Billy Butler, the longest tenured Royal before agreeing to a 3-year, $30 million deal with Oakland in the offseason after the Royals didn’t pick up his $12 million option, is coming back to the K. And, we should take a moment to show him our appreciation for what he meant to this organization. He was the Royals star, even before Alex Gordon and he was here through thick and thin, posting a .300 average with 20 HR, 90 RBI and 40 doubles per season before a slowdown his last couple of years.
While it was sad to see his Royals career end, we all should have anticipated this departure after his performance over the past two seasons, including a career worst .271/.323/.370, failing to hit double-digit HR (he hit less HR in 2013 and 2014 combined than he did in 2012) in 2014 as well as his apparent complicated relationship with Royals manager, Ned Yost. The fans turned on him at times his last two seasons here, but they came back to him at the end when Yost jerked him around. Butler stuck around in trying times, while most would have walked, and took less money to do so. There’s something to be said for that. Butler wasted his best years (2009-2012) as the best Royals hitter (.295/.359/.440) on bad Royals teams and his smile and presence will be missed (but not his double plays?).
Even GM Dayton Moore said himself that maybe he should have took the option on Butler and paid him the $12M to be here in KC for at least one year because the market for bats this offseason was poor and the price inflated. The Royals essentially signed an older version of Butler in Kendrys Morales this offseason, and for not that much less money than Butler took out in Oakland (http://kcsportsnation.com/2014/12/day-kendrys-morales-reaction/#more-5894). I think one of two things happened: Moore thought they could re-sign him (I did, too) for a cheaper rate than what he was making even, then Billy Beane happened and/or, the Butler-Ned Yost relationship was so fractured that it could not be fixed and they couldn’t co-exist. I’ll lean with the first. Butler wanted to come back here, but he wasn’t worth what the A’s gave him and the Royals were smart not to match. I guess they say you’re truly worth what you get, so good for Butler.
He returns to Kansas City sporting a .359/.405/.513 slash with 1 HR, 6 RBI and already an A’s record holder – the longest hitting streak to start a season (10). The future Royals Hall of Famer trails only George Brett, Frank White, Amos Otis, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Mike Sweeney and Freddie Patek played in games played with the Royals (1,166). In Royals history he is seventh in AB (4,317), seventh in hits (1,273), sixth in doubles (276), seventh in HR (127), sixth in RBI (628) and walks (427) and third in average (only behind Brett and Sweeney).
While I expect Billy to get a big ovation tonight – one similar to the roar during the 2012 All-Star week – anyone who DOESN’T give Butler his due, simply doesn’t get it. Go out there tonight and give him a deafening cheer, one where he’ll have to step out of the box, give us that big smile one more time, and tip his hat to the crowd in his first AB, then hope he goes 0-4. Butler embodied Kansas City. He’s a little overweight and he knows it. He loves his barbeque. He’s a regular Joe. I’ll root for him (he is on my fantasy team, anyway) anytime he isn’t playing the Royals and I wish him well. Butler himself even hinted at a return to Kansas City to finish out his career when his time in Oakland is done. Until then, we should cheer him every time he comes back, but, especially tonight.
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