Orioles' Roberts joins elite group
Second baseman one of game's premier leadoff men
ST. PETERSBURG -- During what has been a dreadful season for the Orioles, and in the midst of a tough losing streak, the record books have provided an uncommon bright light for Brian Roberts' 2009 campaign.
And he added himself to yet another page on Sunday.
The Orioles suffered a 10th consecutive loss to the Indians, but Roberts put himself in rarefied air with the simplicity of a six-pitch walk.
With a free pass to lead off the sixth inning against David Huff, Roberts became the first player in the modern era to register three seasons with 25 stolen bases, 50 doubles, 70 walks and 100 runs scored.
The other four players to compile that set of stats in a season are seven-time All-Star Craig Biggio (1999), two-time All-Star Bobby Abreu (2002) and Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (1912) and Kiki Cuyler (1930) -- and they each did it just once.
But up until hours before the opener of a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday, Roberts didn't even know about it.
"When I'm all ... done, maybe, and my career is over, I can be really thankful to have the opportunity to play this game and even be in that sort of category," Roberts said upon being notified. "This organization has been great with me. They've stuck with me through the bad times early on in my career and continue to give me a chance, and it's just been a blessing to play every day and have that opportunity."
The stat is a quirky one, and it didn't make any headlines after the Orioles lost, 9-0, to drop to 35 games below .500 for the first time since 2001. But the feat not only represents consistency on offense, but some extreme versatility -- patience, speed, power and production.
"I think that's what we all strive to do is try to be a complete player in every facet of the game," Roberts said. "I guess as an offensive stat, as a leadoff guy, that's my job -- to get on base, to score runs, to create havoc on the bases. And, yeah, I think those stats lean to the fact that you're doing that, hopefully, on a consistent basis."
But accomplishments like these -- and the single-season record for doubles by a switch-hitter that Roberts is one away from setting -- tend to get overshadowed in the middle of a cellar-dwelling season like the one the Orioles are winding down this week.
Regardless, Roberts doesn't focus on records.
"Whether you're losing a lot or whether you're in first place, those aren't things you're thinking about while the season is going on," he said. "You ask the guys who get 200 hits or 40 homers or whatever -- those are marks that I'm sure you get excited about or you think about. But throughout the course of the season, you're really just trying to go out there and play every day."
On Tuesday night, Roberts hit his 55th double to move into a tie with Lance Berkman for the most in a season by a switch-hitter. He topped his own single-season franchise record and goes into Monday five back of the all-time mark by a second baseman -- set by the Tigers' Charlie Gehringer in 1936.
But even though a small remaining sense of pride is the only thing his team has left to play for this season, Roberts isn't really concerned about breaking that mark.
"If I don't hit another one, then it's not that big a deal," said Roberts, who was batting .287 with 15 home runs, 76 RBIs and a team-leading 29 stolen bases entering Monday's action. "To even be in a category with some of the great switch-hitters in the game is certainly fine by me."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.