Baltimore's second baseman became just the fourth big leaguer to have three 50-double seasons in Wednesday's 7-5 loss to the Red Sox, and he has an outside chance to be the first player with 60 doubles since 1936.
Roberts, who brushes off most historical footnotes with a disarming show of self-deprecation, may have more of an appreciation for the 60-double threshhold. Just two players in the past 50 years -- Todd Helton and Carlos Delgado in 2000 -- have gotten within three doubles of that mark, setting the bar high for Roberts.
Helton actually got to 59 doubles, falling one short in a season in which he also had 42 home runs. Delgado, who got to 57 two-baggers that season, also hit 41 home runs. Roberts is a different type of player than those sluggers, and one for whom the doubles mark is perhaps more in reach over the season's last few weeks.
Only six players in the game's long history have logged 60 doubles, and two of them -- Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer and Joe Medwick -- reached that height in 1936. Two of the remaining four -- Paul Waner and Hank Greenberg -- are also Hall of Famers, lending a nice backdrop to Roberts and his pursuit.
Roberts, who's having a season that falls right in line with his career averages, was nonchalant along the road to 50 doubles. When told that only three players -- Hall of Famers Waner, Tris Speaker and Stan Musial -- had reached the 50-double plateau three times, Roberts made sure to get a joke in at his own expense.
"That stamps my ticket, doesn't it?" he joked a week ago. "It's just one of those things. It's a number, really, so in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a deal. I just do the same thing I always do, and if people want to put it in categories or put your name beside other people, that's fine. ... It probably won't change my life."
|Six players have hit as many as 60 doubles in a season.|
|Earl Webb||Red Sox||1931||67|
Roberts, who had 50 doubles in 2004 and 51 last season, has 23 games in which to hit 10 doubles, an imposing but not impossible task. The switch-hitting infielder had 12 doubles in August and 11 in July, and his low for any month this season is eight. Roberts already has two doubles in September, but he's riding a season-low .308 slugging percentage for the month.
The two-time All-Star may expect a modest surge in the next few weeks, a push that could bring him deserved recognition. As of now, Roberts is hitting .283 with a .350 on-base percentage; for his career, he's batted .284 with a .355 on-base mark. His slugging percentage (.454) represents the second highest of his career.
Roberts may also be helped out by the schedule, which features six of the final seven series against division rivals. Roberts has six doubles against the Red Sox and four against the Yankees, and he'll get to see both staffs one more time. He also has three doubles in 10 games against Tampa Bay, with eight games remaining against the Rays.
If Roberts makes it to 60, he can also tie the all-time record for second basemen. Craig Biggio fell four doubles short of that record in '99, and Dustin Pedroia got to 54 in his 2008 AL MVP campaign.
Freddy Sanchez got to 53 doubles en route to a batting title in 2006, and he rounds out the short list of second basemen who have had more than 51 doubles in the well-documented history of the game.
Roberts has been aware of his pace for much of the season, if only because reporters have asked him about it on multiple occasions. Roberts, who has 21 doubles in his past 50 games, knows what it would mean to etch his name in the record books.
"Anytime you're in the company of three Hall of Famers -- and you're the only one who's not a very good player -- that's kind of cool," he said. "I never would've expected any positive category to be in the same category as three Hall of Famers. I don't want to downplay it to the point where you don't respect the guys that have done it before you. That's for sure, because those are obviously incredible guys that have played the game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.