Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Entries in Prince Fielder (3)


How feelings changed about Prince Fielder in 2 years

With Prince Fielder being formally introduced by the Texas Rangers in Arlington on Monday, I was reminded that I wanted to go back and see what I wrote when the Tigers signed him as a free agent in January 2012.

The day after Detroit traded Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler, my mother recalled how excited I was when Fielder was signed. That move just came out of nowhere. It was something that internet commenters and sports talk radio callers would suggest. I still remember Kevin Kaduk sending me an instant message and I thought he was just messing with me in response to some rumor. 

Here's what I wrote for SB Nation Detroit after the trade was made, one of the last pieces I wrote for that site:

Welcome to fantasy land, Detroit Tigers fans.

That giant beast in front of Comerica Park might as well be replaced with a unicorn. The archway at the main entrance could be changed into a rainbow.

Should we change the date of Christmas in Detroit to January 24, while we're at it?

For years to come, the day the Tigers shocked the baseball world by signing Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract will be when the sports scene in this city truly changed. It was the kind of happening that makes you think about where you were and what you were doing when you heard the big, really big news.

Soon thereafter, I wrote this for Big League Stew, part of "The 10 Best Things About Being a Detroit Tigers Fan." First on the list, owner Mike Ilitch:

1. The owner likes to go big: You remember that scene from "Inception" when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shooting at snipers with a rifle, then Tom Hardy comes over to say, "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling," and whips out a grenade launcher?

That's what Tigers owner Mike Ilitch did to general manager Dave Dombrowski with this Prince Fielder signing this offseason.

After Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending knee injury, Tigers fans, bloggers and reporters (and front office staff, most likely) threw out names like Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon as possible replacements. Ilitch essentially said, "Yeah, yeah — whatever!" to such notions. That wasn't good enough. The man wants to win a World Series. So he got the best guy available. What more can a fan ask for?

Two years later, Tigers fans couldn't wait to ship Fielder out of town. Ilitch and the team's front office was reportedly eager to shed Fielder and his enormous contract from the payroll. And Fielder apparently wanted out of Detroit too, perhaps hoping for a fresh start in Texas. Fortunately for all parties involved, the Tigers were able to call a mulligan on this thing. 


The Tigers and Dave Dombrowski keep thinking big

It is never boring with the Detroit Tigers, whether you follow them as a fan or cover them as a reporter, columnist or blogger.

We saw another example of that Wednesday night as the Tigers made a surprising blockbuster deal, sending Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Such a trade was thought to be nearly impossible because of the seven years and $168 million remaining on Fielder's contract. But Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski has a way of getting these sorts of things done. 

In my latest post for The Outside Corner, I applaud Dombrowski not only for the Fielder trade but the many bold, splashy moves he's made during the 11 years he's been in charge of the Tigers. 

Anyone who creates or manages something — whether it's assembling a baseball team, putting together an office staff or writing a book — has to be ruthless in acknowledging what doesn't work and willing to slice it away. The objective has to be making that endeavor better, regardless of how the changes might be perceived. Dombrowski's willingness to do that is what continues to set him apart from so many of his fellow MLB general managers and makes every offseason in Detroit an exciting and hopeful one. Whether or not it results in a World Series championship, the ambition is always there. 

You can read the full article here.

Did I lay it on a bit thick? Hey, I'm a Tigers fan — though I try hard to be objective when it comes to baseball writing. I don't think Dombrowski has been perfect. The continual inability to find a consistent closer and left fielder during his tenure has been kind of baffling.

But even if I was a fan of another team, I'd like to think I would appreciate how Dombrowski has continually made the big move — whether it's a trade or free-agent signing — that keeps the Tigers contending for the playoffs each year. 


Do we need to know Prince Fielder's personal business? 

I feel like I — we — shouldn't know that Prince Fielder is getting a divorce.

Yet we do now, thanks to perhaps too much being said on sports talk radio and a blog that has some good sources. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that such news came out in our current media climate. Virtually everything seems like fair game these days. Those in the public eye have difficulty keeping anything in their personal lives private.

For those unfamiliar with this story — and maybe I'm being just as bad in recapping what's happened and bringing further attention to it — the Detroit Tigers first baseman hasn't been having a strong season.

