Billy Butler Left Out of Home Run Derby


Billy Butler is on pace for a career year in home runs. He’s got more home runs than Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira, his first base/DH peers. He’s part of the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

But even in Kauffman Stadium, he’ll just be a spectator in the Home Run Derby on Monday night.

Captain Robinson Cano selected Mark Trumbo of the Angels, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Fielder of the Tigers to join him on the field. It’s hard to argue too hard against any of those choices. Bautista has been a home run machine over the last few years, Trumbo was runner up in the Rookie of the Year vote last season and tied with Mike Moustakas in 2010 for the minor league lead in homers. Fielder has been an MVP candidate multiple times and in a full season, his low mark for homers is 28. Butler’s career high is 21.

That doesn’t stop Butler from being qualified and it doesn’t stop fans from being upset with Cano’s selections. Butler’s numbers justify a spot in the competition. Cano said last month that he would pick a Royal to be in the competition and after Butler was named as a reserve on the AL team it was expected that he’d take part in the derby in front of the hometown crowd.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for booing Cano during such an exhibition.

In the end it may not matter at all. Cano could have been pushed by Major League Baseball to go with someone else as a means of marketing the HR Derby. Maybe it was just lip service to answer a question in the diplomatic way. Would Cano say “no, I’m not taking a Royal”? Doubtful.

Some (like Sam Mellinger) had expressed concern that the different approach to a home run derby would mess with Butler’s swing for the rest of the year. Bobby Abreu entered the 2005 Home Run Derby with 18 homers and won. He only hit 6 the rest of the way and some suggested that he wasn’t making the good contact he was earlier in the year and blamed the derby. I’m not sure if that’s a big concern, because it didn’t give Cano problems last year or most other past winners. Abreu turned 31 years old in 2005 – his slow second half could just as easily be attributed to age. The Derby ended up as a nice excuse, though.

At any rate, Butler will be sitting in the grass at Kauffman Stadium a week from tonight, watching four other American League sluggers deposit baseballs in the fountains and the outfield concourse and threaten the Royals Hall of Fame in left field. He’ll start out on the bench on Tuesday and wait for a shot to get into the game.

Ron Washington should do everything he can to get Butler into the game. All-Star managers aren’t obligated to get every player in to the game, though they typically try. In the case of the hometown selection, it’s a good idea to try to get him in for an at bat and probably two. Royals fans are used to seeing their team overlooked. It’s flyover country, the team hasn’t been a winner very often and in some years, the good players just haven’t been that good. The last time the Royals had two all-stars was 2003. Nearly a decade of expecting just one player to represent Kansas City.

This year, it’s different. Butler is hitting well. He’s recognized as one of the best young hitters in baseball. He’ll get his chance to soak in the applause of the locals.

It just won’t be during the derby.