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Concerns about Grant Balfour's health were about his wrist and knee, not shoulder

When the Orioles backed out of their deal with Grant Balfour, media members and team doctors lined up to condemn the Orioles conservative opinion of normal wear and tear on a pitcher's shoulder. Now it turns out their concerns may have been about his wrist and knee. Oops!

Thearon W. Henderson

The situation between the Orioles and Grant Balfour seemed like one of those things where we would never entirely know the facts of both sides. A whole host of people in the media and without took the voiding of the contract as further evidence of existing opinions they hold about the Orioles.

There were standard accusations that the Orioles were being cheap. Two team physicians even said there was nothing wrong with Balfour's shoulder and they did not understand the objection the Orioles had. This was further fuel for a narrative of the Orioles having some kind of extra-rigorous physical examination, the kind of thing that had led them to torpedo a small number of contracts over a decade ago. For some, it may have been a chance to pull the stories of meddling Peter Angelos off of the shelf.

What if all of the talk about Balfour's shoulder was missing the point entirely?

While significant numbers of media were willing to buy into negative notions of the Orioles actions, the fact remains that, though the Balfour contract with the Orioles fell through nearly a month ago, no other team has swooped in to sign him. He was reportedly weighing offers by three teams when he chose the Orioles. Neither of these other teams, who apparently interested him enough that they got serious consideration, has emerged to sign him. No one at all has emerged to sign him.

Note that Olney has given no indication of who his source is for the information about the wrist and the knee. It could be someone with the Orioles, looking to vindicate the team's decision, but if so, why would they wait a month to put that information out there? Perhaps, in the immediate aftermath, they did not want to tell other teams where to look. Maybe now they figure everyone already knows so there's no point keeping a lid on things.

It could be Balfour's agent, though he would probably rather teams think that the Orioles were overly cautious about normal wear and tear on a late-30s pitcher's shoulder. It could even have come from another team that's checked in on Balfour in the interim and found some red flags of their own. The agenda of a leaker is always worth examining.

Balfour had knee surgery in February of last year. That surgery was to repair a torn meniscus. It's not outrageous to think that the O's were not sure that surgery would hold up for another two years.

The idea that Balfour's problems were with his wrist and knee, rather than shoulder, combined with the fact that he is still unsigned, would seem to suggest that the Orioles concerns were not completely off base. Will a bored baseball media latch on to this correction the same way they piled on to condemn the Orioles initial actions?

I won't be holding my breath. You shouldn't either.