It has been a tough time for Billy Butler since he left Kansas City after the 2014 season. He surprised many by signing a three-year, $30 million deal with the Oakland Athletics, but has hit just .261/.327/.398 in his time there, and has just four home runs in 79 games this year. His miseries culminated last week when he reportedly received a concussion from a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia (also a former Royals player). Butler apparently ratted out Valencia to a shoe rep for not wearing gear the company was paying him to wear. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle gives the details.
After the rep departed, the players said, Valencia confronted Butler and told him, “Don’t you ever loud-talk me in front of a rep. That was wrong,” and walked aggressively toward Butler. Butler turned around, took a couple steps toward Valencia, and according to both witnesses, said, “I can say whatever I want and your bitch ass isn’t going to do anything about it.”
While Valencia may be considered one of the more toxic players to bring on a team in the eyes of front offices, he has at least gotten support in this incident from some teammates new and old, including Yonder Alonso, Coco Crisp, and our own Eric Hosmer. Butler, on the other hand, has been criticized for his role, and the incident has opened the floodgates of stories of Billy’s clubhouse behavior in Kansas City.
Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger detailed some of the thoughts of Royals employees about Billy Butler on “The Border Patrol” on 810 WHB yesterday.
Danny Valencia and Billy Butler have some of the strongest mixed feelings about them of recent Royals....
Billy Butler was thought of by a lot of guys he played with, as being selfish, of being happy if he goes 2-for-4 with a double and the Royals lost 5-3. He had a little bit - what’s the right term - a “me-first” deal....
Even guys who don’t like Billy Butler will say he’s harmless, he means well, he has a good heart. But there were parts of him that came across as too much, like “shut the blank up, you never stop talking, just let it go.”...
When I see that Danny Valencia and Billy Butler are getting in a fight, I imagine that there are, metaphorically speaking, Royals employees surrounding the cage throwing money and taking bets and hoping for a long fight.
Lee Judge of the Kansas City Star chimed in as well.
As for Billy Butler: a lot of fans love him, but a lot of teammates found him annoying. At times Billy could be obsessed with his own stats and didn’t have the best social skills, which is a bad combination. But if a guy hits, teams and teammates will put up with a lot; if the guys stops hitting, teams and teammates are less forgiving.
On “The Drive” on 610 Sports, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports adds that Billy’s problems stemmed from a lack of self-awareness.
Billy Butler is a guy who just doesn’t know what he is. He thought he was a leader in Kansas City. And he was the furthest thing from it. He considered himself like a veteran clubhouse leader because “veteran” and “clubhouse leader” tend to be used in the same sentence and he thought that those two things went hand-in-hand when there was no leadership there. Billy is a guy whose lack of self-awareness tends to get in the way.
Passan mentions that Billy has been teased quite a bit in clubhouses.
Billy Butler no matter where he’s been has been picked on, he’s been bullied. In some respects I felt bad for him for that. He’ll take it, and he’ll take it, and he’ll take it, and he’ll do it with a smile on his face, but then he will crack back in a completely untoward unaccepted way, and that’s how he ends up getting punched in the face.....
He was the butt of jokes and he always smiled about it and laughed about it but I don’t think he took it well. “Bill you’re fat, Bill you’re dumb.”....I got a sense it bothered him and I don’t blame him for it.
Former Royals slugger Mike Sweeney, a one-time teammate of Butler, gave his thoughts on 610 Sports on Friday.
"When I saw they got in a fight it did not surprise me" - Mike Sweeney on the Butler/Valencia fight #Royals— 610 Sports Radio- KC (@610SportsKC) August 26, 2016
Wow. Sweeney's comments about Billy Butler on @610SportsKC...if you didn't hear it, you need to.— Blake (@blakekcmo) August 26, 2016
"Winning wasn't at the top of his list."
Billy is a great-hearted guy. He’s like a 31-year-old kid that can hit, that wakes up and says I’m going to go out and get two hits today. Sadly, whether we win or lose, it wasn’t at the top of the list for Billy, as far as my experiences with him. But he’s a great-hearted guy, he’s just not a team guy. I felt the same with Danny.”
Dayton Moore reportedly tried to trade Billy Butler early on his career for Yuniesky Betancourt (Moore would later acquire Betancourt for prospects). The team benched him his final season in Kansas City and made little attempt to bring him back. At the time it seemed like Moore just didn’t appreciate Billy’s skillset as a slow, on-base machine who never developed the kind of power you might expect from a player like him. However, in the light of these clubhouse revelations, its probably more likely that the Royals were just sick of Billy’s act, and when he wasn’t hitting, it became much less tolerable.
Billy Butler still has many fans and supporters in Kansas City, and what happens behind clubhouse doors should not really affect fan perception of a player much. But it should help us understand why certain moves were made, and it seems the Royals were better off parting ways with Billy.