11/21/2013 11:57 P.M. ET
Fielder should fit right in with Rangers
Fresh start for slugger in Texas may be just what he needed
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
This stuff about Prince Fielder being too fat, well, it's wearing thin.
With the recent truly big deal -- the Detroit Tigers trading Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler -- there has been another round of "This guy weighs too much, he's bound to fall apart any minute."
OK, Fielder doesn't offer the viewing public an idealized version of an athletic body type. That's been obvious as long as he has been a recognizable public figure. He is officially listed as 5-foot-11 and 275 pounds. The height is probably a slight stretch. The weight appears to be a conservative estimate.
But Fielder's side of this argument is essentially substance over form. He has missed one game in the last five seasons. In his eight full seasons in the Major Leagues, he has never played fewer than 157 games.
You've read this. You've heard this. "With that body type, he can't possibly hold up." Well, so far, he can. Fielder is only 29. Maybe once he hits 30, he will suddenly become injury prone. But at this point, no actual evidence exists to support that theory. There are guys with the bodies of Greek gods who can't stay off the disabled list. But Prince, built roughly along the lines of an NFL nose tackle, plays all day, every day.
And look at the way Fielder plays. He runs out every ground ball. He runs out every popup. He may be pulling a lot of bulk with him, but he hustles. He is an example to the thinner portions of the baseball world of how the game should be played.
Fielder's power is a matter of public record. He should be, you'll pardon the expression, a good fit in Arlington. The hitter-friendly ballpark will suit him. The climate will suit him. Fielder has frequently said that he enjoys playing in hot weather. This is a man who has spent his big league career playing for Milwaukee and Detroit. This career may have been missing only a Texas home.
He'll work for the Rangers in more ways than one. He will not win a Gold Glove Award at first base, although he will want to be a first baseman, not a designated hitter. Fielder has worked hard on his defense, but yes, that physique will place some limits on his range.
Still, Fielder is owed $168 million over the next seven years. He has been one of the most reliable offensive forces in the game. The Rangers, American League pennant winners in 2010 and '11, possessed of considerable pitching, and a talented Minor League system, are counting on Fielder to make a difference, to help put them back on top of the league. This is a completely reasonable position to take.
It is true that Fielder had a substandard regular season in 2013, although that season would have been a big year for the vast majority of hitters. It is also true that he had a postseason that was completely bereft of runs batted in over 11 games.
At the end, after the Tigers had been eliminated by the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series, some people thought that Fielder did not react to the defeat and his own struggles in defeat with the appropriate anguish and despair.
"You have to be a man about it," Fielder said. "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. It's a team. We're here to win, no matter if I didn't get any hits. If we would've won, it would've been all right.
"What am I supposed to do? You play hard, you give it all you got, and then there's life. Like I said, I have two boys I have to take care of. I'm not going to sit around and be pouty all day. I can't try to help them become men if I'm over here pouting."
This was a candid response by a man who has had much more success than failure in his chosen profession. It was not, of course, what our ears are trained to hear in these situations. There are scores of sad clichés for athletes to trot out in times such as these. They all provide adequate cover. Fielder chose none of them and spoke as he felt, moving from slugger to the more important role, father.
The problem in this case with Prince Fielder was not, of course, that he was too fat. The problem was that he was too honest.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.