DETROIT — Nathan hasn't endeared himself to Tigers fans this season, both for his performance on the mound with the ball, and his personal actions and choice of words. Wednesday night's hand gesture didn't add to his credibility and only served to add to the tension of an already strained relationship with fans.
Thursday morning Nathan arrived later than usual to the clubhouse, but he didn't avoid the topic he already knew was coming. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Nathan opened with his version of a joke about how he had forgotten to use Head and Shoulders in his beard. Given his status with fans, a more appropriate one may have been necessary.
"I think both sides were frustrated," Nathan said. "I was frustrated. Fans obviously were frustrated. I think for myself, I would apologize for that." (h/t Dana Wakiji, FOX Sports Detroit)
Fans are frustrated, and understandably so. Nathan hasn't denied that and he finally admitted to his own level of frustration, but at the same time acknowledged his actions should have reflected on him in a more positive manner.
The way in which he's handled adversity this season hasn't instilled confidence in the fans even when Nathan has performed well. He also knows how much a win would mean to Detroit. It's eluded them for 30 years now and recent post-season appearances have all come up short, two at the World Series.
Nathan has come up short all season long, but despite his actions, Nathan said he has no hard feelings towards the fans. He says he understands the level of frustration but at the same time feels he and the fans are on the same page in the sense that both sides want one result; a World Series championship.
"I think just expectations, expectations of our team, expectations of what you guys have put on us for expectations," Nathan said. "I think that all goes hand in hand on what the fans expect from this ball club. Because of that, there will be an expectation to go out and be as good as we can be."
As poorly as Nathan has been in dealing with fans frustrations and his response towards a disappointing season, the lasting effect has been with his family. Nathan may be thankful that his children aren't old enough to realize the context of this season's events, but that doesn't make them any less meangingful for those who do.
When the time comes when his children are able to understand they're going to be able to look back on this season. That's something Nathan would prefer to learn from and never repeat.
"I have two kids and I need to be a better example for them," Nathan said. "Thank God they're still young enough that they won't know about this. I do know and I do need to be better for that."
That is for a later time. Right now, Nathan has to deal with the effects of a series of ill-advised actions. Emotions are one thing, but having the capability to handle them in the appropriate manner is another. That's something that Nathan is learning the hard way right now.
Whereas fans feel he's performed horribly though, Nathan said he feels like he's struggled lately at all. He said when a walk or two happens there is the fear that another poor outing is in the books, but every season isn't going to be perfect and if he can close out a game with a win, he doesn't care how that gets accomplished.
"It's just one of those things right now where I think fans just have a short leash on how they want me to go out and pitch," he said. "I think they have a perception of how it should go and if it doesn't go exactly that way, they get frustrated. Understandable."
Expectations come with the job, there's no way around it and when Nathan has been doing that job for years with a high level of success, both with the media and on the field, a season like this doesn't sit well with fans. Nathan apologized about a half-dozen times during his session with the media, but it's up to Nathan and his future performance whether or not his words can match his apology. For now, he's on a short leash with fans.
"Like I said, unfortunately this happened," he said. "Both sides were frustrated. Like I said, I do apologize for my actions. I want to put it behind us as quick as we can and move on to what's important and that's winning games."