Well here it is. The day we always knew would arrive has finally come and Prince Fielder is officially no longer a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Some held out hope that the Brewers still had a chance and that the lack of big offers coming in early meant that he'd accept the Brewers original 5 year offer. It was a nice dream, but a dream that ultimately would never come to fruition. The Brewers made their pitch, Scott Boras didn't think it was good enough and that was that. We moved on, signed other guys and played the waiting game on Prince. We waited and waited and waited some more. We waited so long that we started saying things like "Maybe Prince will decide to be a free agent next year instead and come back on a 1-year deal!" We convinced ourselves that there wasn't an offer over 6 years out there and if that was all there was then we could match it, we could get Prince back! With Prince Fielder coming back the Brewers would be better than last year, heck, they'd be better than ever!
And then Prince Fielder signed a 9 year two-hundred-and-fourteen million dollar deal with Detroit.
I won't get too into the place where Prince Fielder decided to sign too much because who cares, but I will say this: it was about the money. It wasn't about playing first base because the Tigers already have a first baseman (who could move to thrid and be bad) and a catcher (who should probably move to first in the next couple years.) He'll be a DH in a year tops. It wasn't about winning (even though they are a lock for the AL Central for at least the next two years) because they are still in the AL and have to go through Boston and/or New York to get to the World Series. It wasn't about family because the chances of his family getting shot/hooked on drugs/turned out just went up about 5000%.
The reason Prince Fielder is a Detroit Tiger is because of the money and that's pretty much the only reason he is a Detroit Tiger. This isn't a bad thing. If someone is going to offer that to him he deserves it and he should take it. The Brewers certainly weren't going to (and thank god for that.) Good for you Prince. Get that money dog. I wish someone would pay me $214 dollars to write this site for the next nine years. I can't imagine what I'd do if you added six zeroes after that. That being said, Detroit? Really?
(While we're here how the hell does Detroit have the money to offer contracts like this? The population has dropped 25% in the last decade, the auto industry is a thing of the past and the city itself is going bankrupt. If I owned that team I'd be less concerned with Prince Fielder and more concerned with getting the hell out of Detroit.)
But enough about that, let's talk about Prince Fielder in Milwaukee.
Prince Fielder is one of the greatest Milwaukee Brewers of all time. No doubt. In my mind it goes like this:
- Robin Yount
- Paul Molitor
- Ryan Braun
- Prince Fielder
Is that wrong? Is it crazy to think that Prince Fielder should probably be higher? Consider this: Prince Fielder is the Brewers all-time leader in career OBP, second all-time in slugging, OPS and homeruns (#1 Robin Yount had almost 3x as many PAs); third in walks, sixth in RBIs, eighth in doubles and number one in our hearts. From the day Prince Fielder became a Milwaukee Brewer you just sort of knew he'd be one of our all-time greats and he never did anything to shake that feeling. He came up, he hit and he continued to hit until the day he left. He was everything we dreamed he'd be on draft day and more.
The thing that I will always remember about Prince Fielder in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform isn't one of his 230 homeruns, but all the balls he didn't hit. I can't think of another player who elicited more "oohs" and "aahs" when he missed than Prince Fielder. The phrase "murdered the ball" is thrown around a lot in baseball circles, but when Prince Fielder swung and missed you had no doubt in your mind that the baseball would have died if he had just managed to make contact with it. No player has ever drove an entire stadium's imaginations wild quite like Prince Fielder when he didn't hit the ball.
That isn't to say his hits weren't great too. You probably have never experienced true baseball joy until you've seen Prince Fielder leg out a triple. It wasn't just the idea of a fat man running either, it was the effort and the look of sheer determination on his face that made it such a spectacle. Prince Fielder only hit 9 triples as a Milwaukee Brewers, but I will treasure each and every one of them. Prince Fielder hitting a triple is why I watch, read and write about baseball.
And then there is his homeruns which were just spectacular. Each one seemingly going further than the last they were always a sight to be seen. The great thing about the Prince Fielder era was that it didn't matter if the Brewers won or lost, if you went to a game and Prince hit a homerun you always felt as if you got your money's worth. Still, so many of them came in key moments with the game on the line that you never truly thought the Brewers would lose as long as Prince had at-bats remaining. That's something that is very hard to quantify, but to a fan is extremely valuable. Believing that someone can always come through for you is what being a fan is all about.
We've been completely spoiled these last few years because we've had not one, but two players that we could believe in during those moments. In a strange way the existence of Ryan Braun has made Prince Fielder underrated. He's still one of the top five first baseman in the game, but I don't feel like we truly know what we're losing right now. Maybe it's the numbers obsessed society we live in that has made us this way. I'm guilty of this myself. I know that Prince Fielder's "production" has been replaced through the team's upgrades at shortstop and third base, but what I sometimes forget is that Prince Fielder can't be replaced. The Milwaukee Brewers could be a better team next year, but it won't be the same as these past few years. They'll be a team I still love, but they won't be remotely the same.
The Brewers just lost one of their four best players of all time. We're going to miss him. The team will be fine and life will go on, but there is no way that losing him doesn't suck. You can replace his numbers, but you can't replace the feeling.