Prince Fielder, Cecil Fielder and the significance of family

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Cecil Fielder was making the media rounds yesterday following his son’s signing with the Detroit Tigers. It was understandable given his own history in Detroit.

Thing is, Cecil and Prince have a very complicated history and, in recent years, have been reported to have no relationship at all. The whole story is known only to them, but the contours of it seem to be that (a) Cecil was not an attentive father to Prince when he was growing up; (b) his relationship with Prince’s mother was not good; and (c) Cecil is alleged to have squandered Prince’s signing bonus on personal debts.  Kind of ugly all around.

Cecil was quoted several years ago as saying that Prince had shut him out of his life. Prince, when asked, will not respond to any questions about his father.  Yesterday, however, Cecil had this to say about the relationship:

“We’re having a few chats. We’re doing a lot better than we were. Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point.”

It’s a difficult subject. On the one hand it’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be any of our business. But it’s been out there because, in the past, Cecil put it out there in interviews and, of course, because both of the Fielders are well-known public figures. And of course now that Prince has gone to the team with which his father found his biggest fame, it’s going to come up a lot more simply because it’s part of a new and wholly understandable dynastic narrative.

Outside of that (and outside of baseball, actually) the subject fascinates me because of what it says about the value and purpose of family.

I have a great relationship with my parents. It’s never been in question because I had a great childhood and they’re good people and all of that.  But at the same time, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that you have to make a special effort to have such a relationship with family members no matter the situation. If your parents (or siblings or whatever) are jerks or bad people or have otherwise hurt you, I don’t see the need to try any harder to repair that relationship than you would to repair a friendship or another kind of acquaintance. Or to simply not try at all if that’s your choice.

Yet I feel like I’m in the minority here. I think most people default to the “but they’re family,” idea, and believe it to be incumbent upon a person to always — eventually anyway — try to repair such relationships. And think that a difficult or flawed relationship with a family member is better than no relationship at all.

I can’t see that. Sure, if a family member with whom you’ve had a falling out wants to try and make amends you give that person the same chance that you’d give someone else, but I don’t think you give them considerably more chances or, even further, continue to try to reach out to them out of obligation even if they continue to be a jerk out of some notion that shared blood makes the relationship so much more necessary.

I’m not saying I’m right. I may be very wrong. And like I said before, I have a wonderful relationship with my family so perhaps I’m just taking it all for granted and I’m totally missing the point. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I don’t see a father-son reconciliation as some necessary component of Prince Fielder going to Detroit. And, even though it would be nicer if the two of them had a good relationship than a poor one, I hope that Prince doesn’t get pestered too much about it by virtue of the public’s need to seek closure or resolution of a relationship that, by all rights, shouldn’t concern us.

What in the heck is Derek Jeter doing with the Marlins?

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Last night we linked the Miami Herald story about the Marlins firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The firings themselves are eyebrow-raising inasmuch as “special assistants” like that are rarely key front office personnel. Former players, Hall of Famers and former managers like those guys are really ambassadors for the team and, particularly in the case of Jeff Conine, who is known as “Mr. Marlin,” why would new ownership want to kick its ambassadors to the curb? It’s not like you can just hire a bunch of new franchise legends for he role. Who ya gonna call? Dan Uggla?

Sure, I can see an argument for changing their responsibilities. If they actually had say in baseball operations, I can see new ownership wanting to relieve them of those duties. It’s also possible that Jeff Loria paid them too much money for guys who are only team ambassadors. So, sure, if the job is too cushy by the standards of the gig, I could see Jeter cutting their pay or their duties to make it conform to what other clubs do with their former stars. Maybe that makes them want to quit. If so, that’s OK I suppose.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to see why you would NOT want guys like Conine, Dawson, Perez and McKeon to represent your club in the community and in the service of impressing prospective season ticket holders. The franchise’s first star player, a Hall of Famer who ended his career with the club, another Hall of Famer who is from Cuba (which is kind of a big deal in a place like Miami) and the manager who brought the club its last World Series championship are exactly who you want to represent your team. Especially when nearly everything else about your team has, for so very long, alienated the very public you want supporting it.

But let’s say, for the moment, that there was a good reason to fire those guys. Let’s say they’re all flaming jackwagons who have secretly poisoned the franchise from within. Let’s say that, despite his grandfatherly charm, Jack McKeon is a ruthless Machiavellian. Let’s say that Conine, Dawson and Perez beat up copy boys in the stairwells and microwave leftover fish in the break room every day. Even if that’s the case, how does this happen?

And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.

Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.

It seems that Samson did carry out the firings. Unless some handsome severance package was being held hostage over it, I’m not sure how Samson doesn’t tell Jeter, “Hey Captain RE2PECT, know what? Up yours, you do it yourself.” Of course, one can only project one’s own sensibility on a guy like David Samson so much, so let’s cut him a bit of slack here. We don’t know how the conversation went. Maybe Samson was happy to tell those guys to hit the bricks.

But really, how doesn’t Jeter man-up and handle this himself? It’s not because he’s not yet officially the owner, because if he has the power to fire Samson, he has the power to fire Conine and his friends. Maybe there is more to this than the Herald story lets on, but as it stands now, it comes off as cowardice on Jeter’s part. It’s a really bad look.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays in the baseball establishment over the next couple of days. Everyone — particularly the press — loves Derek Jeter an credits him with a class, smoothness and media savvy matched by few others. This, though, was either (a) a failure of class and an act of disrespect to baseball luminaries; or (b) a complete bungling of public relations, serving to make what was, in reality, a reasonable move appear classless. It has to be one or the other.

Derek Jeter has been a teflon star for more than two decades, but two of the few things the media loves more than Derek Jeter are (a) old Baseball Men like McKeon, Dawson, Perez and Conine; and (b) “classiness.” It’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time in his professional life, the media gets its knives out for Derek Jeter for seeming content to dispense with both.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.