Prince Fielder: “It’s over, bro”

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Prince Fielder was by no means the biggest reason the Tigers lost to the Red Sox in six games in the ALCS. But the Tigers are paying him $214 million over nine years and he had just four hits (three singles and a double) in 24 trips to the plate against Sox pitching, so he has been a magnet for criticism. He also made a costly base running gaffe in the sixth inning of Game 6, getting caught down the third base line by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and making a failed attempt to belly-flop back to third base.

Some players would be outwardly upset or remorseful that they are no longer playing for a championship. Fans like this because they are able to grieve vicariously through their team’s players. For Prince Fielder, though, he isn’t letting the missed opportunities get to him. Via MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez:

“You have to be a man about it,” he added. “I have kids. If I’m sitting around pouting about it, how am I going to tell them to keep their chins or keep their heads up when something doesn’t go their way? It’s over.

“It isn’t really tough, man, for me [to move on]. It’s over. I have kids I have to take care of, so, for me it’s over, bro.”

Told fans may be upset to hear him shake off a disappointing loss so quickly, Fielder said: “They don’t play.”

As much as the “they don’t play” defense rings hollow, the fans and the media shouldn’t be in the business of dictating how a player should react and feel at any time. If this is how Fielder deals with failure, all the more power to him.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.