We all knew it was coming. We all dreaded the thought but today it became official. Former Oakland Athletics’ closer Grant Balfour is now a Baltimore Oriole. We took their closer, Jim Johnson, for infielder Jemile Weeks (yeah, big loss there … hopefully obvious sarcasm) and catcher David Frietas. That’s a pretty good deal in my opinion! Just a quick switcharoo!
But the question begs, why Johnson and not Balfour?
Johnson is set to make $11 million in 2014. Balfour signed with the Orioles for 2 years and $15 million. The A’s could have afforded to keep Balfour. Rumor has it though the All-Star closer wanted a three year deal when in talks with Oakland. Being that Balfour is 35, that is a large contract to ask for and it’s not likely that the A’s were offering any more than a year. Even after coming off a career and All Star caliber year in which he surpassed Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley to become Oakland’s consecutive save leader with 44 straight, it’s not the Athletics’ usual method of operation to offer guarentees. That is why they lost out to the San Francisco Giants in their attempt to acquire starting pitcher, Tim Hudson, they offered two years and $23 million just like the Giants but the Athletics’ organization likes options and refused to grant Hudson the no trade clause that he wanted.
Johnson on the other hand is 30, coming off back to back 50 save seasons and is going to be a free agent in 2015. This gives the Athletics youth and flexibility. It’s certainly no secret that the Athletics are all about flexibility. Just look at the bench and bullpen depth and Manager Bob Melvin’s style of changing things up. It appears to be a good fit and the right choice for Oakland,
However the fan’s adoration of Balfour could have been a reason to keep him. Absolutely a fan favorite Balfour inspired, fan Will MacNeil, of the infamous Oakland Right Field Bleacher Crew to create the “Balfour Rage”.
The Rage truly took on a life of it’s own when Balfour entered the game. It began in the bleachers and became contagious to the crowd. Fans began to follow MacNeil’s lead, wearing gigantic “Hulk Fists” and thrashing and swinging their arms in the air! The bleachers alone turned into a mosh pit.
The stadium would go dark the music would start, a video of Balfour, who was recently named “The Biggest Potty Mouth” in baseball by ESPN because of his crazy swearing fits on the mound, played on the screen. San Francisco Chronicle’s beat writer and President of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA), Susan Slusser, tweeted Balfour’s response:
Everyone was metal for that moment where he confidently strolled to the mound with Metallica’s “One” blasting across the O.Co Coliseum. All the fans raising and pumping their “Hulk Fists” like crazy kids at a rock concert, truly was a virtual mosh pit! I personally got to participate in the front row of the right field bleachers courtesy of Mr. MacNeil! It was exhilarating to say the least. To be honest it was pretty A-mAzing!! Wow!
We also got our head banging on for set up man Sean Doolittle who’s walk up song, “For whom the Bell Tolls,” is also by Metallica. So I think that the fans need to take solace that while Blevins and Balfour are gone we can still rock our heads around for Doolittle. Known as “Doo” to most fans, he also inspired the phenomenon of “Doolittling” (see the pic below).
|“Doolitting” in my condo watching the ALDS!|
So to all the A’s fans out there … well we are gonna have to figure out what to do with the Foo Fighter’s “The Pretender” and welcome Johnson with open arms. There is always something special about a closer to find be it their potty mouth or walk up song, it’s always something special.
“The Sandman,” icon Mariano Rivera will always be thought of when Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is played (even on his final day to play baseball the trending Twitter hashtag was #ExitSandman).
Balfour and his Aussie Swear Jar should be a big hit in Baltimore. I hope Johnson has the personality to be an Oakland Athletic. As fans we look for that and embrace it. Until we get to know Johnson’s personality, I am hoping that Doolitting and head banging as usual to Metallica will hold us over. But you never know.
Jim Johnson might just be able to capture our hearts they way guys like The Eck (Dennis Eckersley), Izzy (Jason Isringhausen), Grant Balfour and other closers of the past have.
Welcome to the “Pit” as our favorite baseball commissioner, Bud Selig called it or as fans like to think of it sometimes as the “Mosh Pit” …. Jim Johnson. Welcome to Oaktown. Now about getting a Metallica song for you ….. all good things happen in time and there are approximately 56 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training … you’ll learn in time Jim and as of now we welcome you and say “Bye Bye Balfour Rage”! (very sadly apparently, as the lamentation continues on Twitter and Facebook)
As A’s fans are used to change, we and as much as I will miss Mr. Balfour, our Awesome Aussie, I’m keeping my head up that 2014 will be our year! Let’s Go Oakland!!