Tag: Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder’s Terrific, Memorable Career Ends Far Too Soon

Larger than life.

It’s a worn-out bromide that gets tossed around far too liberally. Life is pretty large, after all.

It has always applied to Prince Fielder, though, from the moment he swung onto the scene with his bulky physique, MLB pedigree and a hack built to bash baseballs.

Now, unfortunately, we can apply another overused-but-apt label to Fielder: done before his time.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the news Tuesday:

Fielder underwent neck surgery on July 29 for the second time since 2014. According to Rosenthal, the 32-year-old slugger isn’t technically retiring. Instead, Rosenthal reported, “He is medically disabled and doctors will not clear him to play.”

That’s an important distinction, because it means Fielder will receive the $96 million remaining on his contract, which runs through 2020. The Detroit Tigers are on the hook for $6 million per year. The Rangers, meanwhile, have an insurance policy that will pay 50 percent of their $18 million annual commitment, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

That’s semantics, however, best left for the bean counters to sort out. We’re here to remember Fielder the player. There’s plenty to remember.

Let’s start with a number: 319.

That’s how many home runs Fielder hit in his 12 big league seasons. It’s also the number his father, Cecil, hit in 13 MLB campaigns. 

That’s a coincidence, a numerical anomaly. But it forever binds the father and the son, whose at times troubled relationship was built around baseball from the beginning.

“When he had a diaper on,” Cecil said when asked the moment he knew Prince would be a pro ballplayer, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. “He was a baseball player from Day 1. He was around the ballpark, and he loved the game, and you know when you have a kid that has that much enthusiasm in something, he’s gonna be special. I always knew he was going to be a special player.”

The younger Fielder delivered on that promise in 2006, when he bashed 28 home runs as a rookie with the Milwaukee Brewers. The next year, he hit an eye-popping 50 to go along with a 1.013 OPS and top-three National League MVP finish. 

Matching his father’s legacy seemed like a foregone conclusion. The only question was how high this kid could climb among the ranks of all-time greats. 

In 2008, Fielder carried the Brewers to the postseason for the first time since 1982, collecting 21 RBI in September alone. And he helped the Crew advance to the National League Championship Series in 2011, his final year with the team.

Then came the nine-year, $214 million mega-contract with the Tigers, the franchise that employed Cecil for six-plus seasons in his fence-clearing prime.

Prince spent just two years in the Motor City before a trade to Texas, though he made a pair of All-Star teams and a World Series appearance during that time.

The first neck operation followed in 2014, and with it came the beginning of the end.

Fielder’s deal with Detroit is an albatross in hindsight. In June, Sports Illustrated‘s Cliff Corcoran named it one of the worst contracts in baseball, and he wasn’t wrong.

It’s easy to forget, however, that prior to 2014, Fielder defined durability. He appeared in at least 157 games every year from 2006 to 2013, and he played in all 162 games four times.

During that span, he made five All-Star teams, had four top-10 MVP finishes, won the Home Run Derby in 2009 and 2012 and hit 283 home runs that counted, fourth-most behind Albert Pujols (291), Miguel Cabrera (287) and Ryan Howard (287).

He had a temper, and he wasn’t above beating up a dugout or storming toward the opposing clubhouse to confront the other team’s pitcher. 

He also ruffled feathers with his on-field antics, including a home run celebration he created in Milwaukee wherein his teammates would greet him at home plate and fall to the ground like bowling pins. 

That instigated a beanball battle with the San Francisco Giants that carried into spring training in 2010. And it sparked harsh words from fellow players, including then-Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who said Fielder would “get crushed” if he kept it up, per Grant.

Underneath, though, Fielder always seemed like a jovial softie. As Grant reported, his friend and fellow second-generation big leaguer Tony Gwynn Jr. called him “a sensitive dude.”

Plus, he did undeniably awesome stuff like this, via Freep Sports:

Last season, Fielder added a Comeback Player of the Year award to his trophy case, hitting .305 with 23 homers and 98 RBI. He helped the Rangers win the AL West.

In a league where the designated hitter position allows guys like the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz to remain productive past their 40th birthday, it was plausible Fielder’s career could have another act.

“I’m a glass half-full kind of guy,” Texas general manager Jon Daniels said in January, per Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram. “Having put that [injury] behind him, now knowing that he can go, I’m excited to see what he can do this year.”

