Were the O’s right on Balfour?


Over the holiday season I wrote about the Grant Balfour situation and how I thought it was somewhat suspicious that he hadn’t signed with another team after being turned away by the Baltimore Orioles. If you read back through that column, you’ll see that I went to great lengths to mention that it was fair to throw in the fact that it was the holiday season. Most teams don’t make too much noise during that time of year, if for no other reason than executives and managers are at home spending the holidays with their families like the rest of us. However…what about now?

2014 is now exactly ten days old. At the time his contract fell through, Balfour said that he had three or four teams that were interested in his services. As it was also pointed out to me yesterday on twitter, Balfour also said at the time that he was considering filing a grievance against the Orioles. I suppose what I’m saying is that if you’re keeping score at home, it seems to me that if Balfour was using the holidays as an excuse for not signing someplace or filing the grievance…he’s had ten days to do it since then.

In fairness, I will offer the fact here that Balfour, his people, and those who just simply assume that the Orioles are wrong here because it’s

Courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

the Orioles will argue that the O’s ruined the market on Balfour with their “antics.” Their view would be that people would have been lining up to sign him had the Orioles not “tarnished his name.” For all I know, they might be 100% correct, and fans shouldn’t discount that potential view point. However again – as it was pointed out on twitter to me yesterday – it’s worth mentioning that Tampa’s trainer (Dr. Koko Eaton) declared that Balfour was 100% healthy when the Orioles turned him loose last month. So…that being the case, why hasn’t Tampa stepped up to the plate? For the record, manager Buck Showalter said on WBAL last night that the act of a team doctor from another team commenting on a physical that the Orioles conducted on a player was “unethical.”

It’s really either/or. Either the Orioles tarnished Balfour’s reputation, or they were correct in having second thoughts about signing him. Keep in mind that the O’s didn’t totally yank the contract from under Balfour; they offered a one-year deal with a club option. That tells me that there’s little question that Balfour can pitch for a season. The issue comes when he goes to year two, and whether or not his arm will hold up.

The national media was incredibly harsh on the O’s a few weeks ago when this came out, and some media members openly blamed owner Peter Angelos for “meddling” and not wanting to spend the money. In fact, IF Angelos had anything to do with this decision it was probably on the advice of one if not all of the doctors who suggested that the two-year deal wasn’t a good idea. Having said that, there are those who tweeted me and said in effect that Angelos probably paid those doctors to say that so as to get out of paying Balfour. I said this at the time and I’ll say it again; a doctor would lose his license to practice medicine and potentially open himself up to a malpractice lawsuit if he operated on a basis as such. Angelos may be a powerful man, but could he corrupt a doctor? How about three doctors?

I think the point here is that if you look at this situation, at this point you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the Orioles didn’t do the right thing in turning Balfour loose. Certainly it’s possible that moving forward some team could give him a similar contract to what the Orioles were offering, and it might work out for them. The egg might then be on Dan Duquette’s face for sure. However for the time being, as each passing day goes on it appears that some of what Balfour was saying in the aftermath of that situation was smoke in mirrors – or maybe hot air in mirrors.