During tonight’s “Hot Stove Baseball” show on WBAL Radio, I asked manager Buck Showalter whether he found it unusual that physicians from other organizations made public comments on the Orioles’ interpretation of closer Grant Balfour’s physical and the decision to back away from a two-year, $15 million agreement.
Rays physician Dr. Koko Eaton and Reds medical director and chief orthopedic surgeon Dr. Timothy Kremchek questioned why the Orioles were concerned about the results of an MRI taken on Balfour’s right shoulder.
Eaton and Balfour became close during their time together in St. Petersburg, Fla. Eaton examined the reliever one day after executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed that the Orioles were moving in another direction. Kremchek performed elbow and rotator cuff surgery on Balfour in 2005 and stated that the latest MRI didn’t show any changes in the shoulder.
Showalter responded tonight and he didn’t pull any punches.
“How did you phrase it? ‘Unusual?’ ” he asked. “I think it’s borderline unethical. How’s that?
“I don’t think it’s any of their business. I know our doctors. I know how good they are. I know the painstaking things they go through. Nobody talks about all the things they get right. We go through physicals on J.J. Hardy. We go through physicals on Chris Davis. We go through physicals on all these guys. They’ve made great decisions, not just for us but for our fan base. To have someone weigh in on it from afar and wonder if there’s some ulterior motive there, that does bother me.
“I guess you could throw out that there’s a certain kinship or union of doctors, but we have a lot of things at our disposal that they don’t have. It bothered me to have someone weighing in and casting doubt on something that not only our doctors, but a lot of doctors, weighed in on.”
Balfour remains on the free agent market. The Orioles still haven’t signed another closer and may give the job to Tommy Hunter.
“We liked the player. We still like the player,” Showalter said of Balfour. “We just didn’t like the two-year commitment compared to one year when you look at so many track record decisions made on guys. Every pitcher that you take in there is going to have some wear and tear on their elbow and shoulder and whatever. And (the physicians’) educated decision was such. And I back them. I could rattle off a bunch, but they wouldn’t want me to, of decisions they’ve helped us make that turned out very well.
“Some people just like to get their name in the paper. I guess it gets more people to come in their doctors office. I don’t know. Or maybe they have a certain kinship or connection with the agent that represents that player. I don’t know. But I can tell you that I took it personal. And I know the class that Dr. (John) Wilckens and them operate with that they will not get in that arena and not get on that level. And I’ll leave it at that.”