Hunter Pence isn't the only major leaguer who can give a rousing speech that precedes a big win. Closer Grant Balfour of the Oakland Athletics didn't even play Wednesday night in his team's stunning 4-3 comeback victory against the Tigers in Game 4 of the ALDS. But he did play a role in the drama.
Before the A's went to hit in the bottom of the ninth inning down two runs and facing the end of a dream season, Balfour got the boys together for a little positive-thinking exercise in the dugout. His instructions for A's batters against Detroit closer Jose Valverde were simple and blunt.
Via CSN Bay Area, he said:
"I was just telling the guys, I just said — and it's no disrespect to anyone — but I said, 'We're going to rock this guy's world tonight. We're going to walk it off in A's fashion. Because that's what we do.' I said, 'Believe it. Believe it. See yourself run on that field. Every one of you, put your mind to it and believe it and see yourself run on the field with a walk-off victory. Just see it and believe it.' "
"And we did it."
Below, listen to Balfour recreate the speech after the game:
Roy Hobbs might not buy into sports psychology, but it seems to work for Oakland. Or it doesn't not work. The A's are still playing, having finished the regular season with 14 victories in their last at-bat, and they just added another. And Balfour watched most of it from the dugout — even after pitching coach Curt Young ordered him to go warm up. You know, just in case the A's tied the score and needed Balfour to pitch the 10th? Yeah, well, about that ...
"Curt said, 'You've got to go down there. If we get one out, you've got to start getting loose.' I said, 'Don't worry about, I'm going to to get loose.' I said, 'Don't worry about it, I've got to stay here.' I ended up having to go down there and Coco got that last hit.
"I wanted to let the guys … I didn't want to be sitting down there. I wanted to be on the top step. I just wanted to make sure everyone was thinking the right way, thinking positive and just believing in ourselves. Because we've walked it off so many times, why can't we do it again? Why do we have to be afraid of success? There's no reason to be afraid of success. And we proved that tonight."
Bob Melvin's job as manager is a little easier when he has players such as Balfour who can give fiery speeches that obviously come from an authentic place. As anyone who has seen Balfour pitch knows, his rage comes from confidence. Or to overcome any lack of it. As Theodor Herzl said (NSFW link): "If you will it, it is no dream." Back to you, Grant:
"I believe in the mind as a powerful thing. … If you really want something bad enough, and you've got every guy in the dugout that wants it, and he's thinking the same thing and believes it, it just goes to show that those other guys did all the work and it happened."
Now, just as with Pence's speech, are we to believe that the A's somehow fall short if Balfour doesn't rev up everyone's engines? Or do we just give credit to Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith and Coco Crisp for rocking Valverde's world themselves? Grant?
"Shoot, it was three outs away, I know it's a tough situation. I'm not taking any credit. I'm just telling you, I want it so bad. I know everyone in here wants it so bad. I don't want to go home tonight. No chance."
Not with that kind of motivation. No chance at all.