Toby Keith and Billy Butler Make a Great Pair
Billy Butler has definitely found his gold. He has signed a 3-year contract with the Oakland Athletics worth $30,000,000.00
Country music star Toby Keith says it best in his 1993 hit song, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”. According to Mr. Keith, when one is given the opportunity, he should head out West because, after all, there’s whiskey, women and gold to be found. I’m not sure if he would partake in the first, and I know he’s already found his Mrs. Right; however, Billy Butler has definitely found his gold. He has signed a 3-year contract with the Oakland Athletics worth $30,000,000.00. With all the abuse he has taken in Kansas City for a lack of hitting home runs and an over abundance of hitting into double plays, it’s ironic that his new contract is worth the same amount (minus $210,000.00, less than a weeks’ worth pay over his next 3 years…gold indeed!) as his previous 8 big league seasons combined. He will officially double his money in less than 50% of the time it took him to get to this point in his barbecue pushing, charitable giving, humongous heart of a career in KC. Some say good riddance. Some are happy it’s not in the AL Central Division, especially since many former players come back and punish their former squad. Some are happy for him. And some, at some point or another, have been a part of all three.
Let’s be honest…I hate being honest. That makes me both a moron and an oxymoron. For that, you can write me into your favorite comic book as the villain, sic your favorite superhero on me, then have them pummel me at will (insert your best onomatopoeia here). Before I get to why I’m living like Billy Idol sporting eyes without a face and why I’ll eventually be dancing with myself, I’ll nose briefly through the particulars. Butler is 28 now, and by baseball standards (and by standards I mean the gigantic nerds in baseball that think they know the game yet never played it), he’s over the hill and on tap to play the worst baseball of his career. He’s a former ’04 1st round pick out of a high school in Jacksonville, FL. He made his major league debut at the young age of 21, 4 full years before I made mine. He has averaged only 16 home runs a season for 8 seasons, very ho-hum for a 1B/DH, which include a whopping 29 bombs in ’12. ‘Country Breakfast’ owns a career average of .295, quite exceptional for his size (6’1″, 240…ish). He’s a pure hitter, loved the Royals, has been charitable beyond belief, exceptional with the media, and came through for his team on numerous occasions. And dare I say to all you negative Nellies out there who can’t believe he’d leave…he is extremely loyal. To his family. To his teammates. To his front office. To a fault. Most importantly, to himself. How so, you ask? Because he gave the Royals every opportunity to fork over some kind of contract that would have paid him less money, but enough to stay to be used in an even lesser role than he’s been in the past few years. And here’s another brain bender…the Royals did the right thing. Take a deep breath, walk away for a minute, come back, and read on.
The Kansas City Royals made it to the last game of the season. Not the last game of their season, aka the regular season, but every-team-in-baseball last game of the season. They were 90 feet from winning it all. They ran into a buzz saw in SF Super-Giant LHP Madison Bumgarner, and if you don’t know who that is, just ask his new PR Agent and Fan Club President, Joe Buck. The Royals have the BEST pitching staff in baseball. Bar NONE. Oh, and the best OUTFIELD in baseball. And the best CATCHER in baseball (yes, Molina is now #2 to this former player turned wannabe blogger). They even went to Game 7 with a manager who, evidenced by his on-field decision making in the Wild Card play-in game, looked like he was trying to get himself fired…again. Through all of this awesomeness, Billy Butler was simply average. He did hit into double plays at an alarming rate, and if I were him, I would have asked the folks in the TV truck to cease with the season HR stats during each at-bat. As a hitting expert, I watched him in countless games come around balls, squat too low, try too hard with runners in scoring position, chase bad pitches because he was told to stop chasing bad pitches, you name it, he pulled it off. Fans booed him, yelled at him to go on a diet. Funny how the overweight people throw the first stones. Hecklers brought his signature “Hit-It-A-Ton” BBQ to games so they could let him know it wasn’t working. And these were the KC fans. After all the games, the groundouts, the gargantuan pop-ups with runners in scoring position, Billy met with the media with dignity, respect, and accountability. He NEVER shied away from responsibility, while other young ‘punks’ exercised their self-given right of entitlement, blamed others, and boycotted a local radio station because they weren’t smart enough to understand the station wasn’t to blame for their injured pride. Billy Butler always saw the writing on the wall, even after a mammoth home run on the back side of a prolonged slump landed him on the cover of SI. In every sense of the word, he played his heart out, knew when it wasn’t good enough, was happy for the fans when it was, and always gave credit to the fans. You know, those same people that loved him, hated him, called him names, rode his coattails and kicked him when he was down. The fickle fans who, every time a tenured player leaves for something better, always have something to say in the negative.
