The Missing Link
The day after honoring Brooks Robinson, the fellow who personified the beginning of winning baseball in Baltimore the team on the verge of its first post season play since 1997, it’s hard to find much connection between the winning Orioles of old: the big six: Brooks, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken. With supporting players and great pitchers from Boog Powell, Paul Blair, and Dave McNally through a cast of many including Mike Cuellar, Davey Johnson, Bobby Grich, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Ken Singleton, Mike Mussina, B.J. Surhoff, and Raphael Palmeiro, one great’s career transitioned to another’s rise.
Only one player connects the O’s of old to today’s team, probably the loneliest fellow to be assigned an Orioles jersey in 2012 --- Brian Roberts. He started his reign with the Orioles in 2001, Cal Ripken’s retirement year and labored through 17 games this season only connecting for 12 base hits making it three consecutive seasons unable to answer the call for most of the season – the fellow who was supposed to be the first piece in the team rebuilding into a contender once again.
It’s not all over for Brian Roberts. He could heal up and return to Spring Training in 2013 and finish his career with the Orioles as a winning team. It would only seem just. However, the sport makes no promises and after years of being a rare bright spot in a sea of frustration, he’s the fellow who took throws from both Cal Ripken and Matt Weiters (perhaps a future member of the statue club in Legend’s Park.)
The irony only runs deeper considering his close friend and teammate, Nick Markakis, one who answered the call during darkest hour in 2006 also sits on the sidelines, the victim of a C.C. Sabathia pitch in early September hoping the suddenly hot Orioles remain deep into the off season, so he can join the celebration contributing on the field.
In the team’s finest hour in 15 years, it’s time for a quiet thank you to Brian Roberts with high hopes for Nick Markakis as the Orioles team of today reaches out for its place among the Orioles teams that brought so much winning to Baltimore starting with a friendly third baseman who quickly became a city’s pride and joy. Time's getting short for Brian Roberts, a fellow who in better days might have found his place among the Orioles elite -- who could ever anticipate the burden of carrying the torch from the glory days of old to what could be a bright future ahead could be such a touch labor.