NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
On Monday night, Tigers outfielder Tyler Collins basically blew up the Internet when he made an obscene gesture to the Tiger faithful after losing a fly ball in the lights and Detroit twilight, resulting in an error on Justin Upton followed by boos from the fans.
He in fact broke our website server last night, it was buzzing that much. So thank you for that, Tyler!
All kidding aside, it is a very unfortunate situation that transpired at Comerica Park. Rightfully so, Tigers fans were pretty irate with Tyler’s reaction. For me personally, there are a few other things that stood out to me from the moment that happened to after the Tigers 7-3 win over Oakland when Collins faced the media and answered every question, giving his sincerest apology in the process.
I too am disappointed in Tyler’s actions but I feel just as bad for him.
Here we have a 25-year-old player trying to make a name for himself on the biggest of stages in professional baseball. Back in 2014, he broke spring camp and made the 25-man roster as an outfield reserve, a surprise to many Tigers fans. He played in just seven games to open that campaign, going 2-for-14 (.154 BA) with three punch-outs.
Collins took that cup of coffee with the big league club to the minors for the remainder of the season and re-joined the team for September call-ups, again in a reserve role. When he found playing time, he went 4-for-10 with a home run and three RBI.
The 2015 season rolled around introducing a slimmer, more athletic-looking Collins. He played in 60 total games for Detroit last year, 41 of which came after the Tigers shipped Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets at the July 31 trade deadline. Tyler posted some respectable numbers, compiling a .266 BA/.316 OBP/.417 SLG in those 60 games with four homers and 25 RBI.
Little by little, Tyler was growing into someone the Tigers could count on as an everyday role player, contributing both offensively and defensively. He seemed prime for a starting gig in left field to open the 2016 season, until January 19 when the Tigers signed Justin Upton to a huge contract to play left field, all but knocking down Tyler to a reserve role again.
Even with the addition of Upton, Collins still had a shot at making the roster. And that he did, making the big league club again for Opening Day for the second time in three seasons, this time as someone that can play all the outfield positions and would at the worst platoon with Anthony Gose in center field.
So far this season, Tyler has appeared in 10 games (five starts) and has amassed just a .100 batting average (2-for-20) with a double and an RBI.
It’s safe to assume he has struggled and has been, and in fact still is, dealing with some frustration. Unfortunately on Monday night he let his emotions get the best of him. In this day and age where social media controls everything, and everyone seemingly has the eye’s of a hawk, Collins was not going to get away from that for very long.
A night to forget for Tyler was capped off rather fittingly with a strikeout late in the game vs. an Oakland pitcher making his major league debut, giving him an 0-for-4 night at the dish only to walk off to the dugout to a shower of boos.
By no means do I condone or support what Tyler did after hearing the crowd boo at him for a play that he had little to no control of, it is a big no-no at any level of any sport, but I absolutely understand his frustration.
Seeing and hearing the home fans boo is a sight and sound no player ever wants to hear. Almost all of the time when it happens, it is because a team collectively is playing poorly and underachieving, while other times it can be directed to a player maybe not giving 100 percent effort when running down a fly ball, or legging out a ground ball on the bases.
Neither of that happened in Collins’ situation. When watching the play, he immediately threw his hands up in confusion of where the ball was. And Tigers fans do not have to go far back to remember the last time one of their own decided to send a message to the fans and let his emotions get the better of him.
Former closer Joe Nathan. An established and successful closer in his career not living up to the expectations set by the team, the fans, and even himself. One little mistake.
Sometimes the toughest thing for any athlete is being able to bottle up the emotions for a few hours and not let those spectators get in your head. The difference here between Nathan and Collins is that the booing of Joe Nathan was much more warranted (if we want to go that route) than that of Collins because Nathan had much more control of his performance that was building up with each outing.
Tyler meanwhile, was the victim of something that is common in the game of baseball – losing the ball in the lights/sky and admittingly knowing it. I still am unsure why the fans (sorry, fans) were booing Collins at play like that, but it happened.
So again, looking back at some of the little things that could have led up to Tyler blowing a gasket and giving the fans the finger. In a matter of three months, he went from a starting outfielder for a championship-minded ball club, to being a reserve once again and possibly bouncing around between the majors and minors, and getting off to a poor start to the season at the plate after putting together a solid 2015 campaign.
And sadly for every party involved, that pent up frustration came to fruition.
I guess what I’m basically getting at here is that players are humans with emotions, not these money-making robots. Being as big of a sports fan as anyone, it’s incredible to see athletes in every sport put on the athletic display they can while dealing the wide range of reactions from fans.
As a Tigers fan and a believer that Tyler can have a successful big league career, I firmly believe that he can and will learn from this experience and everything that may have contributed to it prior. He deserves it from the fans, and listening to him post-game, having an unbelievable amount of poise to face every question must have been difficult.
This is also a minor learning experience for the fans too, in my opinion. I get it, we cheer and boo to best express ourselves to our sports teams and figures at sporting events. For those who felt Tyler deserved the booing during that play, with all due respect, it was not fair and warranted. Yes, we all have a right to be upset now for his actions.
But this is a true learning experience for everyone.