May 22, 2014

The Prince

Never before do I remember a player "coming home" with such fanfare and then less than two years later being ushered out of town with even more fanfare. Prince Fielder was a huge free agent signing in January 2012 by the Detroit Tigers. Mr. Illitch, owner, decided that the Tigers needed someone to hit behind Miguel Cabrera when Victor Martinez became injured, so he authorized the acquisition. It rocked the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan like few other transactions.

Season ticket sales increased immediately.

Endorsements were predicted.

This was a great homecoming. The 12-year-old prodigy was putting on his Tiger stripes.

Alas, it was not to be. The batter was a good hitter, putting up good numbers. He didn't put up great numbers but that was okay because the city loved the Prince. He was somewhat larger than life, always smiling — seeming to love the game.

His playoff struggles were proof that he was mortal. His bellyflop late in the last game of the ALCS last year will be remembered forever. His comments after the game — even more. His choice to make a comment, derogatory at that, regarding coming back to Detroit simply to play the Tigers was even worse.

Last spring, I saw the hitter smash a mammoth home run in Lakeland. I really, truly expected him to be the American League MVP last year. I thought he was ready, after a year in the AL, to tear things up. In April and for part of May, I thought I was right. By the end of the season, I realized that it was all an illusion. At the end of the playoffs, I said, "It's too bad Mr. Dombrowski can't move that albatross." I was referring to the contract not the man. But somehow, Mr. Dombrowski pulled it off. And we're better for it.

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