Roberts, now 40, played 13 seasons with the Orioles and is all over the club’s offensive record books for second basemen. He will be honored along with longtime broadcaster Fred Manfra before the second game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.
“You don’t set out with that sort of goal,’’ Roberts said Friday. “Honestly, you set out with a goal of, ‘How do I stay here tomorrow?’ when you’re in that locker room. What do I do to do that, first and foremost. As you get a little bit more established, your goals and the things that you’re looking at do change. It’s not as much, ‘How do I stay here tomorrow?’ It’s, ‘How do I use the place that I’m in now to help this team, to help this franchise, this organization accomplish what we want to accomplish?’
“I didn’t get to accomplish that, necessarily, to the full extent, but then also on the outskirts of that, certainly, ‘How do you use this to impact out there [in the community]?’ ”
The latter years of his career were impacted by the effects of multiple concussions, which kept him from being active for the Orioles’ surprising playoff run in 2012. He played almost his entire Orioles career during the team’s string of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Nevertheless, he was one of the mainstays of the team, along with Nick Markakis, who maintained a personal link with the fan base and built a statistical body of work that made this weekend’s Hall of Fame ceremony a foregone conclusion, even if he still finds the concept hard to get his arms around.
“When I hear my name in that capacity, you think about all those that have gone before you as well,’’ Roberts said. “The names that are beside you and that’s what kind of blows your mind.”
If Roberts was one of the faces of the franchise during those lean years and helped keep the fans engaged with the exciting way he played the game, he said Friday that he never viewed the situation from that perspective.
“I never looked at it at that way,’’ he said. “It was very different to me than it is right now, when they say, and it’s pretty obvious, ‘Hey, we’re going to rebuild.’ We never really said that. … So, every year we went to spring training, we thought we had a chance to win, or that’s what we were trying to do.
“You certainly don’t sit in the locker room, and be like, ‘Hey, are you the face of the franchise or is it me?’ It’s kind of funny that you guys [in the media] talk that way, because we don’t look at it that way. You’re trying to be the best player on the field and lead by example and lead by hopefully playing well and that sort of thing. I did try to take that seriously.”
Roberts was a first-round draft choice of the Orioles in 1999 and arrived in the majors two years later while the club was in a rebuilding phase. He looks at the turnover this season and the prospect of a few lean years ahead as a necessary evil.
“I think it’s hard for everybody to see us have to go in that direction again. Nobody wants to do that,” Roberts said. “That’s never the goal or the mindset of any team to have to do that. When you think about where we were when Buck [Showalter] and Dan [Duquette] came in, and that four-year run and really turning this thing around and playing meaningful games and being in the hunt and being in the playoffs, you want that to continue, but baseball is cyclical.
“Everybody has seen the way organizations now are building franchises, so you’re either going to have to get on board and do it that way or you’re going to get left behind. It’s just that time, unfortunately. I just hope the fans embrace it, because it could be great.”
The one thing that bothered Roberts most about the midseason roster shuffle this season was the same thing that had to hit the fans hardest.
“I was hoping Jonathan Schoop was going to be here and break every number I had at second base,’’ Roberts said. “I was hoping we’d see Manny [Machado] play here for 15 or 20 years, but the business of the game makes it tough nowadays. You hear fans talk about it so passionately and it bothers them because they almost don’t like to get attached to players anymore.”
Manfra, who has retired to Florida, was clearly touched by the affection the fans and the organization have shown him since he stepped out of the Orioles radio booth in 2017, and said he’s honored to be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame alongside Roberts.
“When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, I wanted to play for the Orioles or broadcast the Orioles,’’ Manfra said. “I had the opportunity to do the broadcasting for 24 years and I never envisioned in one moment, that I would be a Hall of Famer, winning the Herb Armstrong Award to join Chuck [Thompson] and Bill O’Donnell and all the great names that have won that award.
“To get into a situation where my name is even mentioned with Chuck Thompson’s name, or Bill O’Donnell’s name or Harry Dalton’s name — just iconic Oriole names — it’s just amazing.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
Become a subscriber today to support sports commentary like this. Start getting full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.