Olivia Witherite: The importance of bringing back Roberts

As a young Orioles fan, I did not have the opportunity to grow up watching the legends that have defined the franchise. Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Rick Dempsey and even Cal Ripken Jr. unfortunately do not headline most of the memories that I have of the Birds. While I have grown up hearing and reading about them, I am what you could call Generation Y of Orioles fans.

So although marked by many losing seasons that have included rotation struggles, errors, lack of situational hitting, etc., there have been different bright spots that have shone radiantly to me as a fan. One of those bright spots is none other than Brian Roberts.

A huge part of the Orioles since his debut in 2001, Roberts is also a huge part of why I root for the men in orange and black. Even when he was injured, I still wore my Roberts jersey with pride. I have signed memorabilia from him - I’m definitely a fan in the commercial sense of the word.

But it’s more than that. Seeing him steal bases always thrilled me and other fans. The second baseman gave the lineup a prototypical leadoff hitter, a guy who can take pitches, foul balls off and wait patiently at the plate to get the pitch he wants - or walk to first when he doesn’t.

However, when I first heard he was close to returning, only part of me was enthralled. As much as I love watching B-Rob play, I watched a younger Robert Andino doing a good job in the middle infield.

And then June happened. Andino is currently hitting .189/.211/.243 in the month. For the season, he leads the league in errors with nine. That number ties the most he’s had in a single season, and like I said, it’s still June.

Compared to Andino, Roberts takes more pitches per plate appearance, approximately 3.95 in his career. Despite having speed, Andino is not a base stealer. When Andino is the leadoff hitter and draws a walk or slaps a single, there is minimal chance he will put himself in scoring position. Roberts has maxed out at 50 stolen bases in a season, and he had six in 39 games in 2011 before going on the disabled list.

Roberts also is a doubles machine. Although Endy Chavez and Andino, among others, have been rotating in and out of the leadoff spot, there is no one on the roster who is a pure leadoff guy like Roberts. Although the home runs from J.J. Hardy to start off games last season were nice to see, what the Orioles really need is to get someone on base, who threatens to score and to distract the pitcher from the batter he’s facing.

So even though he may be getting past his prime, so to speak, I for one am excited for Roberts to come back to an Orioles team that is winning. And, no, it’s not just because I’m a Generation Y fan; I think he gives the O’s the best chance to win. His veteran experience and leadoff abilities may be the pieces that the lineup so desperately needs.

Here’s to waiting for an announcement tomorrow ...

Olivia Witherite blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and her opinions appear here as part of MASN’s season-long 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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