I understand fan's disappointment with Joe Nathan's performances this year.
They thought they were getting the guy who never blew a save as a member of the opposition at Comerica Park. They thought they were getting the guy who saved 43 games for the Texas Rangers last year, and the guy who boasted 321 career saves before he put on the Tigers uniform.
Instead, they've seen an inconsistent closer who has a career high six blown saves, can't seem to find the strike zone regularly and makes the 9th inning feel like a visit to the dentist's chair.
I've supported Nathan during his trials and tribulations here in Detroit. I still believe he can close for this team and help it win the World Series. That is not a popular belief these days, and I understand why, but I will stick to those convictions for now.
What I can't support is what he did on Wednesday night.In case you missed it, with his team leading 8-4, he walked the first two batters in the ninth (the 7th and 8th hitters) and many of the 41,000 in attendance began to boo.
Nathan quickly got a fly ball out and a double-play to end the threat and the game, but was swift to respond to fans by motioning with a flick of his hand under his chin -- not once, but twice! It's not the first time he's put himself in the cross-hairs with fans and media.
Too many feel like he threw Nick Castellanos under the bus with comments earlier in the season (I don't think that) after the rookie made an error in the 9th inning. Fans also read in disbelief his comments after blowing a game in Toronto last weekend when he said, "This is not going to ruin my day ... I'm still going to go home, eat dinner, go to sleep, wake up and do it again."
And now his actions from Wednesday night and the gesture he made to fans. Bad ... stupid ... uncalled for ... juvenile.
Nathan has been in this business at the major league level for 13 years. He's 39-years-old and should know better. This town is passionate about its sports, but fans, like Nathan, can be too reactionary and emotional.
It has booed Sergei Fedorov, Brandon Inge, Joey Harrington, Josh Smith, Todd Jones and others. None of those players flipped the fans off, told them where to shove it or made a gesture like Nathan did. It will boo more athletes as well. It's not unlike many other sports towns in that regard. How does Nathan think fans will respond now? If he couldn't win them over before, how will he do it after his latest emotional reaction?
The Tigers need to get him in front of cameras as soon as possible and have him ask for an apology. He needs to say, "I signed here in Detroit because I wanted to play here and because I felt this team gave me the best chance to win a championship. I am an emotional player and I over-reacted last night. I expect more from myself on the mound and off it, but in order for us to win a title, we need fans support as well. I hope moving forward, fans will accept my apology and back us in this drive to bring this town a World Series crown for the first time in 30 years."
Joe Nathan needs to remember he represents this town and this organization every time he puts on that beloved uniform. I don't know if that type of an apology would allow fans to forgive him, but it might help ... at least until his next blown save.
Joe Nathan has apologized for his nasty gesture. Said his frustrations got the best of him.— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) August 14, 2014
Joe Nathan apologized for gesture: "I know both sides are frustrated, but the thing is, we're on the same page."— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) August 14, 2014
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.