Those words have a bitter aftertaste now, considering how the story ends.

As it turns out, Fielder’s resurgent 2015 wasn’t a harbinger of things to come. It was a final reminder of the player we’ll never again get to watch dig into a big league batter’s box.

What would Fielder have done with another six, seven or eight seasons? Barring a massively unexpected medical twist, that will remain a hypothetical. But the guess here is a Hall of Fame resume and plenty more big moments.

Instead, we’ll take what we got: an always-entertaining, bright-burning, occasionally controversial and above all hugely memorable career.

Prince Fielder is done before his time. But he remains, undeniably, larger than life.


All statistics current as of Aug. 9 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Prince Fielder Announces He Won’t Be Medically Cleared to Return to MLB

Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder‘s career is over after 12 years in Major League Baseball.

On Wednesday, Fielder officially announced he would no longer be able to play, per TR Sullivan of MLB.com. “I can’t play Major League Baseball anymore,” Fielder said during a press conference. “It sucks to have it taken away early,” he added. 

“It took too much brain to walk in a straight line, that was real…I was thinking, how am I going to hit a fastball,” Fielder said

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported Tuesday that Fielder would announce his decision to step away from the big leagues. 

Rosenthal added Fielder is not retiring, but doctors will not clear him to play. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball noted Fielder will still receive the $100-plus million still owed on his contract because it’s a medical issue.

Fielder’s deal pays him $24 million per season through 2020, noted Rosenthal.

Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram added that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team has insurance on the contract. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News noted the Rangers will be committed to Fielder for $9 million per year through 2020.

Fielder will remain on the Rangers roster for the rest of his contract, according to Wilson, who added he’ll be on the 40-man roster in the offseason and the 60-day DL during the regular season. 

After the Rangers defeated the Colorado Rockies 7-5, the club held a postgame meeting to discuss Fielder, according to Wilson, who added the players still aren’t exactly sure what will happen on Wednesday. 

Fielder’s 2016 season ended in July when he underwent neck surgery to repair a C4/C5 disc herniation, per Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake

Before Fielder was forced to go undergo surgery, he looked like a shell of his former self. The 32-year-old was hitting .212/.292/.334 with eight home runs in 89 games.

This campaign marks the second time in three years that Fielder’s season has ended prematurely due to injuries. He required a cervical fusion of the C5/C6 discs in his neck in May 2014. He used to be one of MLB’s great iron men, playing all 162 games four times in five seasons from 2009 to 2013, and he only missed one game in 2010. 

In a bit of sad irony, Baseball-Reference.com noted that Fielder’s 319 career home runs are the same as his father, Cecil Fielder, when his career ended. Prince Fielder also had a terrific .283/.382/.506 slash line in 1,611 career games. 

Fielder was a huge part of the Milwaukee Brewers‘ renaissance, in which they made the playoffs twice in 2008 and 2011, reaching the National League Championship Series in 2011. He led the National League with 50 home runs in 2007, played in six All-Star Games and had four top-10 MVP finishes. 

Even though Fielder was never able to consistently recapture some of his early-career heights after leaving the Brewers, he did play in a World Series in 2012 and an American League Championship Series in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers before he was traded to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler prior to 2014. 

Fielder looked like a throwback slugger because of his big body, but he was an outstanding hitter for average and had a keen eye at the plate to go along with his power. The abrupt end of his career does not define his overall legacy of greatness that started with his debut as a 21-year-old kid in 2005. 

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Prince Fielder Injury Update: Rangers 1B to Undergo Season-Ending Neck Surgery

Texas Rangers first baseman and designated hitter Prince Fielder will undergo a neck operation on Friday that will end his 2016 season.

Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reported on Wednesday that Fielder is slated for fusion surgery.

Fielder appeared in 89 games this season, posting a slash line of .212/.292/.334 with eight home runs and 44 RBI.

The Star-Telegram‘s Stefan Stevenson reported last Wednesday that Fielder had herniation in his neck near the area where he had a fusion operation in May 2014.

Fielder, 32, is a six-time All-Star and one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, he appeared to be fighting through pain all year long, which was also limiting his productivity at the plate.

