After the Tigers signed him to a nine-year, $219 million contract before the 2012 season, Prince Fielder was supposed to become the intradivisional rival with whom the White Sox and their fans would become intimately familiar.
You know the kind -- the Joe Mauers, the Justin Morneaus, the Billy Butlers, the like Sand People.s. Seeing them 19 times a year gives the discerning fan plenty of time to log their irritating quirks, seethe when they deliver, and celebrate their failures
More than the others, Fielder had all the makings of a classic Central character -- good at baseball, good for jokes, jabs and digs. And for both sides, too! A Sox fan could post this:
And a Tiger fan could post this:
|vs. White Sox||37||161||145||45||7||0||6||20||0||0||13||28||.310||.379||.483||.862|
And you know what? They'd both be right.
Alas, Fielder is set to spend the next seven years in the Texas heat, as the Tigers dealt him to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. Perhaps Kinsler will carve out his own lore, but there's nothing particularly natural about it. He doesn't command the same attention, nor is he as inherently amusing.
As somebody who enjoys a good yarn, I feel shortchanged. There should've been a lot more highs, lows and fat-guy antics. Instead, I can only really find six moments that stand out.
To me, this was the lowlight of Robin Ventura's roughest patch as a manager to date.
The defining moment of Rios' White Sox career wouldn't have been as awesome if the ball didn't get by Fielder.
No. 4: When he couldn't hit Donnie Veal.
Which was pretty much every time. Veal has faced Fielder more than any other hitter over the last two years, and for good reason -- Fielder is 0-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in 11 plate appearances. Those Veal sliders looked just too tempting for Fielder to resist.
No. 5: When Chris Sale brushed him back by accident.
This started The Sensible Beef, and there's always more meat to beefs when the opponents are familiar.
No. 6: When Sale walked him.
After Sale was ordered to intentionally walk Cabrera, his anger led to an unintentional walk to Fielder. When Sale had his head on straight later in the game, he worked over Fielder masterfully:
That was closer to the usual result when Sale and Fielder faced each other:
For whatever reason, lefty-lefty matchups matter more to me than righty-righty matchups. When Mark Buehrle faced Grady Sizemore or Travis Hafner, I was much more aware of their recent history than when Paul Konerko faced Justin Verlander or Rick Porcello. It's probably because those outs are more crucial when the pitcher holds an advantage -- and since teams really stack righties against Sale, any lefty hitter is memorable -- but whatever the case, I thought Sale-Fielder would be a cat-and-mouse game spanning years.
Instead, Sale will have to settle for the likes of Mauer and Alex Gordon. As it stands with Detroit, Alex Avila is the only lefty who might see Sale in a game, but given that catchers need days off, that's not even guaranteed.
It might ultimately benefit the White Sox to get Fielder out of the division, but he packed the potential for truly absurd theater, and it never quite happened. Instead, we have to wave goodbye knowing he saved the wackier stuff for the other Sox.