Billy Butler has disappeared from baseball

By Steve Sell
April 25, 2017

Tuesday’s thoughts...

• WHERE'S BILLY BUTLER? — The Kansas City Royals’ season-long hitting woes got me to thinking about Billy Butler.

Has there ever been a player who had such a precipitous fall from grace?

Butler was one of the most popular players in Royals history, known as “Country Breakfast” for his girth and aw-shucks demeanor. He burst on to the scene in 2007 and got out of bed hitting line drives. 

In his third year at age 23 in 2009, Butler hit .301 with 51 doubles and 21 home runs. It was thought he would be a fixture in the middle of the Royals' order for the next decade.

Butler was a model of consistency until 2014 when he started showing signs of slippage, due in part that he didn’t keep himself in the best of shape. Even though the Royals made it to the World Series that year, Butler’s power diminished as he hit only 9 homers and drove in 66 runs while hitting .271. He was still a doubles machine with 32, but that season proved to be the beginning of the end.

Butler was a free agent after 2014 and signed with Oakland. He hit 15 homers and drove in 65 runs in 2015, but his average tumbled to .251, about 40 points below his career average. He then played 85 games with the A’s in 2016 before getting into a fight with teammate Danny Valencia and wound up being released. Even though he’s only 31, he currently is without a job and I don’t think his phone is ringing off the hook.

I can remember when Butler left the Royals for the A’s that fans were concerned that he would re-boot his career and go back to being a destructive offensive force, but the Royals apparently knew what they were doing. But amazingly there are no takers for a player who hit .290 in his career with 147 homers. And Kendrys Morales hit as well, maybe even better, in Butler’s stead in his two seasons with the club. 

What the Royals wouldn’t give to have him back given that Brandon Moss can hardly make contact this season as the DH.

• LIFELESS AGAIN — The Royals' pitchers are starting to show the strain of trying to carry the team.

After being baseball's best team in terms of quality starts though 16 games, the pitchers know they have to practically throw a shutout in order to win given the paucity of the offense. Jason Hammel was ineffective on Sunday and then Monday, Jason Vargas showed that he's human by giving up four runs in his five innings, then the bullpen reverted to its first week form by imploding.

The Royals managed just a run and two hits in the 12-1 embarrassment against the White Sox. They have now scored nine runs in the last seven games and their offensive outage is reaching epic proportions.

Alex Gordon, in the second year of a $72 million, 4-year deal, continues to swing a bat that's slower than slow as he's at .176. Eric Hosmer, hoping to cash in for about id="mce_marker"00 million over the next five years, isn't helping his value by hitting .192. Moss whiffed three more times and is now at .125.

The only good news is the AL Central at this point is a division of mediocrity and the Royals are just 3 1/2 games out of first place as Cleveland and Detroit lead at just 10-8. Kansas City is 7-12, having lost five in a row.

• DRAFT TWO DAYS AWAY — We're two days away from the beginning of the three-day NFL draft and the Kansas City Chiefs have the No. 27 overall pick.

What to do, what to do.

There's a lot of ways the Chiefs can go. This is a deep draft, though not necessarily one that's going to produce superstars. This is a value draft where teams can build their depth.

With Dontari Poe leaving via free agency and Jaye Howard surprisingly being cut a couple of days ago, the Chiefs' focus may shift to the defensive line. I was basically certain they would go for a cornerback, but you need seven or eight defensive linemen for a solid rotation.

Linebacker also is a source of concern. In fact, the entire defense needs an upgrade, so look for the Chiefs to spend most of their picks on that side of the ball.