Tsk.
Roberts saved his remarks for his new local media, telling the YES Network this week that he was one of those kids who dreamed of putting on the Yankees uniform, among other quotes lauding his new employer. Being that it was a Yankees audience, he said little about his time with the Orioles. (Side note: It will be interesting to see what he tells the local outlets when he returns to Baltimore as a visitor.)
It's difficult to be outraged about Roberts remaining mum on the Orioles and taking a pro-Yankees stance. This is what baseball players do. Remember the quotable Mark Teixeira? Go back and read this 2008 post on Dempsey's Army to get a nice rundown of all the places - including Baltimore, Hon! - that allegedly pulled at Tex's heart strings. Or more appropriately, his purse strings.
Back in 2009, Roberts said the right things about "the only place I wanted to be" and "the value of loyalty" when he re-upped with the O's (I suppose I should say re-signed rather than re-upped to avoid confusion; this is Baltimore, after all). And, it would seem, he did the right things in the community while he was an Oriole. Here's the sticking point: He never truly became the Face of the Orioles that fans and the media seemed to crave.
After signing their respective big money contracts, Roberts and Nick Markakis, you know, were pestered for not stepping up and becoming leaders in the clubhouse. The 2009ish teams featured some likable, unassuming guys - including Manager Dave Trembley - but the Orioles were losing a lot and lacked a clear identity. Leadership became a buzz word at Camden Yards long before it crossed MLK Boulevard and reached M&T Bank Stadium this season.
Roberts was a promising star for the Orioles during an otherwise dismal time, a ray of hope if not a bright light. He represented optimism and enthusiasm for a fan base that had little of each. But a big contract, some unusual injuries, and a confusing extended silence while he was on the shelf changed the narrative. He became yet another Orioles could-have-been story.
He was a two-time All Star. He set an O's single-season record for doubles. But in the end, O's fans wanted more from Brian Roberts than we got. His YES interview is perhaps a fitting farewell. One final time, he left us wanting more.