Although Texas has alternatives to turn to in Fielder’s absence, hopes of him returning to his prime form have taken a considerable hit, if not his career outlook. Due to make $24 million in each of the next four seasons, per Spotrac, Fielder has his work cut out to live up to that price tag.

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, catcher Bryan Holaday and starting pitchers Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are among the key Rangers who are on the disabled list, via RosterResource.com.

The club’s once-commanding lead in the American League West has shrunk in July, putting all the more pressure on others to step up.

Fielder’s leadership and gregarious personality will also be missed in the clubhouse with his season being cut short. Jurickson Profar has played multiple games at every infield position for Texas in 2016, though, and has served as DH as well.

Joey Gallo just made his 2016 debut on Tuesday and had a solo homer against the Oakland Athletics, which bodes well for his future as he figures to fill in at first base.

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Prince Fielder Injury: Updates on Rangers 1B’s Neck and Recovery

Prince Fielder‘s dreadful 2016 season has taken another bad turn, with the Texas Rangers placing the former All-Star on the disabled list on Wednesday because of neck problems. 

Continue for updates. 

Report: Surgery Recommended for Fielder

Wednesday, July 20

Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported the Rangers placed Fielder on the 15-day DL, adding that an MRI showed the first baseman had a “herniation in [his] neck near [the] fusion” surgery he had in 2014 and that he was going to see a doctor with surgery being a possibility.   

Per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers’ back doctor, Drew Dossett, is recommending that Fielder undergo surgery to repair his neck issue. 

Even though the news about Fielder does not sound good, it does provide some sense of relief for him and the Rangers since they have some reason that explains his performance in 2016. 

The 32-year-old Fielder is hitting a paltry .212/.292/.334 with eight home runs in 89 games this season. His lowest OPS over a full season prior to this campaign was a .720 mark in 2014, when he only played in 42 games before having a cervical fusion of two disks in his neck. 

Making things worse for the Rangers is that Fielder is signed through 2020 and making $24 million per season, though the Detroit Tigers are paying $6 million each season as part of the 2013 trade involving Ian Kinsler. 

Injuries continue to pile up for the Rangers, whose once-firm grasp of the American League West has dwindled to 4.5 games over the Houston Astros entering Wednesday thanks to a 4-11 record in July.

Fielder joins Shin-Soo Choo, Jake Diekman, Bryan Holaday, Josh Hamilton, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Tanner Scheppers and Drew Stubbs as Rangers on the disabled list.

It’s a testament to Texas’ depth that it has been able to stay afloat despite all of those injuries, but the last two months of the season are going to require a lot of shifting and maneuvering for manager Jeff Banister if the Rangers are going to make the postseason again.

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Prince Fielder’s Return to Form Could Put Rangers over the Top as AL’s Best

The Texas Rangers have the best record in the American League, and they’ve mostly done it without Prince Fielder.

Oh, sure, Fielder has been around, appearing in 72 of the Rangers’ 76 games. But for much of that time, he hasn’t resembled the lineup-anchoring power hitter Texas expects him to be.

Lately, however, the six-time All-Star and son of former big league basher Cecil Fielder is showing signs of life.

If he keeps it up, it could be the secret ingredient that pushes the Rangers over the top and cements their Junior Circuit supremacy.

First, the bad news: Fielder is hitting a scant .211 on the season with a .622 OPS. Entering play on Monday, his wins above replacement (WAR) sat at a career-worst minus-1.6.

Those aren’t merely bad numbers; they’re atrocious. And they would have almost assuredly glued a less established—or less well-paidplayer to the bench weeks ago.

The Rangers, however, have kept the faith in Fielder. Or maybe they fear, as ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield speculated, that “a sulking and unhappy Fieldera potential scenario if he’s benchedwon’t be a positive for the clubhouse.”

Either way, Fielder has finally begun to reward the team’s patience.

Dating back to June 17, he’s hit safely in eight straight games. On Sunday, he cracked his second home run in three days in a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

It’s a brief stretch, admittedly, and could easily be an anomalous blip in an otherwise impotent season. Hope is hope, though, and Fielder and the Rangers will take it.

“You see the at-bats are controlled, and I think he’s gained more confidence every game with his swing, with his stroke, with his approach,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said of his veteran slugger, per Ryan Posner and Ian Browne of MLB.com.

