On Friday, veteran reliever Grant Balfour announced his retirement from baseball after twelve seasons. He finishes an impressive career with 534 games played, 539.2 innings pitched, 571 strikeouts, and a career ERA of 3.49.
The bulk of Balfour's career was spent with the Rays but some of his best years were with the A's. Balfour played in Oakland from 2011-2013, pitching in 202 games, logging 199 innings and racking up 64 saves with a 2.53 ERA. He was a large part of the dominant bullpen effort that played a huge role in the A's surprise run of 2012 and their AL West defense of 2013.
There's no denying Balfour's on field accomplishments with the A's. He was one of many to exceed expectations during the good years of 2012-2013 and came at a bargain price in spite of being one of the better and more reliable relievers during that time. Balfour set the franchise record for consecutive saves, sealing an astounding 44 chances in a row while anchoring the pen.
You can't talk about Grant Balfour without discussing his weird, awesome, hilarious, and sometimes terrifying personality and mannerisms. Balfour never entered a game without his madman routine, an expletive filled sprint from the pen to the mound, complete with a mini Gatorade shower.
Once on the mound, the rage didn't stop. Balfour was never satisfied until the game was done, his intensity ratcheted up to full volume pitch after pitch. It often rubbed opposing players the wrong way, but ultimately worked, helping the A's win game after game in which they held the lead.
You always knew what was going on in the tiny furnace that is Balfour's head. Balfour is the reason live baseball has a seven second delay, a walking F bomb who swore his way right into our hearts. Remember that time he got into a fight with himself so intense, it spilled onto the field into a fight with fellow angry man Victor Martinez?
Warning: The language in this video is very colorful.
But behind that intense and lovable rage was a dude that any fan and any player would want on his team. It's no secret that the 2012 A's were the funnest team ever assembled, and I'll never forget the moment after the A's won Game 162 to clinch the division, the team did a literal victory lap around the Coliseum. Leading the charge was an elated Grant Balfour, soaking fans in joy and Bud Light. He's a lover of the game and his fans, and it's no surprise he's become a baseball ambassador to his home country.
Ultimately, Balfour was a crucial piece to a fun time in A's history. Like many on those teams, he outperformed expectations, maybe cause the A's were smart or maybe cause they were lucky. Regardless, there's not a personality that was more fun to take the closer role on those young teams than Grant Balfour.
After Balfour finished his A's career, he went back to Tampa to play his final years. He was never quite the same down there, maybe due to age or maybe due to wear and tear. Either way, his final bullets were used to help resurrect an A's team from the dark days of 2007-2011, and we should be forever grateful.
There was one last moment in Balfour's career that pertains to the A's. In 2014, a struggling Balfour came to town with the Rays. The A's were in the midst of their awful descent and desperately needed every win that they could get their injured paws on. What happened when Balfour took the field?
A moment so special, not even Shooty Babbitt could ruin it. Balfour would end up allowing a walk-off single too, capping off an already perfect return to Oakland.
In his retirement, Balfour plans to spend more time with his wife and two daughters. Our best wishes are with his family and any brave soul who attempts to court his daughters as the years go by.