Normally I don't spend a whole post on one sports subject. This one, I want to be the first (as far as I can tell) to show the obvious. The subject in a nutshell is this: The Baltimore Orioles had signed former Oakland A's closer Grant Balfour to a 2-year, $15 million contract contingent on his physical. A day later, they declared that a shoulder MRI showed "something"- they never said what, to anyone- and cancelled the contract. Balfour denied that anything was wrong with the MRI, and was backed up by the team physicians for both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cincinnati Reds. He claims, the Orioles are just "backing out" of the deal, and the players union may file a grievance.
And they'll win. Here's why.
Last season, the Orioles had Jim Johnson, one of the best closers in the game. 50 saves 2 years ago, 51 last year. But Johnson was in his arbitration year. When the Orioles talked to him about a contract extension, his agent floated numbers of about $11.5 to $12.5 million a year for four years. If they went to arbitration, experts figured on him winning a $10.88 Million contract for 2014, a 59.7% raise. Rather than pay that much, the Orioles traded him to the A's for Jemile Weeks, a former star potential second baseman who hadn't hit his weight in the big leagues in two years. For those not baseball-literate, imagine trading your year-old Lambourghini for a 10-year old Yugo and a couple tanks of gas.
So obviously, owner Peter Angelos- rated the worst owner in baseball by Sports Illustrated in 2009- wanted to do the job on the cheap. But apparently team President Dan Duquette didn't get the memo. With Balfour now on the open market with the Johnson trade, Duquette signed Balfour to this contract, which pays 7.5 mill a year with a million deferred. Cheaper than Johnson? Sure, but when you consider Balfour made $4.5 million last year, it would be a 60% raise for him- just as the one Johnson would get.
Those are the facts. Now, my speculation.
Angelos calls Duquette into his office and says, "Didn't I say I was NOT going to give a 60% raise to no relief pitcher? That includes someone ELSE'S relief pitcher!"
Duquette says, "But sir, we are saving over three million a year on the contract, and..."
"I don't care! I didn't approve this, and I'm not paying it!"
"But sir, if we cancel the contract now, the union..."
"That's YOUR problem! Now, get out of here! OUT!"
Sound pretty close to you?
So now the Rays are talking to Balfour, not scared away by the manufactured MRI concern or the 60% raise, and the Orioles are allegedly looking at Fernando Rodney. Rodney was in Tampa last year, had 37 saves to Balfour's 38, but with almost a run higher ERA. But guess what? They could give Rodney a 60% raise and only pay him $4 million a year! Of course the rub of that comes with a stat called WAR. This stat tells you basically how much more valuable a player is to a team than the average Joe they would have to replace him with were he not there. Here, Johnson scores a 1.5, Balfour a 1.4. Rodney? 0.5.
So now the Orioles are all crying about how they didn't "back out of the deal", that there was a legitimate medical concern raised by their medical staff. But evidence doesn't lie of it's own, and it sure looks like to me that the only medical concern the O's had was the walletectomy their owner was facing.