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Detroit Tigers: What to make of Prince Fielder’s return

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"“It’s not really tough for me. It’s over. I’ve got kids I’ve got to take care of. I’ve got things I’ve got to take care of. For me, it’s over, bro. (Fans) don’t play. I mean, if you have responsibilities it should be, you know, you shouldn’t take your work home, you know? I’ve got to still be a father and take care of my kids, so, you know, I’ve got to move on.”"

Those were the 70+ words that likely sealed the fate of Prince Fielder as a Detroit Tiger. Those were the words uttered mere moments after the ouster of the Detroit Tigers by the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 ALCS while the rest of his teammates and the fans he so casually downplayed were crushed.

Less than two months later, the Prince Fielder-era in Detroit was over, traded for a much more reasonably priced Ian Kinsler.

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Thursday night Fielder will return to Comerica Park for the first time since that 2013 series. When the Tigers left Detroit after losing Game 5 to fall 3-2 down to Boston, no one imagined the next time he would return would be on August 20, 2015 in a Texas Rangers’ uniform.

It should be receiving a bit more fanfare considering this was one of the future stars of the Tigers for the next decade when he arrived so unexpectedly before the 2012 season and left under similar stunning circumstances just 22 months later. But what reception will Fielder receive when he walks to the plate on Thursday?

Rumors had it that Prince didn’t like it in Detroit because of the expansiveness of Comerica Park, or that a former teammate was doing a bit of hanky-panky with his estranged wife (since reconciled), or that those words after the ALCS did not sit well with ownership.

Fan glee over the move may have been because Fielder’s massive contract was considered by many to be an albatross on the Tigers for years to come, not to mention he pushed a decent fielding first baseman to third base and was a hunk of crap at the position himself.

Now instead of paying $24 million per year, the Tigers are on the hook for $6 million per year from 2016 through the contract’s end in 2020.

I would expect fans to boo Fielder on Thursday, but should they? Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of booing. As a season ticket holder to the Detroit Lions for a chunk of the last decade, let me tell you, that was a tough philosophy to keep. That being said, I’d never tell a fan not to boo if they are so inclined.

I can personally tell you what I’d do if I was at Comerica–nothing. I wouldn’t cheer, I wouldn’t boo. Fielder was a pretty good player at times for the Tigers–part of two division winners and two teams that reached the ALCS (and World Series in 2012). Before his arrival, the Tigers had won just four division titles since the 1969 division implementation and reached 10 World Series in more than 110 years.

He played every game, hit 55 homers for them and had 100+ RBIs in each season with the club. He was a 4.7 WAR player in 2012. Certainly he had a down year in 2013 and both playoff runs, but many Tigers struggled in the postseason in 2012 and 2013 with the team once again failing to win it all.

Yes, Fielder’s attitude was pretty crappy, especially for the role he was supposed to play and the money he was making, but looking back in hindsight, was he really that bad other than those callous comments?

Probably not, but with that said, the Tigers are much better and in a better position to compete with payroll flexibility for years to come.

So why boo someone whose departure was probably for the best?

Think of it this way: Tigers’ fans largely still like Torii Hunter despite him being on a division rival this year. He spent two years with the Tigers, just like Prince. No one would likely boo Torii unless he does something that hurts the Tigers’ chances of winning a game.

So why boo, or for that matter cheer, Fielder. Simply do nothing. Treat him as you would Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland or any other Texas Ranger when they are announced.

That’s what I would do. What will you do?

Next: Tigers wore snazzy throwbacks on Wednesday

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