OAKLAND -- Like all of his returning teammates, Billy Butler got his first chance Sunday to interact with the A’s new players.
Last offseason also brought heavy roster turnover, and it’s well documented that the clubhouse chemistry of the 2015 club didn’t click. Butler spoke frankly on that topic during a media function at the team’s annual FanFest.
“I think you see that there are definitely people not here anymore that were part of the issue,” he said. “I think whenever you have a season where you lose as many games as we did, that’s always going to be a question. We had a lot of leads, a lot of things happen, a lot of things that could shake the clubhouse. A lot of losing games late, a lot of one-run losses. That’ll cause a lot of tension. So to say we had a bad clubhouse was accurate. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t know any team that loses as many games as we did that has a good clubhouse.”
[STIGLICH: Butler looks to right ship after rocky A's debut]
The A’s finished an American League-worst 68-94 last season and set an Oakland record with 35 one-run defeats. They’ve turned over a good chunk of the roster, though Butler didn’t get specific on which former teammates might have contributed to the problems. Certainly, it’s true that improving the clubhouse element has to be a collective effort.
Part of that effort is getting the kind of on-field contributions from veterans that allow them to take on a credible leadership role. And yes, Butler himself can be counted among that group after his subpar 2015 season offensively.
There’s also the feeling that the addition of new bench coach Mark Kotsay – known for his excellent intangibles as a player – can help in the chemistry department. Kotsay retired after the 2013 season and was hired away from the San Diego Padres in November after serving one season as their hitting coach.
“He was always a clubhouse presence no matter what team he was on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “ And being not too far removed (from playing), the guys still know him, what he’s all about. His reputation will come with him before he even starts.”