GREAT EXPECTATIONS

 

By:  Holly Horning

On this Memorial Day, it’s time to thank those who have served our country. While we take time to remember them, here is a blog from early May which still holds true.


What do Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, CC Sabathia, David Price and Albert Pujols all have in common?

Big bucks, but you knew that. But also a scrutiny over their level of performance by fans that is unrivaled. Scrutiny over their every move.

And some of it is because these are guys who are playing a sport – entertainers and not humanitarians – and making more money than 99% of the world’s population.

But there are other fans who equate their earning potential with requiring the highest level of performance. Perfection.

But no matter where these fans sit on the spectrum, the bottom line is that with big bucks, comes big expectations.

Take, for example, the fan I sat next to at a Tigers’ game in Lakeland a month ago. A long-time fan, an experienced fan. A fan who could recite the starting lineup and stats, and could also keep score in the game book. A fan who cheered every time Miggy came up to bat.

And a fan who had a conniption when Miggy didn’t get on base. It didn’t matter to him that Miggy was having  a good day. He expected, as he explained, that for that salary, Miggy should get on base with every at-bat.

His baseball acumen had given way to his beliefs about money.

But its not just him. There’s an increasing number of fans expressing similar ideas on the social media threads. Just last week, I responded to a poster’s comment about Miggy “underperforming” the past 4 years. I pointed out that Cabrera had batted between .313 and .348 during those years. Had an OPS between .895 and 1.078. Won the MVP twice and also the highly-elusive Triple Crown. Also that much of it was done despite some significant injuries.

But it didn’t matter to him. He said that Miggy’s numbers should have been higher. Higher because “per hit”, he was still too expensive and not the best value. And if you’re wondering if he was a novice fan, he wasn’t.

Justin Verlander, one of MLB’s highest paid players, also receives this level of scrutiny. Fans who believed that core surgery shouldn’t have been a factor and demanded perfection immediately upon his return from the DL. Others who are upset that he’s lost velocity on his pitches or no longer pitching complete games.

But it’s not just Tigers who are being put under the microscope. Robinson Cano was expected to take the Mariners to the World Series last year. The pressure became too much for him and from reports, he expressed the desire to be traded.

And in a similar universe, there’s the tale of Prince Fielder when he was with the Tigers. A guy who earned the wrath of fans for his beyond-bad baserunning and fielding, inability to deliver in the playoffs – and of course, his choice comments after the Tigers were ousted from October baseball.

And this year, David Price, a guy we all admired during his stint with the Tigers, was booed off the mound by Red Sox fans. His sin? He gave up a lot of runs and lost the lead. The fans expected perfection from a player making $217 million.

Unrealistic? You betcha. But we all have our own beliefs about money that impact how we feel about players.

For some, it’s about business and what needs to be done today in order to get the best players. For others, it’s understanding that contracts are based primarily about previous performance. Yet others hold out hope that a big contract is a promise of top performance. And finally, there are those who see these contracts as an obligation the athletes make to guarantee playing perfection.

All of which brings us to Justin Upton. The Tigers newest multi-bazillionaire and third highest-paid player on the team. With a contract totalling $133 million, there are many fans who expected him to start performing immediately despite moving to a new team and league. But 4 weeks later, he’s barely gotten better and one of the categories he’s leading MLB in is not at all desirable.

Was last week’s “boo heard around the world” partially directed at him? Is it no surprise that social media threads are dissecting the “should have signed Cespedes instead” question?

But fans, too, are also dissecting the payroll of the entire Tigers’ team. Once again, one of baseball’s largest payrolls and a last-place finish in 2015. And based upon those figures, many of these fans are expecting perfection from this team and that means nothing less than the World Series.