After missing most of the 2014 season to neck surgery, Fielder hit .305 with 23 homers and 98 RBI a year ago. So it’s not entirely implausible the 32-year-old could be cooking up a season-resuscitating hot streak. 

Then again, between the 2014 injury and this year’s futility, Fielder’s tenure in Texas has been largely disappointing.

This isn’t the guy the Rangers thought they were getting when they shipped fan-favorite second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers in November 2013. It’s certainly not the guy they’d choose to pay $18 million annually through 2020, which is what they’ll do regardless of Fielder’s stat line.

Again, we’ll need a lot more than a decent eight-game stretch before we buy this comeback. The Rangers, though, already sit at 49-27 and hold a commanding 10-game lead over the Houston Astros in the AL West.

Plus, they’ve got 22-year-old masher Joey Gallo marinating in Triple-A, where he’s bashed 14 home runs, seven doubles and three triples through 48 games. 

Clearly, they don’t need vintage Fielder to defend their division title. He sure would help, though.

If Fielder keeps raking, he’d boost a lineup that already ranks third in the AL in runs scored thanks to contributions from the likes of outfielder and free-agent bargain Ian Desmond, second baseman and amateur boxer Rougned Odor, veteran Adrian Beltre and rookie standout Nomar Mazara.

The Rangers are also hoping to get right-hander Yu Darvish back after neck and shoulder issues hampered his return from Tommy John surgery. 

If that happens, and if Fielder’s recent uptick is for real, it could be the equivalent of Texas adding a pair of impact players at the trade deadline.

There are other worthy opponents in the AL, including the surging Cleveland Indians in the Central and the powerful Baltimore Orioles in the East. Really, in a league leveled by parity, it’s tough to pick a clear favorite. 

Texas is in the running, though. And each authoritative Fielder swing gets it closer.

“I’m just hitting the ball harder,” Fielder said, per Chris James of NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. “Making more contact, swinging at better pitches. That’s about it.”

Sounds so simple when he puts it like that. Indeed, Fielder’s home run Sunday had an eye-opening exit velocity of 111 mph, as James noted. Add his .228 batting average on balls in play, and it’s possible he’s been the victim of a little bad luck as well.

These are merely signs, but they’re positive ones. Keep stacking them on top of one another, and we might be looking at a trend.

The Rangers have gotten where they are mostly without Prince Fielder. Now, imagine where they could be with him.


All statistics current through June 26 and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Finding Trade Partners for MLB’s Bloated Superstar Contracts on the Block

Finding logical trade destinations for notorious underachievers like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp is no enviable task.

Once upon a time, Ramirez and Kemp were mashing together in the heart of the order for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, those guys headline the list of potential trade chips playing on bloated superstar contracts.

Fortunately for the executives who could be tasked with trying to move players like Ramirez and Kemp, there are strategies to help facilitate such deals. The first option is to attach the overpaid big leaguer to an intriguing prospect. The second is to eat some (or potentially a lot of) cash.

After digging through the stats, examining all the contracts and surveying the markets for bats and arms, there’s no question some of these players will be easier to move than others. It’s a race to the bottom, but ultimately it looks like Kemp wins the regrettable distinction of most untradeable of all.

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Prince Fielder Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Rangers DH’s Future

Designated hitter Prince Fielder bounced back in a big way in 2015, but his future with the Texas Rangers is reportedly uncertain.  

Continue for updates.

Report: Rangers ‘Surveying’ Teams on Fielder Interest

Tuesday, Dec. 8

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers have asked around the league regarding clubs’ interest in trading for Fielder and taking on most of his contract. To this point, however, Texas has reportedly struggled to find a potential fit.

The 31-year-old Fielder hit .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBI in 2015, one season after a neck injury limited him to just 42 games.

The former Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers slugger was named to the All-Star team for the sixth time in his career last season, and he won MLB‘s AL Comeback Player of the Year Award as well.

Although he appeared in 18 games at first base, the bulk of Fielder’s playing time came as a designated hitter, which was paramount in keeping him healthy.

The six-time 30-homer guy was a stalwart in the middle of Texas’ batting order and led the Rangers back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

While Fielder was excellent in 2015, Rangers manager Jeff Banister believes he can be even better in 2016 and beyond, per Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

This is a guy that, I mean, there may not be a ceiling on what he can do, but I do believe there’s definitely room for improvements and an increase on the numbers just based on where he was coming into spring training. The commitment to being a hitter, trying to find his stroke again, trying to find the timing, which he did very well for a long period of time during the season.

