A’s designated hitter Billy Butler addressed reporters Wednesday for the first time since the clubhouse fight that landed him on the disabled list with a concussion.
Butler expressed contrition for his role in the scuffle with teammate Danny Valencia that occurred last Friday in Chicago and said he spent much of Tuesday apologizing to teammates and the coaching staff for causing a distraction to the team.
The fight, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, became an unwanted story line for an A’s team mired in another losing season.
“I want to just say to my teammates, I would like to apologize for putting them through this, because they didn’t deserve this,” Butler said Wednesday morning before the A’s played the Cleveland Indians. “This was an issue between me and Danny. They didn’t deserve this, the coaching staff didn’t deserve this, the organization didn’t deserve this.
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“This is something that could’ve been prevented on both sides. It was one of those things we both had equal faults in. Me, I definitely said some things that you shouldn’t have. I definitely stepped in an area that wasn’t my business.”
According to the Chronicle, the altercation began with Butler making comments about Valencia to an equipment representative and escalated to Valencia hitting Butler in the head. Butler said the two players, who were also teammates previously in Kansas City, often engage in banter that is usually “in good fun” but went too far Friday.
“It’s one of those things that I regret what I did and I know he regrets what he did,” said Butler. “Just because of the result of what happened to me, it had to come out publicly. I didn’t want for that to happen and neither did he. By no means do I think his intentions were to give me a concussion. I think that’s fair to say.”
Butler has not played since the incident and said he declined to speak to the media until Wednesday because he was not, “in the right frame of mind.” He said he had not spoken with Valencia yet but planned to at some point Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of qualities about Danny that I like,” Butler said. “I know it looks like we fought. And we do it every day – not to that extent. To say that we’re enemies is not right, is not right. And to blame this all on one side is not right, either.”
To that end, Butler said he apologized to teammates individually Tuesday and apologized to manager Bob Melvin. He said he apologized to vice president Billy Beane and general manager David Forst in a meeting Monday about discipline. Forst told reporters that both Butler and Valencia had been fined an undisclosed amount.
“I think that’s probably the final step in let’s just get past this and move forward now,” Melvin said Wednesday. “It was tough, certainly tough on (Butler). And he’s doing a lot better. He’s going to go with us on this trip and I think he’ll be doing baseball stuff here again once we’re on the trip, so he’s not too far away from playing hopefully.”
Butler said he felt like he “turned a corner” physically Tuesday afternoon and he hopes to be ready to return from the DL when eligible next Monday. First, he will have to pass the league’s concussion protocol tests. “To say I’m on schedule would be fair,” Butler said.
Butler said he believes he and Valencia can “absolutely” coexist in the clubhouse. Speaking to reporters Monday, Valencia said of his relationship with Butler: “He’s just my teammate. I have respect for him. I hope he has respect for me.”
Butler said he saw those comments.
“On his comments, I definitely respect him,” Butler said. “I respect him for what he does. I respect him for the hard work that he puts in, for his role on this team. I respect him as a guy that’s proven himself in this league.”
Butler is also a veteran of 10 seasons and said he was aware of how the altercation must have looked to many of the A’s younger players.
“We have a lot of young guys up here that are a part of the future plans here, and from a veteran standpoint we’re supposed to show the leadership and guidance of how you’re supposed to act up here,” Butler said.
“I’ve done that the majority of my career. And this is one instance where I just made a mistake. Everybody does it. It’s human nature. Nobody’s perfect. I’m not asking anybody to be perfect. So you’re going to make mistakes. You just try to learn from them.”