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Butler and His Comments

I’m sure you all heard what Billy Butler had to say on XM Radio the other day and then essentially repeated on Nick Wright’s show on 610. Originally, I didn’t want to discuss it because there wasn’t a whole lot to it, but it’s been on my mind. Add to that the fact that there’s just not much going on in Royals land and it seems like a topic that should get some attention. For those who missed it, his comments were essentially verbalized in an MLB.com article where he talked about his displeasure for some of the comments Greinke made upon leaving and some of the comments he made in season that made us as fans realize that he was probably on his way out of town.

He went beyond those comments on the radio mentioning that he felt that Greinke should have been more thankful to the organization that stood by him through all of his issues. That alone is sort of a debate among Royals fans these days. One school of thought is that the Royals saved his career and stood by him in his toughest time. That can’t be argued, though, it could be argued that it was his immense talent that caused the organization to make the decision to stand by him. If someone like Rowdy Hardy had these problems, would the Royals do the same thing? Maybe, but not nearly to the extent they did. The counterpoint, though, is that Greinke has paid his debt to the organization. He won a Cy Young Award. He put fannies in the seats in a 2009 season where the team was going nowhere and the fan base was especially bitter about it because they were in first place in May.

Personally, I fall somewhere in between. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in this space or on another forum, but it isn’t the fact that he requested the trade that bothers me. Okay, that’s not true. It bothers me as a fan of my team. It’s the phenomenon that I can joke about how bad they are, but you can’t. That peeved me, but as a fan, not when thinking rationally. I get why he wanted out. I wish he didn’t, but I can understand why a guy who had been here for parts of seven season and his team never won more than 75 games would want a chance elsewhere. I even understand that there’s a chance he was misled and was made to believe the Royals would be more active in free agency in trying to build a strong team before the young guys made it up to the majors. I digress. What I was angry about was the way it was handled. I wish Greinke would have gone about things more professionally and not made his wishes public. I wish that he wouldn’t have strong armed the organization into having to make a trade for him that potentially cost the team valuable pieces (though from all reports, I doubt there was a better package out there from a team to whom Greinke would have approved a trade). I also wish that upon his first meeting with the Milwaukee media that Greinke wouldn’t have said that he was as happy now as he’d been since he was drafted. That was sort of a knife in the back comment.

I’m also not happy that Greinke made the comments he did during the season. At a time when the roster was beginning to get younger and younger and more impressionable, Greinke essentially came out and said that he wasn’t interested to find out what this group of kids could do. Again, I understand the sentiment, just not how he went about expressing it. My understanding is that the organization handled that properly, but I can’t imagine it fostered too many good feelings between the player and the organization. Overall, this situation was never going to be a good one, but the player and his representation did a fine job of making it messy. In the end, though, Greinke has actually made this trade easier on Royals fans. The prevailing thought is that if he didn’t want to be here then he should be gone and it’s calmed down the portion of the fan base that would typically be up in arms over the Royals losing yet another star player.

And we come back to Butler’s comments. I’m not so much interested in talking about what he said than I am in talking about what it means for the organization. It can’t be bad, that’s for sure. In Billy Butler, the Royals have a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. Sure, his home run totals aren’t what you’d like from a first baseman, but I have a feeling that had a lot to do with his hand and I think 2011 is going to be a HUGE year. Now, in addition to a big bat, the Royals have a leader who doesn’t seem to be too afraid to speak his mind. I have a feeling (no source, just a feeling) that after Greinke’s comments were made late in the season that Butler had a little conversation with him about the ramifications of them on the entire team. He’s becoming a leader. Strangely enough he’s one of the longest tenured Royals trailing, by my count, Alex Gordon, Joakim Soria, Gil Meche and Mitch Maier. Let that sink in.

Over the last few years, Dayton Moore and his team of scouts have drafted extremely well. Well enough, in fact, to boast the best farm system in baseball by a GIANT margin. Some are calling it the best of the generation and some are even saying it’s the best they’ve ever seen. In that farm system are a couple of players who are commonly referred to as born leaders. Mike Moustakas and Christian Colon are players who receive rave reviews for their ability to motivate, get in people’s faces and generally do whatever is necessary to carry teams on their backs. If I had to choose talent or leadership, I’d choose talent every single time, but when the opportunity is there to have a player who is a natural leader and be someone who can energize a team and he had talent, well, that’s someone I’d love to have on my team.

With Butler’s comments, it appears he’s becoming a leader of the Kansas City Royals. Mike Moustakas will be here soon. Christian Colon, now a second baseman, will probably move quickly* and be here soon, too. Lorenzo Cain is someone who, by all accounts, is about as good a teammate as there is. I’m not sure about leadership on the pitching side of things. Maybe one of my loyal readers can chime in with something they know about the personalities from the rubber.

*I think we’re in for a HUGE season from Colon in 2011. He’ll be playing in a hitter’s league in a hitter’s environment and moving to a position that should be very little challenge to him. He can focus entirely on his bat. I would not be surprised to see a .330/.420/.500 season out of him. I think that will probably lead to increased expectations that he won’t fulfill at the big league level, but it will put him on the prospect map and get him in Kansas City early in the 2012 season if not sooner.

I’ve talked a bit in this blog about intangibles and what they mean to a team and came to the conclusion that intangibles are silly if there’s not talent. When Scott Elarton called the team out a few years back, that was ridiculous because he was terrible. But if a team has good players who are willing to lead, that’s when intangibles become important. That’s one of my hopes for the future Royals. We all know there’s talent there. Some of these prospects will, of course, not pan out, but there’s enough that the team will be talented. Sometimes it just takes some leadership to get the breakouts. That’s the difference between the soon-to-be Royals teams from the ones we’ve seen recently. Good leaders aren’t going to make a 75 win team win 95 games, but they could help a 92 win team get those extra three wins to take the division. And from all accounts, it looks like the Royals are building a base of talent who also happen to be good leaders. Things could get fun quickly.

  1. Daniel
    December 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I think .330/.420/.500 out of Colon is far too optimistic. I think he will hit well, but more in the .300/.380/.450 range – still enough to get excited about, but not obscene. 🙂

  2. TCreecy
    December 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I was glad to see Butler say what he said as well. I harbor no ill feelings towards Greinke and agree with you for the most part(how it was handled.)

    As for Colon, that would be great to see that line in 2011. With Colon possibly moving to 2B I wonder where that leaves Johnny Giavotella(a personal favorite of mine.)

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