Posted October 07, 2013

Watch: Balfour, Martinez incite bench-clearing incident late in A’s Game 3 win over Tigers

Detroit Tigers, Grant Balfour, Oakland A's
Victor Martinez and Grant Balfour

Victor Martinez and Grant Balfour exchanged heated words in the ninth inning on Monday. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The ninth inning of Oakland’s Division Series Game 3 win in Detroit featured some extracurricular activity in the form of a verbal confrontation between A’s closer Grant Balfour and Tigers DH Victor Martinez, resulting in both benches and bullpens clearing before order was restored.

Oakland took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth at Comerica Park and called upon Balfour, their 35-year-old closer who saved 38 games and earned All-Star honors this year, to close it out. He got ahead 1-2 on Martinez, the leadoff hitter, via a ball, two called strikes and then a foul ball, all on 92-93 mph fastballs. Martinez stared down Balfour after the foul, whereupon Balfour shouted, “What the f— you looking at, b—-?” and received a reply of “F— you, b—–!”. As the f-bombs continued to drop, the two parties drew closer before benches emptied, upon which home plate umpire Gary Darling, who had situated himself between the pair, got out of the way. Deadspin has the video with NSFW video. For a cleaner version from MLB.com, see below:

Nobody was ejected, but both benches were warned. After play resumed, Martinez wound up lining out to rightfield, and he lingered on-field to stare down Balfour again before returning to his dugout. Balfour closed out the game three batters later, thus giving the A’s a 2-1 series lead.

Balfour, who was born in Australia and is the son of a former professional rugby player, has developed a reputation for his intensity and his foul mouth on the mound. Last year, an ESPN The Magazine poll of players found that he had “the worst potty mouth” in baseball, ahead of A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis. In Oakland, his entry into ballgames is accompanied by Metallica’s “One,” with fans doing a fairly silly-looking arm-waving ritual, the Balfour Rage. The phenonenon has caught on to the point that the A’s have incorporated it into his entrance video at O.co Coliseum.

In enemy territory, of course, that video doesn’t play. Neither do Balfour’s verbal antics, at least for some, though his spewing seems less directed at opponents and more at keeping his own adrenaline flowing. It’s not how Mariano Rivera went about his business, but so long as an opponent doesn’t take issue, it’s not a problem. However, Martinez obviously did take issue, and he’s not the first. Back in the 2008 postseason, when Balfour pitched for the Rays, he got into a confrontation with Orlando Cabrera, then of the White Sox. After that bout he said of his yelling, “I’m not talking at the hitter… I’m talking to myself. That’s what I do. I’m not going to change.” And apparently, he hasn’t.

Balfour hasn’t had the easiest time against the Tigers, at least since donning the green and gold in 2011. Coming into Monday’s game, he had allowed six runs in his past 12 innings against them in the regular season and postseason, most notably taking the loss in Game 2 of last year’s Division Series on a walkoff sacrifice fly and blowing a save and taking the loss back on Aug. 29.  In that game, he entered with a 6-3 lead but allowed Martinez to hit an RBI single, then served up a three-run walkoff homer to Torii Hunter.

After the game, MLB.com’s Jane Lee got Balfour’s perspective on the confrontation, which she shared via Twitter:

Thus far, we have yet to hear from Martinez.

12 comments
Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

Balfour is a chump. Lay off the steroids Grant and you won't have such roid rage.

MigglePops
MigglePops

Should Martinez not be looking at the pitcher while he is batting? LOL what a joke.  Pitchers and batters stare each other down constantly, as they should.  Balfour is completely out of line.

M20
M20

As a neutral, I don't understand why Balfour is getting the blame here. What was Martinez doing staring at him like a possessed maniac after a foul ball? I've never seen such a bizarre reaction from a batter. He was clearly trying to instigate something. I would have asked what he was staring at too.

Also, Balfour's "rage" looks like a weak and pathetic attempt to emulate hardcore slamdancing.

rjfisher72
rjfisher72

Consider the players involved. V Mart is the picture of class, ultimate team player and a great leader (just ask any of his former Cleveland teammates and Cleveland fans). The other player is nutty, loud and a jerk by most accounts. I wonder whose to blame?

jrealy
jrealy

I don't understand why Balfour's temperament is accept by the A's.  Yesterday it did not affect them, but I have seen it on more than one occasion when he gets riled up like that and he starts to unravel on the mound.  I would get that in check if I was Melvin.  You can't have a closer with a glaring weakness that other teams can exploit.

khangol
khangol

Balfour is a psycho. He should be locked in a rubber room and kept sedated.

CAP75
CAP75

Balfour, you're an idiot.  "The death stare"?  Get over it.  You flew off the handle because someone dared look in your direction and shake you up.  There are obviously some underlying issues present in your case.  And we're supposed to pass it off as simply being intense?  No, you're a foul-mouthed jerk who doesn't know how else to keep himself in the game.  Intensity in your language translates to obscenity.

MigglePops
MigglePops

@M20 @M20 OOOoooooohhhh was he looking at him? Ooooh what a bad boy!  Try taking an at bat without looking at the pitcher.

CAP75
CAP75

@JosephBagadoughnutz Thank you for the superfluous, empty-headed, cliched response.  You accomplished nothing and [amazingly] offered even less.  Now go take a bat to your co-worker's bag of doughnuts.