Despite that, the Rangers’ interest in moving Fielder is somewhat understandable since he has five years remaining on his contract at $24 million per season, according to Spotrac.com.

That is a hefty price to pay, especially for someone who is being phased out as a positional player, along with being just one season removed from a significant neck injury.

Replacing a bat of Fielder’s caliber in the lineup wouldn’t be easy, but it is certainly possible since power-hitting utility man Joey Gallo may be ready for a full-time role in 2016.

Also, with a pitching rotation that includes Cole Hamels, Derek Holland and an eventually returning Yu Darvish, the Rangers may be better equipped to win with their arms rather than their bats.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Prince Fielder Wins AL Comeback Player at 2015 Players Choice Awards

The MLB Players Association announced Texas Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder was named the 2015 American League Comeback Player at the Players Choice Awards Monday.

Fielder led the Rangers to their first American League West title since 2011, batting .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBI in 158 games one year after a herniated disc cut his first season in Texas short at 42 games. 

MLB tweeted its congratulations shortly after the announcement:

The MLB Players Association has annually handed out Outstanding Player, Outstanding Rookie, Outstanding Pitcher and Comeback Player awards in each league since 1992, according to the MLBPA.

Players Choice Awards winners are eligible to collectively donate $260,000 to charities of each award winner’s choice through the MLB Players Trust, per the MLBPA.

Fielder had missed just one game in the five previous years during stints with the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers, who traded him prior to the 2014 season.

Monday’s award was Fielder’s third in the category. He was named the Comeback Player of the Year by MLB, determined by its 30 MLB.com club beat writers, and by his peers through the Sporting News rendition of the award, receiving 112 of the 156 votes submitted by select AL players. 

First-year Rangers manager Jeff Banister, hired in October 2014, was along for Fielder’s rehab and spoke of the designated hitter’s determination, per Justin McGuire of Sporting News:

Really, to be able to get himself to where he is today, it cost him a lot, if you think about it. The hard work, the time, effort, passion for the game.

Even through rehab and extensive rehab, there’s uncertainty. Even when you start back up there’s still the uncertainty. There’s a lot of want-to, but you’ve got to learn how to again. 

The Rangers were a win away from eliminating the World Series favorite Blue Jays in the American League Division Series, but no one expected them to even make it that far. They entered the season with the seventh-worst odds to win the title, per Odds Shark, and winning the AL West over the Houston Astros in the final month showed an overall team resolve aligned with Fielder.  

The Rangers enter 2016 far ahead of schedule and should contend for another division title—especially if they can get another sound season from Fielder.  

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Prince Fielder, Matt Harvey Win MLB’s Comeback Player of the Year Awards

Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Texas Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder and New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey were named the Comeback Players of the Year for 2015.

Fielder played in just 42 games in 2014 and showed a surprising lack of power, with just three home runs. His season came to a close in May when he underwent neck surgery.

Fielder admitted in September that he wasn’t sure such a strong bounce-back campaign, which included a .378 on-base percentage and 23 homers in 158 games, was possible, as noted by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.

“There’s doubts,” Fielder said. “You have neck surgery, you don’t know where you’re at. You haven’t played in a year or so, you don’t know where you’re going to be.”

His return to form helped the Rangers finish third in runs scored.

Harvey came back from Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2014 season, and showcased the same electric stuff he had before the arm injury. He went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 29 starts. He also struck out 188 batters in 189.1 innings.

Although the Mets did skip some of his starts in an effort to reduce the burden in his first season back, Harvey still set a new record in terms of workload, per Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

His return, paired with the presence of fellow budding stars Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, helped New York finish fourth in team ERA. He also made four playoff starts during the team’s run to the World Series, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.04 ERA.

Both award winners have a chance to carry that success into 2016. Fielder has moved almost exclusively into the designated hitter role, rather than playing first base, which takes away the downside of his lackluster defense and allows him to focus on hitting.

The fact that Harvey handled a lot of innings in his return without any major setbacks bodes well. Now he gets the offseason to rest and recover normally, which should set him up to contend for the NL Cy Young Award next year.


