I can understand that some fans are disappointed that Brian Roberts has not been able to contribute much to the Orioles over the last few seasons. I can get that some fans doubt he can return to the form he once showed or even close to it. I can get that some fans don’t think he can come back at all.
But I don’t get some of the almost nasty comments I see from time to time on various message boards.
I can assure those fans, a seemingly small but vocal segment, that Roberts didn’t get hurt just to tick you off and that he didn’t intend to sign a big contract with the club and then start missing games.
Some fans almost seem to be rooting against him and seem to revel when he makes a mistake like a throw that almost pulled Chris Davis off the bag in the first inning Monday against the Yankees.
I am sure some of the same fans were cheering him when he was cranking out 40- and 50-double seasons, playing solid defense, hitting nearly .300, scoring 100 runs and doing it with an on-base percentage in the high .300s.
Roberts has become a lightning rod for criticism and sometimes it seems to bring out the worst in some fans. He didn’t force the Orioles to sign him to a big-bucks deal, he just played very well as a homegrown player and the team offered him the contract.
It seems some fans feel Roberts is being handed the second base job. But isn’t the team just giving its most talented player for that position a chance to prove he is healthy and can be a contributor again? The club has backup plans in place if need be.
When Roberts doubled twice Monday, manager Buck Showalter didn’t heap him with praise. He noted Roberts’ good at-bats but also said, “He’s getting there. ... We’ve got a long way to go.”
Roberts is not blocking any prospects from playing second base or holding anyone back. If he can’t do the job, do you really think Buck and Dan Duquette will keep him out there night after night?
If Roberts can even play close to what he last showed as a full-time player in 2009, it would be huge for this team, which has an offense that scored only around the league average in runs last season.
At FanFest, Roberts said he understood that he had some doubters among the fanbase.
“I don’t hold anything against anyone that doesn’t think I can do it anymore. That’s fine,” Roberts said in January. “I had people 12 years ago that thought that, so it’s not anything new. I’m excited just to play. I never played for what people thought. I play because I love the game. I play because I still feel I can help this organization. I still think I can help win games. I guess only time will tell if that’s true or not.
“I’m really looking forward to being on the field the first day (of spring training) and doing what everyone else is doing. Being a normal guy again. It’s been a long journey to get to this point and I’m trying to enjoy it and not take it for granted.”
I don’t think anyone, Roberts included, is saying he is back to his old self yet and will be one of the game’s top leadoff hitters this year. But let’s at least see what he can do and give it some time this spring.
If he struggles or gets hurt again, the “I told you so” crowd will storm the message boards again and some will do it with glee, I guess.
I just don’t understand that.