I know this is a raw topic and people have a lot of strong opinions on the matter. This isn’t a lecture and if it sounds like one it’s a failure of the pen and not of the heart. But a lot of people are fired up to boo Prince Fielder. I’m not one of them. This is probably all academic because Prince might miss the series with an injury and because I don’t actually “live close to Michigan,” but I wanted to tell you why I don’t harbor any resentment toward Prince.
Prince didn’t have a good season by his standards in 2013. Some of it was bad fortune early, some of it was distraction late. He was bad in the postseason. He made a really costly baserunning mistake. And a defensive one. He didn’t perform at a level you would expect of someone who makes what he makes. Compared to the player he was in 2012 and the player we think he should have been, he sucked, I won’t argue otherwise.
But I won’t boo him for that. He didn’t want to play poorly, I’m sure. You can argue that he checked out (we’ll get to that), but he wasn’t playing poorly on purpose. It’s not like he intentionally threw the season. It’s the same reason I never booed Inge, Raburn, etc. It’s why I wouldn’t boo Romine or Coke, even though they’re both in way, way over their heads. Baseball is hard.
I’ll never boo anyone based on performance, period. I think it’s wrong. It sends the wrong message, and I don’t care if you’re doing it to show management you want them on the bench. It says your love (or fanhood, whatever) is condition and I don’t think it should be. And I’ve never heard of a player getting better because their fans booed them. As if they don’t know they were failing.
Do I think Prince gave his best effort last year? I’m not sure. I won’t argue if you think he was checked out or a little distracted. That’s fine. But he was distracted for a very good reason. His marriage was ending. His family was being torn apart. His family is more important than baseball. His family might not be more important than baseball to you, but it’s more important to him. And it should be. Some people are good at putting that kind of thing out of their mind. Some people are good at channeling that trauma. Some people crumble. And that’s okay. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a person to perform at their best when they’re going through something like that. Some people can do it, but not everyone can. If my wife left me (love ya. honey!), I would be a pathetic shell of a person. You’d have to convince me to eat, much less produce anything worthwhile at my job.
I don’t think he played poorly because he wasn’t trying, I think he played poorly because he was depressed. I’m not qualified to diagnose a person I’ve never met, or really a person I’ve met, but I know a decent amount about mental health and Prince seemed to exhibit behaviors of someone going through depression. And depression would be a normal response to the end of a marriage. People who have gone through depression can tell you, the entire world is full of stuff you used to love but no longer do anymore. Things that used to provide enjoyment all of a sudden seem pointless and difficult. That’s how I perceived what was going on with Prince.
And that’s how I perceived his “it’s over bro” comments. To fans who just had their season end, it sounded like someone who didn’t care about them. To me, it actually sounded like a guy who wasn’t enjoying his life at all. He didn’t care because he had just had the worst month of his professional life at the end of the worst year (I’m assuming) of his personal life. He wanted to go home and see his kids. And that’s okay with me.
Pro athletes are asked to be superhuman physically. Most people want them to be superhuman in every other way, but they just aren’t. Prince never had the verbal grace of Curtis Granderson and he had just screwed up royally on the biggest stage. Forgive him for giving a few bad quotes.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people are unhappy with him. And I think it was a good baseball trade and probably a good trade for everyone involved. Kurt Mensching likened it to a breakup that both parties needed. That’s a good way to put it. I think it was probably good that Prince got traded, but I harbor zero ill will toward him.
Baseball is his job, not his life. My job isn’t my life, I don’t expect anything more of anyone else. Prince doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He didn’t do anything to me. He didn’t hurt anybody. He had a bad year. To borrow his words, it’s over bro. Miguel Cabrera got drunk and got into an altercation with his wife during a pivotal series in 2009. Probably cost the Tigers a trip to the playoffs. He’s beloved. He got into a car in 2011 with a blood alcohol level of .24. He put lives in danger. He’s beloved. I don’t mean to trivialize the work Cabrera has done to right his wrongs, but he’s an honest to God criminal. The Tigers and Tigers fans embraced Cabrera as a family member in trouble. That’s how I feel about Prince.
He was hurting, at least that’s how I saw it. I could be wrong. I see the other side. But Prince was fun to watch and I enjoyed cheering for him as a Tiger. It didn’t work out, but I wish him the best. I’ll always cheer for Prince. He’s one of us, as far as I’m concerned. To me, it looks like he needs someone to have his back rather than tell him to take a hike. If I was in Detroit this weekend and he was too, I’d be on my feet showing my affection.