by Matthew Taylor
Luke Scott quickly became a fan favorite in Baltimore last season, and it's easy to see why. From consistently tipping his cap to cheering fans in left field to helping the bat boy pick up gum off the grass after a George Sherrill meltdown, Scott showed himself to be a rare class act, which suggests that his recent, even-tempered comments about serving as the team's DH may be more than just insincere public platitudes.
"If I believed I was getting the shaft, there might be a problem because anybody would have a problem with getting lied to or getting the runaround," Scott said. "But it's not like that here. Dave's door is always open. It's open communication."Scott doesn't want to DH, but ultimately he'll do what's best for the team. His comments reflect well on the player and the manager. It's a difficult thing to measure as a fan, but the O's are giving off the impression of a team that possesses a decidedly more positive clubhouse culture than it has had in recent years.
Anything can happen in six weeks, but if the season opens with Scott in the DH role, he says he'll be on board.
"When the time comes to be a team player, you have to put your individual desires aside and do what's best for the team," he said.
Speaking of nice guys, it looks like the team will extend Brian Roberts' contract and keep the homegrown talent at second base through 2013. I never argued against the possibility of trading Roberts for the right young talent if it fit the O's long-term plans, but it's hard to be disappointed with the decision to keep the steady second baseman in the fold. Roberts deserves to play for a winner, and hopefully he will do just that prior to the end of his new contract.
Roberts age has always been the obvious question, but for the leadoff hitter who has made his mark stealing bases and stroking doubles, there's plenty of precedent to suggest he can be effective at age 35. Consider some numbers that have been posted by 35-year-old players: Edgar Martinez (46 doubles in 1998), Mark Grace (44 doubles in 1999 with a .390 OBP), Bill Buckner (46 doubles in 1985), Brett Butler (41 stolen bases in 1992), and Brady Anderson (36 stolen bases in 1999 with a .404 OBP).
Roberts' lowest stolen base totals in the last five years (29 in 2004, 27 in 2005) still would put him in the AL's Top 10 in the category. He has dedicated more attention in recent years to the craft of stealing bases and will continue to be a threat to get into scoring position for the foreseeable future. The O's have done well to keep him.
With Markakis and Roberts as the faces of the franchise, and players like Jones, Wieters, and Matsutz offering additional promise, the O's are giving fans reason to hold out hope for the future. The team's rebuilding effort follows the emerging small-to-middle-market baseball model, which focuses on locking up young talent and trading for prospects rather than competing with the wealthier franchises for free agents. Think less Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Angels and more Devil Rays. Some wise maneuvering at the trade deadline could continue the Birds' journey down a seemingly promising path.