There was nobody that could get the crowd pumping more than Oakland Athletics‘ closer Grant Balfour could last year against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. Balfour’s ferocious strikeouts were enough to get the Oakland faithful on its feet and cause problems for the Tigers’ pitching. However, all of that seems like a lifetime ago and with Balfour missing four-to-six weeks recovering from knee surgery on a torn meniscus, it really hurts the A’s heading into spring training.
Balfour had 24 saves last season with an ERA under 3.00, and has already been one of the most underrated relievers in baseball for as long as he has been in the major leagues. Oakland is losing the assurance of having Balfour there in either the eighth or the ninth innings of the game. The projected closer heading into a month of exhibition games is Ryan Cook, with the setup men being Sean Doolittle and Fernando Rodriguez.
It is not just the reassurance that Balfour is going to be there in the latter part of the game, it is what he brings to the table for the Oakland fans. His “Balfour Rage” sparked the crowd, and gave Athletics fans a reason to get on their feet during a great run last season and then into the playoffs.
You do not really see any kind of that Rick Vaughn-type Major League atmosphere in ballparks anymore, and Balfour is part of that. He is hopeful to get back to the club by Opening Day but for now, Cook and Doolittle will have to try their best to hold down the fort.