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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Prince Fielder's off-the-field distraction is an impending divorce

There has been plenty of speculation and commentary about Prince Fielder, and why he's struggled at the plate, and glaringly so, in the second half of this season.

His teammate, Torii Hunter, may have let the cat out of the bag in a radio appearance on the new FM sports station in town, Detroit Sports 105.1, on Monday. Hunter noted that Fielder had something that only his teammates knew "what's really going on."

On Wednesday, the website Larry Brown Sports reported that what's really going on is a divorce between Fielder and his wife of eight years, Chanel. The website's proprietor, Larry Brown, reported that it had been filed on May 28 in Orange County, Fla., where the Fielders live in the offseason.

A search of the Orange County Clerk of Courts website turned up a record of a dissolution of marriage for the two parties, filed on that date. (The file can be seen below.)

That sort of personal-life distraction would mesh with what Hunter hinted at to Detroit Sports 105.1 hosts Ryan Ermanni and Rico Beard, when he joined them for the interview.

"Prince is a strong guy. A lot of people don't know what's going on in his life. This guy's a strong guy," Hunter said on the air. "He's out there every day. He won't come out of the lineup, no matter what's going on off the field or on the field. He's a strong guy. Us as players, we know what's really going on and we appreciate him going out there every day."

Hunter later clarified the rationale behind his comments, saying that he'd heard criticism of Fielder's on-the-field performance, and decided to come to his defense.

"They were talking about Prince and I said, 'Man, you don't know what's going on in that man's life.' ... I hate it when they said, they were talking about, he's not doing his job," Hunter later told reporters in Chicago for the Tigers series there, including Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji. "So when I got on the air, that's when I said, 'Hey, you don't know what's going on.' So I'm defending my guy."

The criticism of Fielder stemmed mostly from on-the-field stuff, as fans have watched a guy who hit over .300 for the first time in his career in his Detroit debut last year, finishing at .313, slip all the way to .262. He's hitting .245 since the All-Star break, and his slugging (.432) and on-base (.353) percentages are the lowest in any full season. After hitting seven home runs in March and April, he's hit 10 since, and none in the last 19 games. The lone saving grace in his offensive season to date has been his RBI total of 81, which ranks fifth in the American League.

Still, it's not surprising that teammates would jump to the defense of their guy, especially if there are extenuating circumstances. As Hunter illustrated, everyone's got stuff going on in their lives, even ballplayers. 

"That's my teammate, that's my brother in this clubhouse. We're all brothers so we take care of each other. ... That's all I was saying, he's just like everybody else. He's going through some things. I'm going through some things," Hunter said, as reported by Wakiji. "Just because we make money, we're not human anymore? We all got family issues, trust me. But you won't ever see it."

The paperwork from the Fielder case, from the Orange County Clerk of Courts website.


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