OAKLAND — The A’s talked Monday of moving forward and leaving behind them a clubhouse fight between Danny Valencia and Billy Butler that landed Butler on the seven-day concussion list.
General manager David Forst said both players had been fined but will not be suspended, and that the issue was a closed case from an organizational point of view.
“There was an altercation in the clubhouse. We’re aware of it, both players have been disciplined and fined, and we’re moving past it. That’s it,” Forst said before Monday’s game against Cleveland. “From the organization’s standpoint, it’s resolved and we’re moving past it.”
Butler’s locker, which had been just a few stalls down from Valencia’s, has been moved to the other side of the A’s home clubhouse. Butler was at the Coliseum on Monday but did not appear in the clubhouse during the media’s pregame access period. Valencia did speak to reporters but kept his comments brief.
He did not address specifics of the conflict, which reportedly happened before Friday’s game in Chicago, or the root of it. Asked if he regretted anything that happened, Valencia replied: “I mean, in retrospect yeah. You’d like to handle things differently, but we’re handling it here. That’s pretty much it. We’re just going to move on from here and finish the season strong.”
He said he hadn’t talked to Butler since the incident but said he didn’t see a problem co-existing with Butler though the end of the regular season. How does he describe their current relationship?
“He’s my teammate,” he said.
Asked to expand, he offered: “He’s just my teammate. I have respect for him, hopefully he has respect for me, and that’s it.”
A source confirmed details from a San Francisco Chronicle report that said the incident flared up over comments Butler made about a specific brand of spikes Valencia was or wasn’t wearing, and how those comments could potentially cost Valencia an endorsement contract.
And though Forst and manager Bob Melvin both expressed the sentiment that the fight could be left in the rearview mirror, the unspoken truth is that the A’s clearly still have some off-field issues that have yet to be sorted out. Forst acknowledged after last season that the 2015 club had chemistry problems, and he and Melvin both targeted that as an area of emphasis in last winter’s roster moves.
There were whispers that infielder Brett Lawrie was part of last year’s problems. He was dealt to the White Sox in December, though there was no public acknowledgement from the team that chemistry-related issues played into it.
Asked about the current chemistry of his club, Forst said:
“Well, it’s not great. Look, it’s something we’re constantly addressing. There’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg thing here, with winning and good chemistry, or losing and bad chemistry. But it’s something we’re always talking to Bob about and we’ll constantly address.”
Both Butler and Valencia can be prickly personalities; both have tested the nerves of teammates and/or management during their time in green and gold.
They are both under team control for next season and it could be challenging to move one or both if the A’s weigh that option. Butler’s $10 million salary for 2017 might force the A’s to eat a large chunk of cash to trade him. A scout from another team that has watched the A’s extensively this season said he believed questions about Valencia’s reputation has suppressed trade interest in him.
In the shorter term, Melvin said he’s confident his team can finish out the final six weeks of the season harmoniously.
“There isn’t a clubhouse I’ve been in where everybody got along swimmingly,” Melvin said. “You’re gonna have some differences when you have 25 guys — in our case, (around) 50 guys here, it seems like. So not everybody’s gonna get along great, but I expect us to be fine moving forward.”