On Sunday night, news broke that Oakland A’s teammates Danny Valencia and Billy Butler had been involved in a clubhouse tussle that had left Butler injured. In the aftermath, multiple players spoke up to defend Valencia, while remaining silent regarding Butler. We now have more details on the incident, thanks to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who has been at the forefront reporting this entire bizarre episode.
Slusser’s follow-up story contains a surprising amount of detail on the fight, more than I would have expected for such an embarrassing altercation. I’m not going to rehash the details here; click here to read all about it from Susan herself. Her report is a must-read for any A’s fan.
We’ll need a quick summary to continue here, though. Short version: Butler spoke out of turn to rat out Valencia, potentially costing him an endorsement. The latter responded, neither man backed down, the situation escalated and turned physical, and Valencia punched Butler in the head. For specifics and quotes from the fight itself, check out Slusser’s full report.
To be fair, the team doesn’t seem to be making a big deal out of this, at least not publicly. Valencia has been fined (via Slusser), and so has Butler (via Jane Lee). Butler was moved to a locker away from Valencia’s (via John Hickey), and Valencia sounds ready to move on (via Lee). GM David Forst downplayed it as well (via John Shea). Stephen Vogt, clearly a clubhouse leader, had this to say:
Stephen Vogt on incident, "This happens in every clubhouse in America." Said he didn't see it, talked with both teammates, now moving on.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) August 22, 2016
And now for the hot takes.
Those reactions from the team are all well and good. It’s great to hear that everyone is talking nice already. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s one especially easy way to move on from all this: Just get rid of both these guys. Both of them acted like children, with Butler sticking his nose where it didn’t belong and Valencia using his fists instead of his words.
What’s the upside here? Valencia is a wonderful hitter who gives back almost all of his production via his awful defense. He’s a fine player to have around in certain roles, but his shaky clubhouse reputation (whether fair or foul) predates his time in Oakland and antics like this fight are officially more trouble than he’s worth.
Meanwhile, Butler is a nearly useless player at this point in his career, with a barely average bat and zero value in any other aspect of the game. The only upside he offered was the chance to pad his hitting stats over the next six weeks in the hope he could gain enough value to dump some or all his bloated salary on another team, and a late-August concussion is not going to help that goal.
There already wasn’t space for these guys on the Oakland A’s. The team even agrees, as both guys have been benched at times throughout this season. Now they have both become a big off-field distraction and, presumably, a poor example for the younger players who are about to flood into this clubhouse over the next 12 months. Didn’t they just spend all of last winter making moves clear out a toxic clubhouse?
If this had been a fight between two stars, or two hot prospects, or really anyone else, then I’d probably be fine taking the team’s word for it and just letting it all go. But it’s a fight between two of the biggest deadweights on the roster, and if their poor play wasn’t enough to cut them and give their playing time to the upcoming top prospects, then this should be the final straw. It’s time for a clean slate in Oakland.