O’s reward Roberts for 8-years of losing

February 19, 2009 | Drew Forrester

The Orioles might finally be getting it.

With the imminent signing of Brian Roberts to a 4-year contract, it appears as if “doing the right thing” – even when the cost outweighs the justice – has once again become important to the franchise.

After jerking Roberts around for the better part of 15 months, the O’s have possibly realized that step one in rebuilding isn’t as much about getting better players as it is treating the players you have better.

This could be a fluke, of course.  After all, Sublime even produced one decent album. What was it that Elvis Costello said?  “Accidents will happen”.

But, I’m thinking this Roberts-signing-thing isn’t an accident.  I think they’re finally catching on in The Warehouse. 

The Roberts signing is noble on a variety of levels.

It’s a reward, more than anything else.  A reward for playing 976 games in Baltimore over an 8-year period during the gloomiest era in franchise history.  A reward for being the team’s model employee in the community and being yo-yo’d around by Andy MacPhail.  A reward, mostly, for never publicly “outing” the franchise for the flimsy manner in which they’ve treated him and several others throughout this decade.  

B-Rob just picked up a $40 million check and in the notes column, MacPhail wrote: “Hush Money”.

No one in the organization deserves to be rewarded more than Roberts.  He worked hard every day and kept his mouth shut.  And he’s been a helluva player in Baltimore. They say “loose lips sink ships”. Roberts could have put a hole in the O’s boat on several occasions over the last few years when they were losing and the ballpark was empty.  He’s seen firsthand how downtrodden the organization has been and he knows more than anyone else in that locker room how the on-field product has been ignored for much of the last eight years.

B-Rob had (still has) more than enough evidence to sink the O’s ship.

But, he didn’t.  

And the Orioles might be starting to understand that hanging on to good, quality people is the foundation for winning, both on the field and in the stands.  

They might have overpaid for Roberts.  After all, Orlando Hudson is younger (31), he doesn’t have a team as of now, and, he’d probably be a sliver less expensive than #1. 

But if anyone deserves a few extra bucks for all that he’s done, it’s Roberts.

Andy MacPhail only arrived in June of 2007.  He probably saw B-Rob as a decent player and a guy worth having, but not someone to cave in to if negotiations reached a stalemate. What MacPhail didn’t realize was the role Roberts played in the community.  At a time when less fans were going to the games and more players were putting in fewer hours to help fill the seats, Roberts continued to be the pied piper even though the franchise kept telling him to rent, not buy.

Maybe MacPhail is finally getting it.  He’s been awfully effective at trimming payroll thus far in his executive-ship in Baltimore.  Perhaps he’ll be equally effective at treating the right people the right way in the future. 

The team matters to Baltimore.  The players who wear their heart on their sleeve matter too.  Those players might not matter to MacPhail, because he doesn’t pay for a ticket.  But on a team with only a smattering of marketable faces, it’s time the franchise gets back to the business of trying to keep the good guys instead of pawning them off because they either make too much money or they aren’t part of some 5-year plan that they’re peddling to the faithful.

It’s been a long time coming for Brian Roberts.  As the saying goes, “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

He shouldn’t have been put through this in the first place, but a lesson has hopefully been learned.

In the future, when the O’s have a good player that the fans love, maybe they’ll remember that it’s perfectly OK to reward him AND them.