Judging the Royals

Why Danny Valencia punched Billy Butler, and why it needed to be reported

Oakland A’s teammates, and former Royals, Danny Valencia and Billy Butler couldn’t keep their dispute private.
Oakland A’s teammates, and former Royals, Danny Valencia and Billy Butler couldn’t keep their dispute private. AP

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, here’s what happened:

Players get paid to use certain products and Danny Valencia has a shoe contract with one company, but had a pair of “off-brand” shoes in his locker. When an equipment rep asked Valencia about the shoes, Valencia said he only wore them during workouts; not games. Billy Butler then butted in and said Valencia was lying and used the off-brand shoes on a regular basis. Butler then allegedly told the rep they should drop Valencia’s shoe endorsement deal.

After the rep left, Danny got in Billy’s face and Billy said: “I can say whatever I want, and your bitch ass isn’t going to do anything about it.”

That might be the funniest thing anybody ever said right before getting punched in the head. Billy found out there was something Danny was going to do about it and now Billy’s out because of a concussion.

Players deserve privacy but need to respect the job reporters do

After clocking Billy, Danny didn’t want to talk about it and said what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, but this time it didn’t.

Players don’t get much privacy when they’re out in public, so they expect some in the clubhouse; they consider the clubhouse their home. If a reporter writes about private conversations or what’s in a player’s locker or what politically incorrect joke one player told another, players don’t like it and most reporters understand why.

If some guy walked through your house, took a look in your fridge, checked out what you were watching on TV and then went and told all your neighbors what he saw, you wouldn’t like it either.

Veteran reporters try to respect player privacy, but have to decide where to draw the line. But it seems like the line is fairly obvious: there are two of them and they run from home plate to the foul poles.

Players deserve privacy, but what they do on the field is public. And once private behavior affects what happens on the field — and punching a teammate in the head and putting him on the concussion list would seem to qualify — players need to respect the job reporters have to do: report on the team.

Susan Slusser had to do her job: report on why Billy Butler is on the concussion list.

Danny vs. Billy

Neither player has a sterling reputation as a teammate. Danny Valencia has played for six different teams and when guys bounce around like that there’s usually a reason. When a player becomes available, smart GMs ask why.

In 2014 Valencia played 36 games for the Royals and hit .282, but the Royals were willing to part with him. In 2015 Valencia played 58 games for the Blue Jays and hit .296, but the Jays were willing to part with him.

It would be unfair to claim Valencia has played for so many teams solely because he wears out his welcome, but a player’s personality matters. It’s part of what smart GMs look for; is this guy a good fit in our clubhouse?

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.

If you want it to stay in the clubhouse, keep it in the clubhouse

I never got to know Danny Valencia very well, but Billy Butler and I got along OK. It’s no fun writing critical stuff about people who never did anything to you, but Danny punching Billy is forcing some clubhouse issues out in the open.

People got upset when I said if you were going to choke Bryce Harper don’t do it in the dugout, but it was true: if players want this stuff to stay in the clubhouse — and I’m sure there are plenty of altercations we don’t know about — don’t let it spill out on the field.

Good reporters try to respect privacy, but when players start punching each other we’re forced to write about it.