Update #2 (7:21 PM EDT): Both Valencia and Butler have been fined, per the Chronicle’s John Shea.
Update (6:30 PM EDT): Slusser hears that Valencia will be fined for punching Butler.
On Sunday, Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Athletics teammates Billy Butler and Danny Valencia were involved in an “altercation” in which Butler was injured. Butler missed two games and Valencia was curiously absent from Sunday’s lineup.
Details were scant at the time, but Slusser now has reported specifics on what happened at the Chronicle. So here’s what happened.
On Friday, an equipment representative was at the ballpark before batting practice and quizzed Valencia about a pair of off-brand spikes found in his locker. Valencia said that he only uses those spikes during pre-game workouts. Butler chimed in and said that Valencia was lying. Butler also allegedly told the representative to drop Valencia from the endorsement deal. Per Slusser, endorsement deals are worth in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $20,000 and sometimes more.
Later, after the rep had left the stadium, Valencia went up to Butler and said, “Don’t you ever loud talk me in front of a rep. That was wrong.”
Butler responded, saying, “I can say whatever I want and your b— ass isn’t going to do anything about it.”
One of the players Slusser spoke to said the players bumped heads and pushed each other. Valencia then punched Butler in the temple.
As was the case on Sunday, both Butler and Valencia have declined to comment on the incident. Slusser, who is regularly around the players, makes a point to say that Butler and Valencia “have a longstanding loud, joking, back-and-forth bantering relationship.”
Slusser quotes one player who said, “Those two go at it every day, so in that way, it was pretty normal. If Bill had dropped it, Danny never would have done anything. But he kind of kept egging him on. I think it’s fair to say he was verbally provoked, very much so. I’m worried about what might happen to Danny now, but at the same time, you don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Valencia absolutely should not have punched Butler, that’s quite obvious. Butler, though, comes off very poorly if the details of this story are accurate. It’s quite possible, based on Slusser’s description of the two players’ relationship, that he was simply trying to prank Valencia and took the joke way too far. Or Butler was simply being obnoxious.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was Valencia’s teammate in 2014, tweeted in support:
A’s outfielder Coco Crisp also offered his support to Valencia with a tweet, which first baseman Yonder Alonso retweeted: