Before saying anything that could be construed as criticism of Brian Roberts, I feel obligated to say the following:
I am in awe of Roberts and his comeback…simple as that. Baseball aside, by most accounts, the last year or so of Roberts’ life has been horrific. That he’s well enough to play is secondary to the fact that he’s well enough to enjoy his life. Given all that we’ve learned about concussions and their impacts in recent years, and all that Roberts experienced first hand as a result of his own concussions, it would have been easy for the longest tenured Oriole to ride out the remainder of his guaranteed contract, add on to his substantial bank account and ease into enjoying the next phase of his life. Enjoying the next phase of his life being the most important part of the entire statement, it can’t be ignored that with each game Roberts may be risking his ability to do just that. And for that I stand in simple admiration of his spirit and character.
He is however a baseball player, and inevitably all conversations will eventually lead back to his ability to play the game. And in that department, there are still a million questions yet to be answered about Roberts.
Surely the Orioles resurgence (brief as it may be) since Roberts departure, along with their slide (coincidental or not) during his return will lead fans to question whether he’s what’s been wrong with the team lately. And statistically it’s a fair question.
The sample size is small, and the real truth is that as Roberts’ injuries have been described, he wasn’t able to do much of anything while dealing with the concussions and their aftermath. Being away from the game, and his regular conditioning programs for as long as Roberts was, appears to have taken its toll. So far the approach seems similar to the Roberts of old, but the results have been anything but, and lack of extra base hits is becoming alarming for the one-time best doubles hitter in baseball.
Maybe the itch to get back to action caused the player and the team to rush. Maybe the 20-game maximum rehab assignment just isn’t enough for a player that far removed from the game to get his rhythm, timing and strength back.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Roberts to concede the injury and return to the DL after all that he’s been through to get back. I’d like to believe that the “groin strain” is a way to get Roberts back into the weight room for a week or two and then back to the minors for another 20-games or so to really find his game again.
It’s easy to say that the O’s can’t win with Roberts and he’s certainly a tough guy to count on as you look ahead. Still, Roberts is nowhere close to himself yet, and the proposition of getting him there eventually should be encouraging to the team and their fans. It also seems a lot more realistic than waiting for them to make a big trade to add some talent.