A couple of weeks ago I blasted Prince Fielder and more specifically his timing of saying he would not be coming back to Milwaukee next season. I was angry that in the midst of this incredible season he felt the need to say what he did. I had somehow in my mind blocked out the awful idea of another player leaving for more money elsewhere.
Then I got to thinking about several Brewers who left for bigger pay days with two at the top of the list. Carlos Lee and Francisco Cordero both jilted the Brewers at a time when the team was trying to get going. They made very competitive offers to both players and they both ended up taking more from other teams. Lee has languished in Houston and has been the one piece they could not unload during the multiyear fire sale. He has never been the same player he was in Milwaukee and the Brewers found a decent replacement in some kid named Ryan Braun. This season he has just 18 home runs, the fourth consecutive year he has had less than 30 HRs after five straight years of achieving that mark. He will make $18.5 million dollars in 2012 after earning more than $80 million already and just one All-Star appearance back in 2007.
Cordero saved 44 games for Milwaukee in 2007 before taking more money the next offseason to join the Cincinnati Reds. He hasn’t reached the apex he did with the Brewers again but has been entrenched as the Reds closer while earning more than $45 million. The club has a $12 million option for 2012. The Brewers have gone through several closers since Cordero departed but they have found a way and now have the league leader in saves in John Axford. Axford is not arbitration eligible until 2013 and made less than $500 thousand this season.
I guess what I am saying is there is always another guy to fill in, so perhaps in the end it will be just fine that Fielder leaves. I just don’t have to like it or the way he and his agent and so many others play the off-field game. Would it really not be enough to stay here for 5 years at 100 million? One in six Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from and I have to hear about some guy potentially getting $200 million for hitting a ball really far? In the end, it is just business right?
Then came last night. Prince Fielder bombed three home runs in a game the Brewers had to have. Each was electrifying and important in the course of the game. He drove in five of the six runs and the team got a huge victory. While Braun has captured many of the “moments” by hitting game ending HRs, Prince has gotten them to the late innings, often being the only offense the team has for much of the game.
He runs as hard on ground balls back to the pitcher as any player in the league (something that he, Braun, Weeks and Hart all seem to do habitually). He is obviously a load of fun to be around as his antics in the dugout prove. There may be no player in the history of Wisconsin sports that had higher expectations coming in and then not only met them but destroyed them.
His 162 game averages are at levels that not many could even consider much less reach:
.282 BA, 37 HR’s, 106 RBI, .537 Slugging % and an impressive .926 OPS
The other potential $200 million man Albert Pujols has been even more impressive:
.329 BA, 42 HR’s, 126 RBI, .618 Slugging % and an outrageous 1.038 OPS
The difference is, Prince is just 27 while Pujols is 31. And, Prince appears to be one hell of a guy to be around. The team needed him and Braun to put them on their backs the last two weeks and they have come through. They are both up for MVP and probably both deserve it. Pujols never developed the chemistry with another player in his career like the Braun-Fielder combination. The numbers were there but not the rollicking good time.
I wish Prince would consider that no amount of money can buy you the kind of happiness that he seems to be enjoying right now. Will it be as much fun to do it with guys other than Braun, Weeks, Hart and Gallardo? Weeks and Prince actually played little league ball together, he has really never known another group of players.
No matter though, this team is apparently catching fire at the right time and will be playing after game 162 tonight – although we still don’t know who, when and where. I hope the discussions about leaving stay hidden again and that prince and his group go out with a few more bombs and three more sprays.