Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Was it Balfour's shoulder?

I noticed this blurb the other day on MLB trade rumors once again regarding the Baltimore Orioles and Grant Balfour. If you’re to believe this it wasn’t so much Balfour’s shoulder that shoo’d the Birds away, it was his wrist and knee. Nowhere does it say what the issues are or how they would have potentially affected Balfour. At the outset, this comes across as a story that’s fairly cut-and-dry. In fact it doesn’t really change anything in the sense that regardless of whether the issue was raised with Balfour’s shoulder, wrist, or knee. Ultimately the Orioles removed the offer from the table. In the aftermath of that occurrence, Balfour claimed he had several other teams interested, several other offers, and that he was going to file a grievance against the Orioles. None of that has happened.

Coverage of the Orioles’ side of this has been provided ad hoc here on Birds Watcher, complete with Buck Showalter‘s scathing comments of the doctors who commented on it (on Balfour’s behalf) last week:

“How did you phrase it? ‘Unusual?’ I think it’s borderline unethical. How’s that?

I don’t think it’s any of their business. I know our doctors. I know how good they are. I know the painstaking things they go through. Nobody talks about all the things they get right. We go through physicals on J.J. Hardy. We go through physicals on Chris Davis. We go through physicals on all these guys. They’ve made great decisions, not just for us but for our fan base. To have someone weigh in on it from afar and wonder if there’s some ulterior motive there, that does bother me.

I guess you could throw out that there’s a certain kinship or union of doctors, but we have a lot of things at our disposal that they don’t have. It bothered me to have someone weighing in and casting doubt on something that not only our doctors, but a lot of doctors, weighed in on.”

Showalter had been asked on WBAL radio if he felt it was “unusual” for Dr. Koko Eaton of the Tampa Rays and Dr. Timothy Kremchek of the Cincinnati Reds had said that Balfour was fine and ready to play. The fact is that Balfour is good buddies with both doctors, and he’s married to Kremchek’s personal assistant. Can you say “conflict of interest?”

With that said, I see two possibilities in terms of why this has trickled out now. Either the Orioles leaked the information about the knee and wrist, or perhaps one of the doctors did. (The third possibility of course is that this is much ado about nothing, but that’s not nearly as interesting!) If one of the doctors leaked the information, why would they do that? If you read what they said in the wake of the deal breaking up, they both claimed that Balfour’s shoulder was in ship shape. However if in fact it became public that the O’s might not have been worried about the shoulder, then they don’t come off as questioning another team’s doctors or another team in sum.

But…why would the Orioles have been the party to leak the information? First off if it was the O’s, they’re riding a slippery slope in doing so. Part of why the Orioles couldn’t officially disclose what happened in the physical of course is due to HIPPA laws (in effect, doctor-patient privilege). However since both of those doctors were able to speak so publically and so frankly about Balfour’s medicals, Balfour had to have signed off on them doing so. Basically, the very law that’s designed to protect the doctor and his patient would have in theory hindered the Orioles from further explaining their methodology. So is it not possible that someone might have let it slip that it had nothing to do with the shoulder?

One way or the other, this entire escapade has been a fiasco that’s really dominated the Orioles’ otherwise uneventful off season. As I’ve said several times before, the fact that Balfour’s been so silent and so unheard from since this went down in effect backs up the Orioles’ point. There can be no denying the fact that the supposed offers that Balfour had have either fallen through, or they flat out didn’t exist. One way or the other, there can be no denying that the O’s smell more and more like a rose in this regard with each passing day.

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