There are two moments in the career of Prince Fielder that I will never forget where I was when they occurred.
When the news broke of the out-of-nowhere megadeal that he signed back in 2012, I was sitting at my desk at work reading Bless You Boys. True story. A co-worker of mine mentioned that he had read the news and I felt a pit in my stomach. Not because I was upset, but because I wanted to be anywhere other than work at that moment. I faked a stomach bug and walked across the street to a hotel bar and watched the news unfold. If you're reading this, sorry boss.
The second time was when he unceremoniously left town. I was at the grocery store, on the phone with my sister. You may have heard of her, she does some writing too. Much like the first incident, I felt a deep pit in my stomach. This time, it was for a much different reason, however.
In Fielder's two short seasons in Detroit, he slugged 55 home runs, 214 RBI, was a two-time all-star and a silver slugger awardwinner. More importantly, his threatening power allowed Miguel Cabrera to see a fastball every now and then.
The Detroit Tigers open up a four-game homestand against the Texas Rangers this afternoon. For the first time since the trade that sent Prince Fielder in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers will get a chance to see their former slugger up close -- unless they don't.
Fielder has struggled mightily this year, coming into today's game with a .247/.360/.360 triple slash line resulting in a -0.3 oWAR for the season. To make matters worse, Fielder was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck this past Saturday. At this point, it doesn't look like he will make a trip to the disabled list, but Fielder has said that he has been playing through the pain all season, and even parts of last year. Fielder will not travel with the team to Detroit for the first game in the series, and it is uncertain if he will make an appearance this week at all. The Rangers, who have been hit with more than their share of injuries this year, may find it in their best interest to, at some point, to give Fielder a few weeks of recovery.
On the surface, it would appear as though general manager Dave Dombrowski made the correct decision in swapping the former all-star for Kinsler. Fielder's injury and struggles aside, Kinsler has helped to reshape the state of the current Detroit Tigers roster. Hitting at the top of the lineup, Kinsler has brought an element of speed to manager Brad Ausmus' new-look offense. His presence has also allowed Austin Jackson to move down in the order, adding another extra-base weapon. (It has also allowed Miguel Cabrera to move back to first, and Nick Castellanos to develop at the major league level, but that's for another article.)
Baseball is not played in a vacuum, however. There is a lot of time left on both Kinsler's and Fielder's respective contracts. There are plenty of opportunities for Fielder to rebound and return to his former self. His track record suggests that he will.
Since 2006, Fielder's first full season at the major league level, he has averaged 35 home runs and 108 RBI per season. His power will return. And when it does, he will have a 326-foot right-field wall staring back at him in Texas.
I, for one, just hope his resurgence happens after the upcoming four-game set this week. Otherwise, I might get another pit in my stomach. I might also be visiting that hotel bar again.