It had to happen eventually. As someone who expects to perform at a certain level, this season has not gone how Billy Butler and the Kansas City Royals have planned. Not only has Butler struggled with the bat, but he has become the poster child to a vocal section of the Royals fanbase for the team’s offensive struggles. Frustration was bound to set in eventually.
There were inklings of such unhappiness and frustration during the series with the San Diego Padres. Butler, who typically played a game or two at first during interleague series in the past, was benched for all three days, making his only appearances as a pinch hitter. As Butler had put together a .343/.368/.514 batting line in the nine game prior, he not only felt that his production should have been sufficient to play at least one game at first, but was concerned that the days off would cool off his hot bat.
Those frustrations appears to boil over last night. Normally even tempered, Billy Butler got into an argument with first base coach Rusty Kuntz after he was almost thrown out getting back to first base. Having hit a line drive down the left field line, Butler expected to have an easy double. Instead, Butler had to hurry back to first, nearly getting thrown out when Robinson Cano made a strong throw to Justin Smoak. Both Butler and Kuntz were incensed after the play, but were calmer after the game.
“It was one of those things where it was down the line and you’re assuming two,” Butler said. “Really, at that moment, you can’t hear anybody. He’s doing his job, I’m doing mine. I respect Rusty more than anybody — he’s the best baserunning guy I’ve ever been around. So if he’s yelling at you, you’re probably doing something wrong. I was just lucky enough to not be that wrong, where I couldn’t get back.”
This incident could actually affect the Royals in one of two ways. First, if not handled properly, Billy Butler’s argument with Kuntz could become a problem, causing the clubhouse to slip away from the coaching staff. Other players who have been frustrated this season may start snapping at the coaching staff.
Or, if this is handled correctly, Butler’s tirade could light a fire under the Royals. This is a team that appears to be badly in need of a spark, and perhaps the emotion displayed by the normally aloof Butler can be just that. To put it mildly, the Royals have been inconsistent this season, and seem as though they need something to kickstart their offense. Just as a manager will occasionally get thrown out of a game to give the team a lift, this unplanned outburst may work the same sort of magic for the Royals.
Such an incident is out of character for Billy Butler. It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on the Royals over the next few days.