FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.-- --In a perfect world, Brian Roberts would have jumped out of his bed yesterday and made the short, cross-town drive to Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz., where the Chicago Cubs opened full-squad workouts yesterday.
He wouldn't have noticed the cool temperature (about 70 degrees) and the broken clouds overhead, because that's what every day looks like in that part of the country at this time of year.
What he probably would have noticed was superstar Alfonso Soriano dressing across the room and manager Lou Piniella barking at an equipment guy and pitcher Ryan Dempster doing something no one would ever do with a straight face in the Orioles' clubhouse -- predicting that his team will win the World Series this year.
Maybe Roberts will still get that chance, but he spent part of the morning yesterday greeting old friends and unfamiliar new teammates at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, and it's looking more and more as if he'll spend at least the first couple of months of the season wearing orange and black.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail would trade him tomorrow for the right package of prospects, but we've known that for what, the past two months?
"I think God has me here for a reason," Roberts said, "and if I'm still here in July, he's still got me here for a reason. If I'm here next year, he's still got me here for a reason."
If he's here next year, it may be the final proof that God is not a Cubs fan, though after a century without a World Series championship, how much more proof do you need?
Roberts said what you're supposed to say in this kind of situation. He was gracious about the team that drafted him and brought him to the major leagues, yet left little doubt he would gladly forgo the next few years of the Orioles' rebuilding movement for a chance to play for a team that might be one Brian Roberts away from baseball's Big Dance.
"It would be hard to leave here," he said. "It would be weird to leave here. But an opportunity to win in the right situation, I don't think anybody would necessarily argue against it."
Loosely translated: "Please, please, please, Andy, persuade the Cubs to cough up enough to get me on the next plane back to Phoenix."
In the meantime, Roberts needs to focus on what made him such a hot commodity in the first place. The best way to get out of town now is to hit his way out. The more hits he gets, the more runs he scores, the more bases he steals, the more the Cubs or some other team will be willing to part with to put him at the top of a contending lineup.
"I'll do my job to the best of my abilities today, tomorrow and two years from now," he said. "That's all I can do. I'm not going to worry about anything else. I'm going to do what I always do."
Roberts probably didn't enjoy all the questions yesterday about his uncertain trade status, but he had to like them more than what came next -- the inevitable queries about his offseason admission that he experimented briefly with steroids in 2003.
"I don't know that anybody wants to air their dirty laundry for 50 million people," Roberts said. "Would you want to tell everybody what you've done wrong in your life? It's not the most fun thing in the world. I've lived with that mistake for a long time, but it didn't necessarily mean that I wanted to tell everybody about it."
Maybe not, but confession is good for the soul, something that Roberts and his close friend Jay Gibbons found out during a winter of uncomfortable revelations and embarrassment associated with baseball's seemingly endless performance-enhancement scandal.
That's all over except for Gibbons' 15-day suspension at the start of the regular season, but Roberts knows the stain -- however slight -- will never be entirely expunged from his reputation.
"I've sincerely apologized and I know I made a mistake, but it won't change the rest of my life," he said. "I won't let it change the rest of my life."
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