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Fielder Isn't A Hype Man on Detroit’s Award Tour Quest

Give Prince his props or he'll take them from you later

By J.R. Gamble October 22, 2012, 11:31 AM EST

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In the award-winning documentary-movie Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, there is a scene where Phife says Q-Tip thinks he’s Diana Ross and Phife (and Ali) are the Supremes. Detroit slugger Prince Fielder has got to feel that way some days. You can get lost in the sauce playing with Miguel Cabrera, who is the first Triple Crown winner since MLK was marching through the South. Cabrera’s had great seasons before, but never this heavy. Some people call it maturity. I call it the Prince Fielder Effect

When the Tigers signed Fielder, they made it impossible for opposing teams to pitch around Cabrera.  Fielder is that dude. He does mega damage at the plate and if facing Cabrera is considered hell, then facing Fielder is at least a towering inferno.  Detroit is far from a one-man show. It’s befuddling that Fielder is continuously overlooked on the list of MLB’s best hitters. Being the sidekick isn’t new to Fielder. He was the hype man to teammate Ryan Braun’s MVP show last season in Milwaukee. The stocky first baseman is the first cat since 1947 to hit regularly behind the league MVP one season, and then hit behind the Triple-Crown winner the next.

This season, half of Cabrera’s inevitable MVP award should go to Fielder. They are equally responsible for Detroit’s World Series quest. Cabrera gets all of the love granted to a general, while Fielder gets a loyal colonel’s pat on the back.   

Phife Dawg was the Prince Fielder of ATCQ. Q-Tip and Phife both spit on most of ATCQ’s greatest hits. However, Q-Tip’s unique charisma afforded him billing as the group’s star. Plus, he was the spokesperson and producer. Tip’s dominant personality detracted from the less apparent contributions that Phife Dawg made to the group. Similarly, Cabrera is often mentioned as a one –man- wrecking crew. Despite his $214 million contract, Fielder doesn’t have the same juice with the fans.

It’s indisputable that Cabrera was already well established as the Tiger’s one big bopper.  But then Fielder came along and Cabrera rose from Mike Schmidt to Lou Gehrig status.

Fielder’s dominating presence forces pitchers to come at Cabrera differently. Pitching around him is no longer an option. In Fielder, we’re talking about a cat that smacked 50 dingers with the Brewers at 23 years old.  When pitchers turn away from Cabrera, glance at the on base circle and see Fielder with a slab of maple wood, it’s a problem.

Fielder changed the dynamic of Detroit’s lineup, hitting .313 with 30 homers. And that’s with Delmon Young hitting behind him. Despite Young’s ALCS MVP swagger, teams still use an “I’ll take my chances” approach with him at bat, as evidenced by Fielder’s league-leading 18 intentional walks. People praise Cabrera’s historic season, but often overlook Fielder’s role in facilitating Cabrera’s career year. More heat and less junk, led to Cabrera slugging career highs in homers (44) RBIs (139) and O.P.S. (.999).

A Tribe Called Quest’s experiences are comparable. Q-Tip’s had success as a solo artist, but his shining moments in hip-hop were with Phife by his side. Separated, neither is as legendary. Q-Tip is considered one of hip-hop’s true musical geniuses. The way he blends baselines and utilizes samples is a blueprint for today’s great producers. Tip’s artsy eccentricity, however, didn’t immediately endear him to “street cats”. Phife bridged the gap between the gangster rap audience, sports heads, and Tip’s socially conscious rap audience. Tip wore African garb and house shoes, but Phife rocked baseball caps and throwback basketball jerseys. His content was edgier. He did less preaching and more battle-rap, b-boy flowing. Together they formed rap’s Rolling Stones.

Together, Cabrera and Fielder form the new-age Bash Brothers and have Tiger fans ready to go on that long awaited World Series Award Tour. When the confetti is thrown, I hope Tiger fans give Fielder his props too. Detroit is a two-headed monster. Not a one trick pony. 

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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