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Prince Fielder Poised to Exorcise Postseason Demons with Rangers

When an actor gives a poor performance on Broadway, unflattering reviews and an unsatisfied audience usually follow.

That is the natural order of consequences. All an actor can do in response is prepare, come out the next time and give a better performance. That is the extent of what fans and critics can ask.

The same goes for professional athletes. But when those ugly outings come during the postseason, the stage is infinitely bigger than any Broadway has to offer. Poor performances on the field can lead to more significant consequences, including helping getting a team eliminated from the playoffs and/or making a player expendable from a roster. The boos are also inevitable.

Prince Fielder has experienced all of that. The Texas Rangers’ high-priced designated hitter, a front-runner for the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, has dealt with the criticism that has come with his shoddy postseason numbers with the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers, the latter of which traded him after the 2013 season.

“I got kids, man,” Fielder famously told reporters while explaining how the hurt from the 2013 ALCS elimination loss to the Boston Red Sox, the last time Fielder appeared in the playoffs, wouldn’t linger.

His responses still do not sit well with his former home fans.

“You have to be a man about it,” Fielder added two Octobers ago after he hit .182 in the ALCS. “I have kids. If I’m sitting around pouting about it, how am I going to tell them to keep their chins or keep their heads up when something doesn’t go their way? It’s over.”

When told Tiger fans might not embrace that kind of response, Fielder fired back with an age-old athlete adage: “They don’t play.”

Fielder does, but it has been at an entirely pedestrian level during the playoffs over the course of his otherwise impressive career. He has played in 39 postseason games and accumulated 164 plate appearances with the Brewers and Tigers since October 2008.

In no series has he hit higher than .278, and his career slash line is .194/.287/.333 with a .620 OPS, five home runs and 11 RBI. He has not homered in his last 20 games (84 plate appearances). He has one extra-base hit in his last 18 and has not driven in a run in his last 18. Also, in his last 16 games (65 plate appearances), he has struck out 12 times against three walks.

But to have any kind of working relationship with Fielder is to understand his unwillingness to show public frustration or question his own abilities. That attitude stretches to his team, as he showed Monday after the Rangers’ third consecutive loss.

But his comments following the 7-4 loss to the Tigers could have very well summed up his attitude toward his postseason disappointments. He is stoic in both defeat and triumph when the microphones are turned on, downplaying virtually every question hurled his way.

“Worry doesn’t do anything,” Fielder told reporters Monday. “It just makes everything seem bigger than it is.”

Everything about Fielder’s career has been big, though. From his stature (5’11”, 275 lbs) to his home runs—he was the youngest player to ever hit 50 homers in a season when he did it at 23 years, 139 days—to his $214 million contract over nine years, to his playoff failures.

Even his injury last season was a big one. He had a herniated disk in his neck and had surgery in May of last year to fuse two of the disks in his spine. That injury, which started to bother him for the first time in 2012, severely limited his production in 2014 and chopped his season to just 42 games in his first with the Rangers after never having played fewer than 157 contests in any of his previous eight full seasons.

At the time, the injury was significant enough for everyone, including Fielder, to wonder if he would ever be the same slugging, intimidating middle-of-the-order behemoth he had been in those previous eight years.

“There’s doubts,” Fielder told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times last weekend. “You have neck surgery, you don’t know where you’re at. You haven’t played in a year or so, you don’t know where you’re going to be.”

“You worry a lot,” Fielder added. “Anytime someone does surgery, let alone on your spine, it’s a little weird.”

This season has been a wonderful bounce-back campaign. Any doubts have evaporated in the Texas heat as Fielder’s batting average has been no lower than .300 since the third game of the year. His power numbers have been down—his 23 home runs would be the lowest full-season total of his career—but he is getting on base at a .381 clip, reminiscent of his Brewer days that earned him that enormous contract with the Tigers.

But we have seen these kinds of award-worthy seasons from Fielder before, and we have also seen them devolve into ugly postseasons. That cannot happen this time around, assuming the Rangers qualify as the AL West champions or through the wild-card route. The Rangers are not a good enough team to overcome one of their most valuable players performing as Fielder has in past Octobers.

For the Rangers to have a real chance to advance in these coming playoffs, Fielder has to continue being the offensive force he has been his entire career, including this season.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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