Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Home plate umpire Gary Darling (37) gets between Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (left) and Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) in the ninth inning in game three of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Comerica Park. Oalkand won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Get Ready for the Grant Balfour Rage!


There will not only be a distinct change in closers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this year, there will also be a definitive change in the personality of said role player!

The Orioles have reportedly agreed to terms with former A’s 35-year-old closer Grant Balfour for $15 million over two years in what amounts to a swap of 9th-inning relievers with Jim Johnson having been previously traded to Oakland.

The difference between the two is more than the fact that Balfour is six years older, and that at “only” 6-2, 200 pounds he will look rather diminutive compared to the 6-6, 240-pound Johnson.  This is more than a change of x’s and o’s … or should we say “A’s and O’s?”

JJ has been known for his very quiet persona and unruffled, workmanlike attitude on the mound and in the clubhouse. Get ready for a sea change of personality!

In Oakland it was called the “Balfour Rage.” To quote a 2013 ESPN article by Tim Keown …

He storms in from the bullpen like a Marine taking a hill who doesn’t care if the other guy knows he’s coming. Balfour starts screaming about the time he throws his last warm-up pitch and stops about the time he gets in his car to drive home.        

This particular article was an extended discussion, in discreet terms, about Balfour’s propensity for … ah … colorful language. He was deemed the winner of the worst potty mouth in baseball, beating out, among many others … wait for it … Kevin Youkilis!

To help explain this self-motivational phenomenon, consider that Grant Balfour is the son of an Australian rugby player. His anger management issues and series of F-bombs and other expletives are apparently only slightly softened by the sonorous tones of his Aussie accent. Baltimore area Outback Steakhouse restaurants should somehow market this relationship.

A colorful display of his antics was seen in the playoffs this past season between the A’s and Tigers. Balfour took exception to the nature of a stare toward him from Victor Martinez, causing him to (colorfully and expletively) ask him what he was looking at? Both benches were soon on the field.

After the incident, after the fly-out by Martinez, and after Balfour closed out the game, Martinez said,

“I hit a foul ball, and I was looking at him and he said ‘What the (expletive) are you looking at?’  I don’t know what he wanted. I was looking at him because I wanted him to throw the next pitch. Where did he want me to look? I don’t know what he expected me to do.”

So let the fun begin. This could be an Orioles writer’s dream come true! I like an intense player (so long as he’s not named Papelbon); I was a fiery player in college – when the dude from Rutgers took out my shortstop with his cleats up, I hit him in the head with running fastballs the next two times he came to bat! My anger issues got in the way of going further into the sport (along with a too-slow fastball) … most feisty types don’t do well in baseball.

So … baseball analysis … I think this is a good move. His numbers are more than decent. Let me chart them for you along with those of the recently-acquired Ryan Webb, the late Jim Johnson, and a handful of other Orioles relievers.

Name

Age

Tm

W

L

ERA

G

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

H/9

HR/9

BB/9

SO/9

Balfour

 35

OAK   1 3

2.59

65

62.2

48

20

18

7

27

72

1.197

6.9

1.0

3.9

10.3

Webb

27

MIA

2

6

2.91

66

80.1

70

30

26

5

27

54

1.207

7.8

0.6

3.0

6.0

Matusz

26

BAL

2

1

3.53

65

51.0

43

21

20

3

16

50

1.157

7.6

0.5

2.8

8.8

O’Day

30

BAL

5

3

2.18

68

62.0

47

16

15

7

15

59

1.000

6.8

1.0

2.2

8.6

Hunter

26

BAL

6

5

2.81

68

86.1

71

28

27

11

14

68

0.985

7.4

1.1

1.5

7.1

Patton

27

BAL

2

0

3.70

56

56.0

57

25

23

8

16

42

1.304

9.2

1.3

2.6

6.8

Johnson

30

BAL   3 8

2.94

74

70.1

72

26

23

5

18

56

1.280

9.2

0.6

2.3

7.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So who do the Orioles keep in the bullpen after these varied signings? So much of that will depend upon spring training results and any intervening trades or deals. Certainly the Orioles did not sign Webb and Balfour to not have them playing. Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter are surely locks as well. That will leave three spots.

Thinking about starters: Let’s go with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Bud Norris as four. The fifth could be a choice between Kevin Gausman, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton (who is out of options and on the team). The two “losers” would go to the bullpen, leaving one spot. At this point, that would likely be Troy Patton – thus yielding two or three lefties and four or five right-handers.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Grant Balfour