Players I Love: The Cerebral Bulldogs, Grant Balfour and Chris Perez
You can’t go around the game and not find players that are just outright insane.
Not just insane, but a tough man’s man that will get anyone that is a part of the male gender a little testosterone boost.
These two players are for all the chest-thumpers. The players out there that welcome all comers and after they dispose of them, will stand over the damage they’ve caused and roar like a lion.
One of them even has hair like one.
I didn’t know much about Chris Perez before he came over to the Cleveland Indians in 2009 as a part of the Mark DeRosa trade. But I’ve since learned a little bit more about him, and I can see why many regard him as a future closer.
There are certain pitchers in the game that are made out to be closers and the ones that automatically get that label are the ones who are like Perez.
They are fearless, not afraid to push you first and they won’t hesitant to push you back if you push them. Things don’t faze them either, they’re ready for anything.
Grant Balfour is another one of those guys.
You might remember back to the 2008 playoffs when Balfour got into a little spat with shortstop Orlando Cabrera, with the White Sox at the time.
Balfour is a high-emotion pitcher who loves to talk to himself on the mound. Cabrera is another one of those intense veterans in his own right. The problem is Balfour isn’t exactly reciting nursery rhymes out there.
The Australian-born right-hander was confused as to why Cabrera kicked dirt after that first pitch. He said Cabrera told him to throw over the plate, so he did .
"I was like, all right, and went right at him. And I started saying some words and left it at that. It just fired me up. ...It's not like I went in on him or anything. I was just trying to make a good pitch down and away."
After Balfour struck out Cabrera with the bases loaded, he marched back to the dugout and told Cabrera to go sit down. To his credit, he didn’t keep it that simple as he said he “might have mixed one or two” other words in there.
In the end of it all, Cabrera didn’t know the Aussie would cuss at every swing and miss and you can probably chalk the spat up as a slight misunderstanding and playoff emotions, but that’s exactly why I love guys like Grant Balfour.
Balfour is the type of guy you make up for a movie, not someone you actually see at the major league level in real life. He’s a movie stereotype, but he’s awesome.
If I need to, I can count on him to go out there and throw something up and in. He wouldn’t be afraid to intimidate a hitter at the plate. In fact, he would probably thrive off that situation.
Emotional players are great for baseball, especially relief pitchers that work late in the game. A little more adrenaline flowing might make that fastball a little quicker and if it’s the right pitcher, might increase their intensity and focus.
2009 wasn’t as great as 2008 was for Balfour, when he carried a 1.54 ERA in 58 innings of work in addition to the big moments in the postseason he had. But all those bullpen guys are quirky like that from year to year.
Hopefully 2010 will be a new year for him.
And maybe he won’t have to worry about crazy girls admiring his backside during spring training either.
It was in the first spring training game of this 2010 season that I got a good feel for just what kind of personality Chris Perez is. He’s cut from the same cloth as a Grant Balfour, but he doesn’t exactly swear at opposing hitters.
Perez is a little more of that braggadocios type reliever. But don’t make any mistake, he can back it up and he’ll back you off the plate in the process.
New Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher was retelling a story about what happened during the game when Perez was warming up for his inning of work. Being a National League guy, Manny Acta had the goods one of the young Cincinnati players that was due up.
Dead-red hitter on the first pitch, so don’t throw a fastball on the first pitch Belcher relayed to bullpen coach Scott Radinsky.
When Radinsky repeated the message to Perez, the right-hander from Miami finished delivering his pitch and confidentially pointed out one important piece of information that Manny Acta and his staff didn’t have.
“He ain’t seen mine yet.”
And that’s it, that’s what you love about Chris Perez.
Not just the confidence, but the belief that his fastball is so much different than any and every other fastball in the history of fastballs. His fastball is so good; this young kid from Cincinnati isn’t even going to touch it.
The White Sox certainly did in Perez’s Tribe debut and in a way, it was understandable.
Perez was amped up and eager to prove his worth to Cleveland that they traded for a good player. Typical of some players to feel that way, but when it’s someone like Chris Perez, there is such a thing as too amped up.
Pitchers like Perez and Balfour are going to need to calm that energy when they can. But that attitude is more of a positive than a negative and they should never change the way they play the game.
The last time I checked, the MLB playoffs are some of the most intense and highly emotional situations you will run across in the world of sports. What better type of people to thrive off those situations than bulldogs like Chris Perez and Grant Balfour?
Sure, the calm and collected are probably the best candidates, but there are only so many Mariano Riveras in this world.
Give me a few Balfours and Perezes in my bullpen and I’ll be satisfied. I’ll also get the best sound bytes out of everyone else. Not to mention some outrageous hair and curses with an Australian flavor.
"Players I Love" is a part of a month-long series of articles that are previewing the 2010 MLB season. For the other parts of "Players I Love" and a schedule, click here .
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