Neal Shaffer: Tell the truth: Do you want Brian Roberts back?

Brian Roberts is a great Oriole. This much is beyond dispute. Great on the field, obviously, but as importantly, he's been a great presence on the team. Excepting the one obvious blemish on his record (and we don't need to go deep into that, right?) he's basically been a model player. Good in the community, by all accounts good in the clubhouse and seemingly just a good guy. Can't ask for much more than that.

The great lament of his career is that he spent his prime on some of the worst teams we've ever seen in Baltimore. That the squad appears to be improving now, as he works his way back from concussion-related symptoms, seems unfair. The guy deserved better than he got.

That's the frame. Now that he's heading to an injury rehab assignment and beginning the process of rejoining the major league club, we have to be honest and ask ourselves: Is having him back actually a good thing from a baseball perspective?

The team is playing well. Concussions are strange and difficult things and every time Roberts dives, slides or lunges we will all be holding our breath wondering if he'll be OK. He's nearing the wrong side of prime at 34, and Robert Andino has established himself as a solid, everyday major leaguer. These are all legitimate reasons to wonder if it's wise to make room for Roberts.

On the flip side, we can't discount the record. When physically and mentally healthy, he's a great player who could help any team. Even at 34, he could still be reasonably expected to produce for a few more years.

There's no simple answer here, especially without seeing how he performs in 20 days of minor league rehab. But let's say for the sake of argument that he goes through the process and looks OK, which I believe is how things are likely to go.

What then?

Maybe Andino moves to third or back to a super utility role. Maybe Roberts becomes a hybrid DH/bench player/spot starter. I have complete faith in Buck Showalter's ability to handle it. What I'm more interested in here is the fan perspective. Do you actually want Roberts back?

Not will you take him or welcome him, since I know we'll all do both. No, I'm looking for cold and sober analysis: do you want him back?

I say yes only because I think he can still be better than the 24th or 25th man right now. But do I want him back as a starter from day one, at second bsae and leadoff? Can't say that I do. I think he's got to earn that if he can or otherwise settle into a different role, one that better suits the team as currently constructed for a post-Roberts era. Anything else feels like bad strategy.

What about you?

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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