Reopening the closer controversy in Baltimore

The Orioles’ decision to back away from their two-year agreement with Grant Balfour may not hurt them on the field. They could sign Fernando Rodney, who’s totaled 85 saves over the past two seasons and posted a 0.60 ERA in 2012, and not skip a beat.

But what are the potential ramifications off the field?

Balfour could decide to file a grievance with the players association. Some free agents down the road may be leery of agreeing to terms with the Orioles, especially ones with a checkered medical past. Executive vice president Dan Duquette may find it harder to negotiate with Balfour’s agency, ACES, while pursuing other clients.

Or the whole thing will blow over without a single hair being mussed.

Rodney replaces Balfour as the Orioles’ primary target in free agency, but as I noted yesterday, he won’t be in Baltimore if he’s looking for a multi-year deal at $10 million or more per season.

Plus, I’m concerned about the wear and tear on his elbow from shooting all those imaginary arrows.

Rodney wears his hat crooked. May as well start the bashing now and avoid the Christmas rush.

Naturally, some Orioles were livid over comments made by Rays team physician Dr. Koko Eaton and Reds medical director Timothy Kremcheck, who publicly questioned why the Orioles had issues with the results of Balfour’s physical and deemed his shoulder to be in fine condition.

Eaton already drew the ire of manager Buck Showalter in September after making an on-field diagnosis while Manny Machado writhed in pain after his knee buckled at first base. Eaton apparently said Machado had a torn ACL, which turned out to be incorrect - and ill-timed, with the young player already traumatized.

Now he’s sounding off about the Balfour physical. Yeah, that’s going over real well here.

The Orioles also are chafed by the suggestion that they simply decided not to pay Balfour $15 million. They really wanted him. They were ecstatic to get an agreement on their terms. Everything was moving forward. But the shoulder raised red flags with their physicians. Great, big red flags.

It’s as if they examined a different Grant Balfour, judging by comments coming from Eaton, Kremcheck and the reliever’s agency. What gives?

Anyway, there’s no shortage of anger on both sides. And yet, the Orioles would probably jump at the chance to sign Balfour if he were willing to accept a one-year deal, or a proposal that included an option. But some team will give him two years. Just watch.

Former closer Mitch Williams offered a comparison of Balfour and Rodney last night on MLB Network. He said Rodney has the best “stuff,” though that doesn’t necessarily make him the better closer. Here’s an excerpt:

“When you look at his fastball, 98-99 (mph). This guy doesn’t even have mechanics. He’s like just throwing a rock. He doesn’t pick his front leg up. He just rears back and throws.”

Williams went on to laud Rodney for having the “exact same delivery” with his changeup and breaking stuff as his fastball.

“Stuff-wise, there’s no question that Rodney’s stuff is better. But intelligence and being able to put guys away with lesser stuff, that’s Balfour. His location’s better. Sure, 93 mph, but 93 mph that’s elevated in the ninth inning. That is very smart closing.”

Shameless plug alert: I’ll be appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon-2 p.m. on MASN. Too bad we have nothing to talk about.

This is the last show of 2013, but I’ll gladly stop by your house next Saturday and talk baseball for two hours. Just put out some snacks.

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