Friday, February 18, 2011

Bullying of Butler and Its Parallels to Full Metal Jacket

Following a few seemingly second-hand accounts of teammates in years past calling meetings to ridicule Billy Butler, many of us have spent far too much time contemplating a redefinition of these former Royals. We have spent time hypothesizing that Zack Greinke was the ring leader. We have assumed Jose Guillen--and possibly Mike Jacobs, depending on how long we think this went on--was guilty of douchebaggery because that fits the narrative we want it to.We have let our imaginations run wild with irresponsible assumptions, possibly at the cost of innocent players' reputations, although the assumption that Jose Guillen could have been involved is at least supported by mostly factual evidence.

Now as these rumors of a less than kind clubhouse climate for a younger Billy Butler began to swirl in the small corner of the internets that we Royals fans dwell in, I couldn't help but be brought to the first half of Full Metal Jacket. The first time I saw Full Metal Jacket was while I was a freshman in college. I had a very good chubby friend who was going through boot camp at the time, and to be frank it kind of messed me up in a weirdly personal way.

Without meaning to err into any territory in which Billy Butler could take offense at the comparison, the tales of mistreatment inevitably draw me to the figure of Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence. For those needing a frame of reference, this video should take care of it for you:

From the really hazy speculation based on hearsay and some statements that Dayton Moore made at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon (that have at been corroborated by Minda Haas without naming names), it seems like Billy Butler was a little awkward--being very young at every stop--not unlike Pvt. Lawrence. The Jose Guillen "babies" rant was mostly likely directed to him. Older players apparently seemed to have been rubbed the wrong way by the way the youngster interacted socially in the clubhouse. Some have connected Butler's statements about Greinke after the trade to the informal player meetings in which Butler was the butt of their jokes to Greinke perhaps leading these meetings*.

Sheepish Billy.
Photo courtesy of Minda Haas @ mindahaas.net
*This is easily the least verifiable of all the information presented. It was fairly well known within insider baseball circles that Butler was treated poorly by veterans. The leap to Greinke leading these meetings, or even taking part in them, seems to have come about from people using a combination of Greinke's past quotes (i.e. the following statement about Billy Butler in '09, I think: “For the first month of the season, (Billy Butler) has definitely been an above-average first baseman. That’s hard for me to say because I never thought anyone would say that but him and his family.”**) and Billy's statements regarding Zack's level of involvement, emotional and otherwise, with the Royals last season.

**Yes, this quote is funny. As fans, we can all appreciate that, and it is part of the reason we all loved Zack so much. But I can't imagine that this wouldn't piss you off as a teammate.

This all led to what was apparently some pretty cruel hazing. If it was anything like the blanket party in Full Metal Jacket, color me repulsed.

Of course, the parallels don't end at the hazing. After Pyle is hazed, he transforms a superb soldier. The same could be said for Billy, who after his initial struggles in the Majors came into his own as a hitter. I'll not venture so far as to say that the hazing turned him (because I don't think it did), but he definitely seemed to turn a corner and become a [doubles-hitting] force to be reckoned with.

Now, the awful end to Pvt. Lawrence's story clearly does not apply. He seems to have grown into the leadership role he has taken on ably. I don't think he'll be in the latrine pointing a rifle at Matthew Modine and R. Lee Ermey (Jose Guillen?) any time soon.

I guess the real issue here is that I don't like to think of Billy Butler in this context. There doesn't seem to be anything about him that is anything less than a nice guy. He settled down in Idaho Falls with his wife and daughter. He seems to live a simple life in the offseason, and I mean this in a sincerely envious way. Sure, we probably don't have a lot of common interests, but I like Billy Butler.

I don't like to think about his teammates being shitty to him.

3 comments:

Young Man Duggan said...

Let's hope that shit isn't true. Fuck the royals...

Josh "Old Man" Duggan said...

No, it pretty much is. Just who did what, really. Francoeur talked about it at FanFest like he had known about it.

Charles said...

How can a team as shitty as the Royals haze ANYONE?