Yesterday afternoon, the Tigers had just come back to tie the Twins at 3 in the eighth, and had runners on the corners with one out and Prince Fielder coming up. Ron Gardenhire brought in lefty Tyler Robertson to face him.
Robertson's second pitch was a slider that floated more than it broke and stayed above the belt, and this is the violent crime Fielder commited upon it:
That put the Tigers up 6-3. Fielder, as you can see above, enjoyed the moment. His immediate reaction to the blast caused Kevin Goldstein to remark: "Nobody knows when they hit a home run better than Prince Fielder."
Darren "Doogie" Wolfson, a local Twin Cities sports media personality (and a good one), had a different take:
The #MNTwins should hit Prince next time they see Detroit. Showed up Robertson way too much with the pose.
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) July 5, 2012
Now, without repeating too much of (but while 100% endorsing) what Jason said here last week about the Aroldis Chapman somersaults, or what TCM said here about how intentionally throwing at batters is just never okay, I find I have something to say about this. I think there's a fine line out there, with "appropriate celebration of athletic success" on one side and "poor sportsmanship" on the other. I don't think what Prince did was anywhere close to that line.
Consider the context. They'd dropped two of three to the Twins, and sat below .500 and in third place in the very weak AL Central, and had (the Tigers, and Prince personally) been taking a lot of abuse from fans. The Tigers' offense had already stirred up the crowd with a run on two hits and a walk to that point in the inning. Fielder's blast was the most exciting single moment Tigers fans have had for a while now, and is the kind of event upon which people might come to look, if the Tigers are knocking on the door of the World Series fifteen weeks or so from now, as the one single moment that turned the whole damned season around.
Now consider what Prince does. As soon as ball hits bat, he (and everyone else) knew it was out. In celebration, he kind of flips his bat away and admires the ball's flight for just a moment. This is all over in a second or two. After that, he points to his own dugout in celebration (you see it in one of the replays above), but then puts his head down and runs at a pretty decent clip (Larry hasn't been by to update his Tater Trot Tracker just yet). Then there are some high fives at the end, as you might expect, and that's the end of that.
miSo it's all about that 1.5 seconds at the beginning. That's it! I suspect that, with the amount of focus and adrenaline required to hit major league pitching, I'd be inclined to have an instant reaction more or less like that one every time I hit a ball anything close to that hard. If it happened in the situation Prince's did, I might just do cartwheels around the bases.
And I just can't fathom branding that sort of behavior as a negative. Players are entertainers, and the crowd was obviously entertained, so Fielder was doing his job. I tend to think this sort of counterreaction is generally just sour grapes -- what fans really should be mad at is Robertson for throwing the pitch, or Gardenhire for using Robertson, or the hitters and baserunners for managing just three runs on fifteen hits -- but those are "our" guys, so we get mad at the jerk in the other uniform for acting all happy in our misery, like the jerky jerkface he is.
It's just a bit silly. As I said, there's a fine line -- it might mean something different if the homer had put the Tigers up 16-1, or if he'd pointed at Robertson. And nobody likes to see a linebacker do a happy dance after a sack with his team down 42-7. That's just nothing like what actually happened here.
He did a big -- potentially very big -- thing, and in the exact moment that it happened, Prince Fielder was really, understandably, happy about it. So for that, we're going to advocate endangering his career? C'mon.
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