Did the O’s make the right call on Balfour?


I was a little surprised at some of the fan reaction to the Grant Balfour situation. A lot of people seem to in a sense blame the O’s for what happened with Balfour, who’s deal was voided after a physical found some shoulder issues this week. Let’s be clear; a medical doctor said that Balfour might have medical issues. So before people call out Dan Duquette, Peter Angelos, Buck Showalter, et al, this happened as a result of Balfour’s physical.

Many people are in effect saying forget what the doctor is saying, just sign the guy! So…did the O’s make the right or wrong call? Speaking for myself, I’m going to side with the guy who’s listening to the doctor. To me it makes next to no sense to risk having a pitcher who’s injured early in the season. However there’s a school of thought out there whereby this is the Orioles being cheap. So which is it?

In fairness, Balfour and his agent came out late last night and claimed that he was 100%. One could view that as one of two things; the truth, or some version of the truth. Certainly it behooves them to say that, because Balfour is now back on the market and they certainly want to get a similar or better deal with another team. But for all I know they might be right. It’s entirely possible that the Orioles’ doctors are either wrong, or that the team is overreacting to something that they saw on the report. It’s really not something that we can know, because Duquette declined to comment due to the confidentiality of Balfour’s medicals (basically another way of saying “doctor/patient privilege”).

Courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds to me as if a lot of people are simply discounting the Orioles, and taking Balfour and his agent at their word. It is worth mentioning that the Orioles’ team orthopedic surgeon (Dr. John Wilckens) is very highly regarded; he’s also the surgeon for the Naval Academy. Furthermore, one of the doctors who’s also claiming that Balfour is fine (Dr. Koco Eaton) drew Buck Showalter’s anger in September for giving an on-field diagnosis of Manny Machado when he was injured. Not that any of that matters in truth, but in reality we find ourselves in a he said, she said type of situation.

Assuming that the Orioles aren’t simply lying, they would be doing themselves a disservice by getting poor results on a physical and then continuing with signing the deal. I suppose that ultimately people are going to believe what they want to believe. By voiding the deal, do the Orioles risk Balfour signing elsewhere and having success? Absolutely. For all we know there’s some team out there who’s going to run the risk of Balfour further hurting himself. Heck, for all I know the O’s will be in the playoff hunt late in the year and Balfour will close a game against them which knocks them out of the playoffs. Anything is possible in this business of sport. However it would be more of a risk to just go ahead and sign the guy. What happens on April 15th when his shoulder “barks” at him, and five days later he’s on the DL?

Here’s what happens; people run to blame Dan Duquette, Angelos, or Showalter. And guess what? They’d be right. They’d question why the team would have signed a guy who had issues show up during his physical. Again, they’d be 100% correct. Ultimately there will be a team out there who will sign Grant Balfour. If he’s successful with that team, then perhaps we come back and question the Orioles. However if he hits the DL and/or struggles, we’ll also have our answer.