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Cleveland Indians' Ryan Raburn Remains One of the Most Polarizing Athletes in Detroit

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COMMENTARY | Not too often can an athlete leave a team on good terms but remain a polarizing figure in that city.

Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn is a perfect example of that rarity in the Motor City.

Before signing with the Cleveland Indians in January for a platoon role, Raburn spent his entire professional career in the Tigers organization, including parts of seven seasons in the majors. He experienced both good times and bad while wearing the Old English D, though his troubles still resonate with Tigers fans today.

From 2009 through 2011, Raburn averaged a .274/.329/.473 split with 15 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 50 runs. He was able to fulfill his role with the Tigers by doing exactly what was expected of him during these three years: provide the team with solid numbers.

However, Raburn's stretch of success with the Tigers is now a distant memory to many.

What Tiger fans remember the most when it comes to Raburn is 2012, a horrendous season for the utility man. His 2-31 start to the 2012 season was only a prelude to what was coming. Raburn, unable to shake his season-long slump, finished with a disappointing .171/.226/254 split, one home run, and 12 RBIs.

There were some Tiger fans that wanted to see Raburn do well, whether it be in Detroit or Cleveland. He was a classy player and had a great worth ethic during his tenure with the team. But that all can change when a player joins a rival and goes on to succeed, especially against his former team.

At this point, Raburn's doing just that with the Indians. Through 35 games this season, he's is hitting .290 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs.

While it may have been easy for Tiger fans support Raburn, it's hard to witness him producing against his former team. This put fans in a polarizing situation; root for Raburn to do well and proceed to be irked when he does just that, or smile at his misfortunes because he's no longer doing that with the Tigers. After this past weekend, he's now hitting .231 with two home runs and four RBIs against Detroit.

Even Raburn's former teammate, Miguel Cabrera, couldn't bear watching him trot around the bases in an Indians uniform after his home run that broke up Jose Alvarez's no-hitter on June 9. Cabrera chose to send congratulations by tossing his gum at Raburn while he was rounding third.

One year later, the polarized feelings regarding Raburn remain strong in Detroit. Cabrera's playful actions this past weekend attest to just that. Raburn's success against his former team in 2013 has only added fuel to that fire.

Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's the sports editor for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.

You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.

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