Billy Butler has been out the last two games “because he was injured in an altercation with teammate Danny Valencia,” sources tell the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. No player or manager spoke on the record to Slusser, though manager Bob Melvin had previously noted that what would ordinarily sound like “flu-like symptoms” — nausea and vomiting — was categorically not the flu.
Slusser notes Valencia didn’t play on Sunday, but I’m not sure what to make of the fact that Danny Valencia played in Saturday’s contest. Butler wasn’t a late scratch, he was never announced for the lineup when it went up on Twitter at 12:50 p.m. for the 4:10 p.m. PT start on Saturday. So this altercation had to have happened before then. Is that enough time to make an internal disciplinary decision? Even if it was, would you want to make the decision to drop two obvious right-handers from a lineup that was about to face White Sox left-hander Chris Sale?
And who was in the right in whatever this altercation was about? I don’t know.
One thing to remember when it comes to Butler/Valencia altercation that the @sfchronicle reported; great A's teams of 70s brawled nonstop.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 21, 2016
Of course, this 2016 club is hardly a great team, but the ‘67 Kansas City A’s who finished 62-99 weren’t great either, and that team included Bert Campaneris, Rick Monday, Dick Green, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Catfish Hunter, and Blue Moon Odom. At their new Coliseum digs, the Oakland A’s immediately went over .500 for the next nine seasons.
But it’s hard for me to even pick out who I want to have been in the right and in the wrong. Billy Butler’s recent resurgence notwithstanding, his continued presence on the roster has represented this club’s incredible shortcomings over the last two seasons. Payroll kept under $100 million and the A’s throw over 10 percent of it on this guy?
Danny Valencia represents the terrible defense the A’s have put out the last couple of years, salvaged only by the hard work Marcus Semien has put in to improve at shortstop. Valencia Valencia also didn’t arrive to the A’s with the most stellar of reputations, having been on six clubs over parts of seven major league seasons. His arrival was also a little off, having been waived off of the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline when the Jays could have just optioned Chris Colabello. There have always been rumors about his clubhouse conduct over the years.
Billy Butler and Danny Valencia can’t even begin to have the right to pick fights with one another. They’re not close to the sorts of leaders that can pull out that kind of horse manure, not when the club needs to set itself up to be better than they are.
You can only hope the rookies and younger players on this team can show the maturity that at least one of Butler or Valencia — if not both — seems to lack.
UPDATE (7:38 p.m. PT): The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser has further reported her story, and the dispute sounds exactly as dumb as you feared. To summarize, Butler narced on Valencia to an “equipment representative” that Valencia wasn’t using the cleats Valencia said he was using. To which I say, this sounds so stupid.