Detroit — Michael Lieder of Dearborn seems like a good guy. His friends like him and love to hang out. He was even nice enough to hold a basket of nachos for his friend who was buying the beers.
But friends turned on him when he insisted on wearing a Detroit Tigers Prince Fielder jersey to Saturday’s 12-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park.
Fielder, now with the Rangers, did not return to the scene of the crime from the past two seasons because of a herniated disk in his neck that will require surgery. But he remained a hot topic around the ballpark.
Fielder probably is out for the season, which means the Tigers — at least for the time being — won the Ian Kinsler-for-Fielder trade.
Even though Fielder no longer plays for the Tigers, he remains public enemy No. 1 here because of two bad postseason appearances and then seeming to not care much about the Tigers disastrous series against the Boston Red Sox in last fall’s American League Championship Series.
Fans grilled Fielder for failing to knock in a run during the 2013 playoffs, his ugly playoff nose dive back into third base, and then telling everybody — i.e. the fans — life goes on. And those are all no-no’s in a town that wants its athletes to break down doors every time they play and slam fists every time they lose.
You’re just not going to get that from Fielder, who is more of a chill guy.
That is why there hardly was a dry eye when the Tigers traded him away in November.
Many came to Detroit this weekend to boo Fielder. Some others came to show that they still care for the man. Of course, those fans got strange looks from the fans who blame Fielder for everything that went wrong with the Tigers.
Lieder, though, ignored friends and wore his Fielder jersey anyway.
“Yeah, he did not do great during the playoffs,” he said. “He was really good during the regular season.”
The Tigers celebrated Negro League weekend Saturday, and a number of people wore Detroit Stars t-shirts and jerseys. But others paid tribute to Fielder, who wore No. 28 in Detroit and now wears No. 84 in Texas.
One of those people was Ryan Juarez of Battle Creek.
“Last season was not good for him, but I think it was one of those situations where his private life got in the way of things on the field,” Juarez said of Fielder, who had been going through a divorce, which since has been called off. “His heart was not in the game. But I still support him.”
“We were excited to see him today,” said Ryan’s wife, Katheryn.
But it didn’t happen. It is painfully obvious Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski made the right move in moving Fielder and his behemoth contract. This town grew tired of him and wanted him out. It became so vicious this year that some wrongfully applauded when word surfaced that he was injured.
That is taking it too far.
But imagine how ugly this situation would have gotten if Fielder still were with the Tigers. Imagine Fielder batting .247 with three home runs and just 16 RBIs at this point of the season. Not only would Tigers fans be angry if he still was here, but they would become even angrier knowing the Tigers could not trade him.
“It is too bad it came to this,” said Andrea Duck of Warren.
Duck did not wear a Fielder jersey, but she intended to. She took a limo to the game with about eight friends, but they told her she could not go if she wore a Fielder jersey. So she backed down.
“I still like Prince Fielder,” she said.
She is in the minority. One fan wore a Fielder jersey in what must have been a cruel joke by a friend.
“I don’t know anything about baseball,” the man said. “My friend gave me this jersey because I wanted to wear one to the game. I don’t even know who this guy is.”
He was serious.
Playing the villain
By the way, the Tigers on Saturday lost their fifth game in the last six and it hardly creates a ripple. One, the American League Central hardly gets much respect. There is no panic in Detroit because of that, and we can brush this skid aside as a good team going through a tough stretch.
But imagine if Fielder were here.
He’d take the brunt of the blame, whether he played or sat the bench.
“I think Fielder took too much of the blame around here,” Juarez said.
“I still think he was a good player,” said Laura Hennin of Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia — who watched Fielder and the Tigers on television in Canada.
Yes, people came to support Fielder.
But those who did got some strange looks.