This offseason the Tigers made the splash that was going to propel them past the Texas Rangers and the rest of the American League and get them back to the World Series — they coaxed slugger Prince Fielder to the Detroit with promises of World Championships and — more importantly — 214 MILLION dollars. Prince brought his 230 career home runs to Motown and carried with him guarantees of delivering protection and an MVP to Detroit’s current slugger, Miguel Cabrera.
It seemed like a perfect fit. The prodigal son returns to lead a storied franchise back to the promised land. Fielder had a couple million built-in fans who would adore him and everything would work out perfectly. While overall Prince’s offensive numbers haven’t been bad, things have been far from perfect for him early in his Tigers career.
Prior to the series in Minnesota last weekend, Fielder was hitting a modest .285 with seven home runs and 25 RBI — but those numbers are misleading and his impact has been far less than significant. He’s on a pace to ground into nearly 30 double plays — he’s never had more than 17 in a full season — and he was hitting just .214 with batters in scoring position with 2 outs through the first 44 games. Cabrera is hitting over .400 in that situation and even the much maligned Brennan Boesch is batting .300 in similar spots. Prince is simply not coming through enough yet. Additionally, while we ignored offseason warnings of his less than stellar defense, they now appear warranted. Several miscues in the field have led to his AL Worst fielding % among qualifying first basemen.
While overall his production has been lukewarm, his post-game demeanor might end up hurting his image the most in the eyes of Tiger fans. Tiger fans are struggling for answers right now. When Fielder does talk to media, he hasn’t shown much emotion in regards to his play. Detroit fans want their players to take blame for their shortcomings. They want them to express anger at their own failures. We’ve seen it from Verlander…we’ve seen it from Cabrera…but so far not from Fielder. Detroit Lions former quarterback Joey Harrington took the same “all is well” approach that seems to be Fielders forte. That attitude didn’t pan out too well in the eyes of the Detroit faithful as Harrington was quickly run out of Detroit.
Now there’s nothing wrong with Fielder shaking off his miscues. In fact it’s the right thing to do. In a season of 162 games, even the best players fail more times than they’ll ever remember. If — and when — the Tigers start rolling, fans will again love Prince Fielder.
However, when the Tigers are struggling like they are now, fans are looking for someone to blame. If Fielder isn’t willing to accept at least some of blame for a team dangerously close to spiraling out of control it’ll be a tough tenure in Motown for him.