Fielder is hitting .262, which would be the second-lowest batting average of his nine major league seasons if it holds through the rest of the year. He's not getting on base as much (.352 on-base percentage) and not hitting for as much power (.430 slugging percentage). Basically, he's on pace to have one of the worst performances of his career. 

Naturally, fans, reporters and commentators want to know what's going on. Fielder is in the second year of a nine-year, $214 million contract. He's being paid $23 million this season. 

Of course, the first thought is typically that something is physically wrong with Fielder. Was he hiding any sort of injury? The more cynical among us might have presumed that Fielder is content after cashing in with a big free-agent contract, and thus isn't trying as hard.

That's the sort of sentiment that teammate Torii Hunter was likely responding to when he felt the need to defend Fielder during a radio interview. "A lot of people don't know what's going on in his life," he said on "The Ryan and Rico Show" on Detroit Sports 105.1. 


Asked if he was saying that fans should lay off Fielder because of what might be going on, Hunter said he couldn't get into it.

But he still brought it up, and that stoked curiosity.

I'm guessing that most fans and reporters were content to leave it at that. Fielder had stuff going on that we didn't know about and didn't need to know about because it wasn't happening on the field. Whether or not those issues were affecting his play was simply something to speculate upon.

That is, until Larry Brown Sports reported Wednesday evening that Fielder had filed for divorce back in May. So there it was: The personal issue, revealed for everyone. 

I'm not criticizing LBS for reporting the story, as uncomfortable as it might be. I have no idea if a source tipped Brown off to Fielder's divorce proceedings or he did some reporting and found Fielder's name among Orange County, Fla. court documents. If it's the latter, that's actually some good work, even if you think it's snooping around in unseemly territory. 

Honestly, I can't say what I would've done if someone had told me about Fielder's divorce. In my current position as more of a columnist, I might have sat on that information, even if I felt people might want to know. 

The argument could be made that I would've had a responsibility to pass that information along. No one can say for certain whether Fielder's personal problems are affecting his play on the field, but it wouldn't be outlandish to draw such a conclusion.

If this is a work performance issue, do we as consumers have the right to know? I'd certainly argue Fielder's bosses and teammates should know, but it's clear that they already did. If a waitperson serving me was going through a tough time and providing poor service, would I really need to know what that person was dealing with at home? I don't know if that's the best comparison, though. 

If I was still a regular Tigers blogger covering everything about the team and running a comment-driven site, I probably would have felt compelled to run the story and let the community have a discussion about it.

That's what happened when Miguel Cabrera had a domestic incident in 2009.

Obviously, that was a different situation. There was a police report. He was out in public. Cabrera had played with visible scratches on his face the following night. What had happened actually did have an effect on the field, as Cabrera may still have been drunk.

At the time, I didn't feel it was my place to do anything other than provide fans a forum to talk about all this. 

Of course, drawing traffic is a consideration. Breaking a story like that would get plenty of hits for a website. It would surely get frequently linked on Twitter and Facebook.

I don't know if that's a temptation I would have been able to pass up. But that certainly would've opened me up to some justifiable criticism. 

I'm sure there are some opinions out there that say this is what's wrong with sports these days. In a 24/7 news cycle with so much time and space to fill, so much more gets reported than before. Anything can get out there fast with social media. 

Back in the old days, these sorts of matters — any personal indiscretions — wouldn't have been revealed. Babe Ruth could stay out until early morning getting drunk and spending the night with women that weren't his wife. That had nothing to do with what occurred on the field, so it wasn't news.(Although back then, sportswriters may have been out carousing with the ballplayers.) 

Was it better back then, when we didn't know virtually everything going on with our favorite athletes and celebrities? I can't really say. Maybe that knowledge helps us as fans realize that these are actually human beings, who go through much of the same crap in their personal lives that we do, regardless of wealth, fame and success. 

Sure, some asshole fans will use that information to insult him from the stands, in blog comments and message boards, or on sports talk radio. But I think most of us will actually show some sympathy. Fielder is going through something none of us would prefer to experience, especially when two children are involved.

In that case, maybe it's a good thing that this got out. Even if we might wish that it didn't.