According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, Billy Butler, currently one of the Oakland Athletics’ hottest hitters, was injured Friday night in an altercation with teammate Danny Valencia.
When Butler was out of the lineup over the weekend, the team maintained that he was suffering from nausea and vomiting. Yet A’s skipper Bob Melvin did say that Butler did not have the flu.
Luckily, in a way, the A’s are out of contention this season so if Butler loses playing time, with what is being speculated as a concussion given the symptoms, the A’s will not be in any serious trouble despite losing Butler, who has been the A’s best and most consistent hitter since July.
Butler had struggled for his first year-and-a-half in Oakland but was finally hitting his stride. After signing a three-year, $30 million contract with the A’s as a free agent in 2105, he went on to have a terribly disappointing first season with the A’s, batting just .251/.323/.390 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI.
The beginning of 2016 wasn’t much better. Over the course of the first three months of the season, Butler was hitting .250/.292/.375 with only two homers and 20 RBI. That wasn’t quite the player the A’s had hoped they were getting when they signed Butler to his contract, which is a very expensive one considering the Athletics don’t have a lot of money to spend on players.
Many felt, and some still do, that the Butler signing had been a complete bust and waste of money. That was, until he started hitting in July and just hasn’t stopped. Still, this sudden ability to get hits again comes half-way through Butler’s contract and there are no guarantees that it will continue.
While Butler hasn’t been hitting for power, having just four home runs this season, he’s been hitting more than a few doubles, walking and pretty much always getting on base in any way he can. Butler, who is nicknamed “Country Breakfast,” is not the fastest player on the basepaths yet he’s been able to hit multiple doubles during his long hot streak.
The fact that an injury could stop his hot streak in its tracks is especially true now that the incident with Valencia, which took place on Friday evening, could keep him out for at least a week. If the injury really is, as Slusser speculated, a concussion, he could be put on the seven-day concussion list. Seven days away from the plate is a lot of time and quite possibly put Butler’s hot streak to a very quick halt.
This incident could hurt any chance that the A’s may have had to potentially trade him in the offseason. While there has been no indication of that by the club at this time, it is certainly a possibility, especially with the way Butler has been hitting. Him ending the season on a hot streak could make him desirable to some other team, and the A’s would be able to free up a good part of the almost $12 million he is owed in 2017.
As for Valencia, this hurts his reputation and chance to get another job once he hits free agency after next season or perhaps even cause the A’s to not tender him a contract this December. There was talk around the trade deadline of Valencia being a type of problem player.
While many of his teammates and former teammates sent out Tweets in support of Valencia, including the Royals’ Eric Hosmer and both A’s outfielder Coco Crisp and first baseman Yonder Alonso, it will still make it more difficult for Valencia should he find himself without a job this offseason.
Don't understand all the negativity towards Danny Valencia. One of the better teammates/friends I've had in this game.
— Eric Hosmer (@TheRealHos35) August 22, 2016
I feel the same, Danny has been one of my favorite teammates as well. Solid guy and a hard worker. https://t.co/Bt7f3GAlCY
— Covelli Crisp (@Coco_Crisp) August 22, 2016
While Valencia has been an excellent hitter since joining Oakland, he’s been just a terrible defensively. He was thought to be one to have generated interest at the trade deadline, but he’s been on four different clubs in six seasons, making most clubs view him as a clubhouse liability.
Obvioiusly, this incident with Butler is not helping his reputation in that regard, although it’s impossible to truly know what happened without being there.
If and when more details of this altercation becoming public it could be quite damaging to Valencia’s career or perhaps even Butler’s.
Valencia, who simply told the press he had “no comment” on this situation, is entering his first year of arbitration and he is more likely to be designated for assignment or, as previously noted, not tendered a contract by the A’s than he is to negotiate a new deal with Oakland. Oakland has Ryon Healy currently playing at third, Valencia’s regular spot, and potentially another third baseman in their fourth-ranked prospect Matt Chapman ready to play in 2017.
The incident is quite unfortunate for all involved. It has the potential to not just negatively affect Valencia, but Butler and the entire A’s team.
At one point back in the 1970’s altercations in the A’s clubhouse were regular occurances, but today those kinds of shenanigans are not tolerated and very highly-paid players can be hurt because of them. Until more information is available we won’t know the fate of Valencia, Butler or the Athletics, but in light of what we do know things aren’t exactly looking up.