NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The honors keep coming for Billy Butler, who can now clear space in his trophy case for the 2012 Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The voting wasnt close.
Butler received 80 of 84 first-place votes in balloting by a panel of beat writers, broadcasters and American League public-relations departments. Nominees consisted of the 24 players who had at least 100 at-bats as a DH.
Not bad for a guy who, as recently as 2011, chafed at the idea of being a full-time DH.
Ive embraced it, Butler said. I understand what my role is, and I want to do it to the best of my ability whatever that is. Each day when I come to the park, Im going to make sure I do that. I think thats what every guy on our roster should do.
Thats what makes you a professional. Youre not the one who gets to call where youre going to play or what position youre going to play. Whatever youre told to do, you do it to the best of your potential.
Torontos Edwin Encarnacion finished second in the balloting.
Butler, 26, previously won the Silver Slugger Award for excellence in hitting by a designated hitter and was picked as the Royals player of the year for the third time in four seasons.
For Billy to win the Silver Slugger was a phenomenal accomplishment, manager Ned Yost said. It just gives him a little bit of due on how good he really is. When you win the Silver Slugger as a DH, those are guys who their sole job is to hit.
That production hasnt gone unnoticed.
Several rival clubs are responding to the Royals rotation-building efforts by inquiring into Butlers availability. While general manager Dayton Moore stops short of declaring Butler as untouchable it is just short.
Weve got to score more runs, Moore said, and were not going to score more runs if Billy Butler is not in the lineup. Or somebody like that. Three and four hitters, thats how you build your offense, and Billy is a proven talent in that slot.
For his part, Butler tries to ignore the speculation.
Ive been a Royal for my whole career, he said. I dont even know what (being traded) would be like. I dont even want to think about that. I really enjoy whats going on right now.
Weve made some moves, and were really building something special here. Thats all I care about, and thats all I care to look forward to. Im a Kansas City Royal and, hopefully, thats what Ill always be.
Butler topped the Royals in the Triple Crown categories last season by batting .313 and setting career-highs with 29 homers and 107 RBIs in 161 games. He also led the club with a .373 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage.
Most of that production came while Butler served as a designated hitter: 23 homers, 93 RBIs and a .315 average in 138 games while compiling a .371 OBP and a .501 slugging percentage.
The award dates to the start of the DH era in 1973 and was renamed in 2004 in honor of Martinez, a five-time winner from 1995-2001 while playing for the Seattle Mariners. Butler is the Royals first recipient since Hal McRae won for the third time in 1982.
Bostons David Ortiz won last year and in six of the previous nine seasons.
Hes been consistently dominant in that spot over the last 10 years or so, Butler said. Hes been hard to match. He was having a great season this season, too, when he got hurt. He really had some great numbers for the amount of games he played this year.
If hed had a full season, he might have won it again.
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