The combination of Billy Burns and Billy Butler was incredulous for a myriad of reasons. The two Billy B's were the fastest (the former) and the slowest (the latter) baserunners in the entire game of baseball on one team. Burns was a slap-happy speedy youngster who showed surprising power during his rookie campaign, Butler was an approaching-aging slugger whose power completely evaporated during his first season with his first new ballclub in the majors. Burns was a likely-to-flame-out anomaly traded for a seasoned, good-not-great left-handed relief pitcher and Butler was one of the largest free agent signings in Oakland A's history.
Burns was a resounding success. Butler was a fireable offense.
Half a season later, Burns is headed towards hopefully greener (or uh, blue-er) pastures in Kansas City after a miserable sophomore slump of a season and Billy Butler is primarily riding the bench but getting his job done while simultaneously drawing the ire of the fanbase at large.
Butler is usually pilloried for his on-field performance paired with his large contract, sometimes fairly and sometimes not so, and he hasn't been able to do much in order to rectify the situation. He has, on multiple occasions, including most recently following a performance in which he hit a dramatic, game-winning home run, complained about his "undeserved" lack of playing time and his uncomfortableness with adjusting to being a part time role-player after an entire career of starting every single day, as well as failed to meet certain fitness expectations of the fan-base as a whole. But despite the vulgarity that Butler's name has become associated with on this team, what is truly clear is that Butler still has a strong competitive spirit and an emotional fire when he plays, and that has been no clearer than it was today.
It started out as what Butler described as a "Professional strike zone disagreement," with Butler at bat in the fourth inning down 1-2 with the A's down 1-2. Josh Tomlin's, the Indians' starting pitcher, next offering was just off of the plate outside, and catcher Chris Gimenez believed the borderline pitch to be a strike. Who spoke first and what exact words were exchanged isn't known, but after a calm and lengthy discussion between Butler and Gimenez, Butler would temporarily step out of the box and reset his batting stance.
Then Gimenez said something else. And Butler got mad.
Butler puffed out his chest and raised his shoulders, taking on the stance of someone who is expecting a fight and expecting to fight, and immediately prompting the home plate umpire to stand between Butler and Gimenez and solve the dispute without fisticuffs breaking out. After a few amusing moments of watching grown men argue over some unknown mystery, the umpire put the discussion to rest and the game of baseball resumed once again. Butler, however, was determined to have the last word.
Though, technically, Gimenez would have the last word, or words, as he sadly and desperately shouted a fury of expletives at Butler's bouncing behind as he easily jogged to first base after launching Tomlin's full count cutter nearly 450 feet into the left field seats, releasing what I can only assume to be a primal scream, and then lazily-yet-dramatically flipped his bat right in front of the irate catcher. The boos would rain down all over Progressive Field, all over Cleveland proper, all over Twitter, all over the baseball world. Billy Butler did not hear those boos. Billy Butler has thirty million reasons to either ignore or relish in the haters.
Do not say that Billy Butler does not care about succeeding on this baseball team. Even if he can't live up to his large contract, Butler wants to win and be out there just as much as all the other guys on the team. Its why he maligns not playing every single day, because he wants to compete, and it's why he is so obviously frustrated with himself when a game isn't going his way. Do not close off thine hearts to him, for as long as his passion for the game is there he is still capable of mashing dingers so large that it can make one forget the mediocre-to-very-bad season in the moment and simply appreciate baseball for all it is and all it can provide.
The Indians scored more runs than the A's, three more, in fact, but the clear winner of this game was Billy Butler. Few would have expected that this Billy B would have been on the A's longer than his bizarro counterpart, but fewer still would expect that the other Billy B would be capable of capturing a moment just like Butler did tonight.
Don't make Butler angry. You will not like him when he's angry.
[It should also be noted that Dillon Overton was bad in the same way that he has previously been bad, by leaving flat fastballs or hanging curveballs in the upper half of home plate and getting completely and thoroughly pummelled for it, surrendering three home runs in less than four innings pitched. Without his pre-injury velocity, he will have to further retool himself as a control and finesse pitcher in the minor leagues or he will never succeed at the top level.
The A's offense was aggressive and made some solid contact, but had very poor sequencing and struck out far too much and was mostly anemic throughout the game. Marcus Semien hit his 22nd home run of the season in vain in the top of the ninth inning and Bruce Maxwell got his first major league hit on a single that he unsuccessfully attempted to stretch into a double.]