Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The curious case of Prince Fielder

2013 was just the second year of a nine year 214 million deal between the Detroit Tigers and Prince Fielder. There was little doubt that this contract was gonna get ugly, but the hope of Tigers' fans was that would be in year 6 or later. By then the plan was to have at least one and ideally multiple World Series titles. Then it all went sideways. In many ways Fielder is the Tigers version of Alex Rodriguez. A guy that can light it up when there is no spotlight but wilts under the glare of post season pressure. the one key difference was at least A-Rod owned it. It makes me sick to agree with that human piece of garbage about anything but he never did what Prince did this week, and that is why he has to go. Regardless of what it does to the win now mentality of the Tigers, or what it ends up costing Fielder is a cancer that must be cut out.

It is really too bad. For a lot of long time Tiger fans Prince is still the 13 year old kid who hit a home run shot at that young age in old Tiger Stadium. Prince bring almost nothing to the table past offensive production when it doesn't matter a heck of a lot. He is a defensive liability, mentally weak, and not passionate about baseball. Any one of those things would be survivable in a baseball crazy town like Detroit, but added together (with his enormous contract) and the blue collar fans of the Tigers are never gonna get a guy making 23 million plus a year who thinks about baseball as a job.

Detroit fans are a passionate bunch, and Fielder has had some trouble explaining what it is he his feeling to the media and it makes him come off as a pompous ass. This city will not tolerate over privileged athletes unable to perform when it counts most, who also happens to be the highest paid guy on the team.

To be fair, this is not all on Prince. Sure he didn't produce, and sure he said exactly the wrong thing at the exact wrong time to the Detroit spots media, but he really shouldn't be in Detroit to begin with.

Tigers owner Mike Illitch over reacted to the season long loss of Victor Martinez in 2012. He panicked and signed a guy to a way too long contract that already had a history of under performing in the playoffs. Granted Mike Illitch's ultimate goal is to bring a World Series title to Detroit, but he knew Prince would be good for business in the regular season and struck this deal. One has to wonder what role Dave Dombrowski played in this signing...It seems very likely Illitch did this independent of his President and GM and once more got a name guy for his team. That is what he has done, or tried to do since he bought the team.

Here is something I have never understood about the Tigers' brain trust. Why is this team built like they play in a small yard? Why is there such a reliance on power? Where are the speedsters and the gap hitters that could single and double their way to 10 or more runs in spacious Comerica Park? Is it that Detroit doesn't want that brand of baseball? Is it that Dombrowski, much like his pitchers, only believes in power? Or is that the direction of Illitch himself? I think no one would care if the leading home run hitter on this team had only 30 jacks and the Tigers cruised to a World Series title, but hey that's me.

Worse is what happens to Prince's relationship with the fans if his huge contract forces the early departure of Max Scherzer. How would Tigers fans react if Mad Max wins the American League Cy Young and then is traded in the off season. More than a few phone calls to local Detroit sports radio shows and more than a few boos are sure to be the fallout of that.

Granted, Prince is going through a divorce and given the relationship with his own father we can imagine how hard that is for him, but the fans sympathy is only going to go so far. Prince could have avoided a lot of these problems by not signing a huge contract with a team his Daddy played for. He and the team created an almost no win situation when they did so, and its ok for Prince to go after the money. I take no issue with that, but he has to understand how the fans in this town are going to view this.

The situation is bad now, and this is not likely to get any better. The best thing for Prince would be to hit a memorable home run in the post season that clinches a pennant of puts his team ahead in the World Series, he will likely get that chance, and then he can rewrite his narrative. Since the Tigers are likely stuck with this contract maybe its best for him to retreat to Florida, get his personal life straightened out, and put in some hard work this off season and in spring training try to win back some of the fans goodwill. If that matters to him, and its ok if it doesn't, but the boos will only get louder if that is the case.

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