Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 10/20/13
Baseball breaks your heart. "It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. "You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. - former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti. Last night, on a cold, dreary October night, baseball did just that to every fan of the Detroit Tigers -- it broke their hearts. Even down 3-2 in the series, the fans had to believe that Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander could save them one more time. Miguel Cabrera was getting healthier, the revamped batting order was working and Prince Fielder had to get going eventually, right? As I drove home from the Michigan-Indiana game, I heard the Tigers begin to rally. Victor Martinez, Detroit's best hitter since Cabrera's injury, gave Detroit the lead just as I pulled into the driveway, and the threat was still very much alive. I got into the house, flipped through the mail and turned on the TV. FOX was coming out of a commercial break, the Red Sox were at the plate and Twitter was exploding over something Fielder had done. It took me a while to find a replay, and I'll be honest ... I still have no idea what he was doing. Why did he freeze while Pedroia was trying to tag Martinez? If he had kept heading for the plate, Pedroia would have to throw home, and the Tigers would have at least avoided the double play. Then, on his charge back toward third, he took the belly flop heard around the world. Was he trying to draw an interference call on Xander Bogaerts? Did he trip? Was it just more proof that one of baseball's highest-paid players has never learned a fundamental skill like sliding? Fielder came up again in the eighth inning, and did what he's been doing all series -- he grounded out to second base. All season, as Fielder went through terrible stretches at the plate, Jim Leyland defended him with the same mantra -- "I don't care about his number as long as he's producing runs. That's why he's here. He drives in runs." In the postseason, though, he didn't drive in a single run. His last RBI In the playoffs came in Game 1 of last season's ALCS. He's a terrible defensive first baseman, he helped the Tigers rank as one of the worst baserunning teams of the past 50 years, and he's slipped at the plate. Oh, and the Tigers still owe him 168 million over the next seven years. He'll be 36 years old when the contract expires, and it is hard to think he'll get any better defensively or on the bases. Given all that, it isn't hard to imagine where the fans' anger was directed on Saturday night and Sunday morning. They wanted answers from Fielder, and they wanted apologies. They didn't get any. Fielder answered questions the same way he always answers them on a bad day -- with a shrug and a wry smile. "It's not really tough for me," he told the media after Game 6. "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." Earlier in the series, Fielder had said that he wanted to hit homers, but "I don't have a magic wand. If he makes a mistake, I hit it. If he doesn't, I don't. That's baseball." That attitude, especially the constant "that's baseball" has bothered fans more and more as Fielder has struggled. Since the end of Game 5, social media and talk radio has been bombarded by fans saying that Prince doesn't care as much as they do. When asked about that last night, he didn't help himself. "They don't play," he said. "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." In a way, the people are right. When Bart Giamatti wrote that poetic passage, he was talking about baseball's impact on the fans. They are heartbroken today, and they can't understand when their heroes don't feel the same way. Players, though, can't ride the same emotional roller-coaster, though. They need what Torii Hunter calls "amnesia," the ability to forget what happened in one game, one inning and even one pitch in order to fully focus on the next one. That doesn't make them robots -- no one that has watched Max Scherzer's celebrations after escaping jams could believe that he doesn't care -- but they have to stay on an even keel to stay sane. Does Fielder take that to an extreme? He does. If you watched the endless interviews in the Tigers clubhouse after Game 6, you saw a lot of players that were crushed by the loss. Hunter talked about the fact that, as much as he denies it, he's getting older and he might not get another shot at his first career World Series. Other players discussed their disappointment in not being able to do more to help the Tigers get to another World Series, though. That just isn't how Fielder is wired. For him, baseball is a job, just like the ones held by Detroit's fans. He shows up at the office every day -- he's missed one game in the last five seasons -- he does his best and then he goes home to his family. If he has a good day, he enjoys it and if he has a bad day, he shrugs it off and goes home with his kids. Sunday, that didn't change, even though his bad night helped break all those hearts. That's how Prince Fielder is, and for the next several seasons, Tigers fans are going to have to deal with it.
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