Throughout history, there have been numerous cases when the heir apparent to the throne has suddenly, and often unexpectedly, stepped down, making an opening for a younger royal to ascend to glory.
As of today, another Prince will announce he is stepping aside, making room for others to find glory in his stead.
After 12 years in the bigs, Prince Fielder will announce today that he has taken his final at bat, stepping aside from the game he loves after being declared medically disabled following his second neck fusion surgery. Fielder will not officially retire from the game, but rather go on the 60 day disabled list where he can continue to collect his salary while recovering from another difficult surgery.
As a fan of baseball, this makes me very sad. As someone who often criticized Prince’s play as a Ranger, I can’t help but feel genuine empathy and sorrow for Prince Fielder, the human.
For all of you who are reacting to this with sentiments of “Good”, “he was a bum anyway”, or thinking that Jon Daniels should feel your wrath as a fan for this; stop. Take a moment to remember that this is an actual person, a person who loved the game, a person who, often unwisely, played through large degrees of pain to attempt to help your favorite team. Take a moment to remember that inside of that number 84 jersey, there was more than just numbers and dollar signs.
As a fan of baseball, it’s a sad thing to see a player who had such potential decline so rapidly due to medical issues. Early in his career, Prince was an absolute force, a joy to watch, and the biggest draw to some mediocre at best Milwaukee teams. 50 homeruns in 2007. 141 RBI in 2009. 114 walks in 2010. 32 intentional walks in 2011. Played 809 of 810 possible games 2009-2013.
Yet, as Texas Rangers fans, we only saw a shell of the player Prince once was.
This is sad on many levels.
We will remember Prince Fielder in Arlington as a disappointment, as someone who didn’t live up to his billing, and as someone who was not even replacement level.
We will think about pop ups and balls rolled over on to the right side.
We will think about the what could have been with Ian Kinsler.
We will think about that contract, especially with the amount of dead money remaining (after insurance and the partial payment by the Tigers, Texas will still owe him $9 million a year through 2020).
While these thoughts could be construed as unfair, they are unfortunately a part of the tough reality of the baseball business. Sometimes, no matter how great the player, things just don’t work out.
However, as unfortunate as the Rangers were to never see the true All Star caliber player that Prince once was, the players in the clubhouse were blessed to learn from him, to see his desire, and to experience his leadership first hand as he fought to be on the field every single day. On top of that, the only thing that topped his 80 grade power on the field was his 80 grade skills as a parent off of it. For not just those who know him personally, but also to the casual observer, it became impossible to prevent yourself from smiling while watching Prince interact with his sons, or to even see his sons interact with others.
I hurt for Prince Fielder. I wish with all of my heart that things would have been different, I wish that the Rangers were not hamstrung with his contract, I wish that Texas could have gotten more value from his time here. But at the same time, I am happy that Prince was able to instill life lessons on the Texas Rangers dugout, and I am even happier than now he has more time to teach those lessons to his own sons, using the lessons he learned from his own childhood to raise two promising young men.
Now the DH spot is being left up to others, with Beltran getting the majority of the ABs going forward this year, and providing a logical lineup destination for Choo and Gallo moving forward. As the Prince abdicates his throne, the possibilities for this lineup provide more potential than many of us ever imagined, and those who are filling the spot originally intended for Fielder have only one thing on their minds:
Providing a lavish gift to royalty.
It’s time. Go win a ring for the fallen Prince.