There’s a special feeling about having a closer that can come in a tight game and ensure you a victory. In order to be a complete team in the MLB, you must have a reliable closer who can save the game after eight innings of outplaying the opposition.
With the Oakland Athletics, it’s the All-Star Grant Balfour who has been the savior all season. Balfour is not quite the type of pitcher you see on the mound every day.
Cover your children’s ears when he steps to the mound, as Balfour is known for yelling and using foul language to build up adrenaline and psych himself up for the inning. Whenever the A’s closer comes in to pitch at the Coliseum, thousands of fans Rage to the sounds of Metallica’s song “One.” Call it what you want, but A’s fans have officially named it the “Balfour Rage.”
In addition to the energy that he brings to the clubhouse and to the fans, Balfour has pitched remarkably well all season for the A’s. Dating back towards the end of last season, Balfour has continued to look incredibly sharp on the mound at the end of games. The All-Star closer has became extremely reliable out on the rubber in the ninth inning. His teammates, coaches, and fans have built a great amount of trust to hand the baseball over to him late in a game, and most importantly he seems to trust himself. He is currently fifth in the American League in saves with 37, and a key component to the A’s success as they remain first place in the American League West.
Earlier this season, Grant Balfour saved his 41st consecutive game, breaking Dennis Eckersley’s all-time franchise record. Eckersley recorded his 40 straight saves from Sept. 15, 1991 to Aug. 7, 1992. The 1992 Cy Young Award winner and American League MVP saved 320 of his 324 games for the A’s over nine years in Oakland. Eckersley went 197-171 with a 3.50 ERA and 2,401 strikeouts to 738 walks over his 24-year, Hall-of-Fame career. An amazing franchise record, broken by Balfour.
Some argue a closer in baseball is overrated, which I think is ridiculous. What is more disappointing in sports than a team that has played a great game for eight innings, but then throws it away in the ninth with bad pitching? Regardless of the fact that a closer enters the game for just the final three outs, those are almost always the most important and toughest three outs of the entire game. A closer in the majors is crucial, and without a trustworthy arm on the mound late in the game can lead to disaster and tremendous disappointment.
With the postseason just right around the corner, the Athletics hope Balfour can continue his late game success. As long as the A’s continue to play the way they’ve been playing throughout the season, I can see Balfour potentially closing out a World Series match up for the green and gold.