In his two years in the uniform of the Detroit Tigers, Prince Fielder didn’t miss a game. But this weekend he’ll miss four. The former Tigers’ slugger isn’t even making the trip to Detroit for the Texas Rangers’ four-game series against his former team, which begins this afternoon.
Two years ago when he arrived in the Motor City under big headlines and with an even bigger contract, Fielder was supposed to be one-half of the most fearsome slugging duo in Detroit history. But Prince’s pairing with Miguel Cabrera in the Tigers’ lineup lasted just two seasons, and for the last year, Fielder was far from princely.
Last year he had a nightmare season in which he dealt with family issues and a slip in his power numbers. When he dropped an untimely quote that made it seem like he didn’t care that much about winning just moments after the Tigers were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, he greased the wheels for his exit from Motown.
Now with the Rangers, Fielder is battling adversity again. Not only has he struggled at the plate, but he’s also been bit by an unfamiliar foe – the injury bug. A herniated disc kept Fielder out of the lineup last Saturday, halting his consecutive games played streak at 546. Ironically, to treat the disc Fielder has been given a nerve-blocking agent, something that may have helped last season in Detroit when his family (and in some senses the clubhouse) was split apart when a teammate was involved in a relationship with his wife. By all accounts, Fielder and his family are reunited in Texas, but that hasn’t helped him perform for his new team. Prince is hitting under .250 with only three home runs and a slugging percentage of just .360 (about 160 points below his career mark). The injury and his struggles at the plate have Prince in an understandably grouchy mood.
“I don’t give a f*** about the Detroit series,” Prince told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week when he was asked if he was looking forward to playing against his former team.
Well, welcome back Prince!
There probably wouldn’t have been many cheers for the big guy if he did make an appearance at Comerica Park this weekend. It’s hard to see how most fans can have a positive feeling about their former cleanup hitter. First, there was the contract, all $214 million of it, which predictably alienated many average joe fans. No matter what Fielder did, there were going to be some who felt it wasn’t enough considering the megabucks he was earning. In 2012 he had a decent season, protecting Cabrera as the #3 hitter won the triple crown. But in 2013, Prince’s batting average and slugging average took a nosedive, and most importantly, 25 home runs didn’t seem like enough for a highly-paid power-hitting first baseman. Then there was the postseason, where Fielder looked more like Mr. Octoberfest than Mr. October. In 24 postseason games for the Tigers, Fielder hit exactly one home run and drove in three runs. THREE RBI! – and all of those came in 2012.
And cleanup hitters who drive in zero runs in the postseason, as Fielder did last fall for Detroit, shouldn’t say things like, “It is what it is, bro” and “If I didn’t get any hits and we’d have won everything, it would have been all right.” That’s not leadership, and it’s not what the paying customers want to hear when they’re crying in their beers.
It’s not what the Detroit front office wanted to hear either, and four weeks after his insensitive remarks, GM Dave Dombrowski sent Prince packing to Texas for Ian Kinsler. How much did the Tigers want to rid themselves of Prince and the contract that was as hefty as his mid-section? They’ll end up paying $30 million to Fielder to NOT play for them.
Prince may not play against the Tigers this weekend, but when he does find his way back to Detroit in a foreign uniform, I hope he gets a few cheers. He deserves some applause from Detroit rooters. In spite of his unfortunate remarks in Boston last fall, Fielder played hard for the Tigers. There was no such things as a “routine” grounder to second base” where Prince was concerned, he busted his wide ass down the line on every ball he hit. Fielder was far from a bust in Motown, it’s just that expectations were ridiculously high, circumstances grew so stressful, and his blasé attitude rubbed Tiger Nation the wrong way.
When Fielder said he didn’t give a f*** about this series in Detroit, he meant that he just wants to get healthy and contribute no matter where his team is playing. When he shrugged his shoulders just moments after the Tigers lost an ALCS that they were favored to win, he meant that he has to keep it all in perspective considering his family and what’s really important in life. In both cases, Prince didn’t mean any harm, it’s just that his delivery was off and his timing was bad. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you think they will.
And that’s what was wrong with Fielder’s brief stretch in Detroit: it didn’t work out the way anyone thought it would.