You know what I would like to do? Pick a random name out of a hat, a hat featuring the names of those who attended games on a consistent or semi-consistent basis for the last 8 years. Even if they just watched the games on TV for the same time span, they would do just fine. Then I would like to turn on a DVD in which the drawn name would be able to watch their own work history from the last 8 years. At the bad parts, 30,000 random people would have the option to boo and heckle incessantly, each one having full knowledge of the persons’ salary, both past and present, but never being allowed to get ‘too close’. Then, at the bad parts, the media would rush in, microphones at the ready, and while thrusting said mics into the face of the drawn name, ask them questions at breakneck speed as to why they did what they did. At the end of the DVD, said person would then be allowed to share anything they would like, and I can almost hear the loyalty oozing from their lips. The thank-you’s fly. What’s that? You’ll take less money to stay with the company? You’d do that??? Well, the company says “no”. They’ll put in a good word for you, though. You’ll still receive your retirement, and you’re already rich. Here’s a new watch for you for your service. Man, you wish you could’ve stayed. And then, to everyone’s surprise…a new company comes calling, offering you an extended contract worth more than the market will pay you, because despite your up and down work history, they think you can help them, and help them BIG. They will even pay you $5 million next month just to sign on the dotted line-their way of saying “Merry Christmas!” But you’ll have to move. You will now be a competitor of your old company, and they know that’s hard, but they believe in you. And that person would RUN with it. For the whiskey, women, and gold. You were right all along, Toby Keith. Man, I love that song. I should’ve been a cowboy.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s all unrealistic, baseball is a business, big leaguers get paid to do a job, so grow up. I have always laughed at the remark “Hey, the fans pay your salary!”. Last time I checked, the Glass family paid Billy’s. I guess that means I paid some of it because I purchased something at Wal-Mart last week. The bottom line is this: fans are fickle, not all of them, but most. This post is not meant for the die-hards, you know them, the ones who love the unlovable. The ones who sit through rain delays on a work/school night just to see the last 3 innings of a game their team is already losing by 8 runs. I’m talking about the ones who save their money for months just to take their kids to 1 game a year because it’s all they can afford. You are all my baseball heroes. I’m writing to the throngs of fair-weathered, band wagon jumping, walking emoticons. You should be happy for Billy Butler because he’s living his dream, not yours. I’m happy that Billy found a place that believes he can make an impact and help make his new team contenders. Too many times we see folks complaining to the manager about the waiter but never complimenting them on their servers’ hard work, or noticing the mechanic who’s on a double shift, yet helped save the single mom hundreds of dollars because he helped educate her on what she needed for her car, not what she was told she couldn’t live without. I’m happy he’ll retire wealthy, relatively healthy (since I don’t have access to his LDL numbers), and that he gave Royals fans great memories. I’m sad he can’t stay. But he can’t. MLB DH’s must hit home runs and not clog the bases, and he did that here, but he also played hurt and heroic. I’m happy for Billy Butler, and you should be too. Some time when you tell your grand kids about the ‘Almost Made It’ season of 2014, you’ll mention him, and you probably won’t heckle him. And when Moneyball 2 comes out and Butler hits a walk-off double to win Game 7 at the end, you’ll be on the band wagon again. And then you’ll watch your copy of Moneyball on DVD, and share how Billy Beane started a trend of…oh, you get the picture.
Toby Keith spoke, and Billy Butler listened. They make a great pair. I hope we crush Oakland every time we play them, but inside, I hope Billy goes deep…twice. If he does, he’ll do what he’s always done…he’ll thank YOU, the fans, for always standing by him, even when you didn’t. That’s what loyalty do.