What's wrong with Prince Fielder?

Jason Miller

Nobody's really talking about it much because the Tigers are so good, but their highest-paid player isn't playing well this season. Might there be a good explanation, though? Tuesday, Torii Hunter hinted as much on the radio:

"Prince is a strong guy, man. A lot of people don’t know what’s going on in his life." Hunter said. "He’s out there every day, won’t come out of the lineup, no matter what’s going on off the field or on the field. … Us as players, we know what’s really going on. And we appreciate him going out there every day, despite…

Despite what, Hunter wouldn't say. We'll probably find out before long, whether we deserve to or not. And I won't even begin to diminish what Fielder might be going through. Injury, divorce, family illness, emotional struggles ... Who knows?

I will point out that Fielder's had some seasons when he wasn't great. As a rookie with the Brewers, he finished just seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing all season and hitting 28 homers. In 2008, he finished 20th in Most Valuable Player balloting, and in 2010 he was merely good.

Granted, he's probably never played this poorly before. Considering his defense and his baserunning, Fielder's just barely above replacement level this season, which makes it hard to justify his (gulp) $23 million salary.

Not to mention his $24 million salary in 2014. And '15. And '16. And '17. And '18. And '19. And '20.

Seems sort of hard to believe, doesn't it? That the Tigers are into Fielder for $168 million after this year?

Fielder's such a lousy fielder and baserunner that to even approach being worth his salary -- and leaving aside t-shirt sales and television ratings and attendance at Comerica Park and all that -- he must hit like gangbusters. He must hit like he hit in 2009, '11, and '12.

He probably will hit like that again, but he probably will not hit like that every season. He probably will not hit like that more seasons than he does hit like that. You know, because he'll be (relatively) old and (obviously) huge.

Knowing baseball fans, I suspect that most Tigers fans are perfectly happy to have Fielder; winning division titles do funny things to the head. But let's check back in 2014. Or '15. Or '16. Or '17. Or '18. Or '19. Or '20.

p.s. in case you're wondering, this doesn't really qualify as second-guessing, because of this.

p.p.s for much more about the Tigers and Prince Fielder, please visit SB Nation's Bless You Boys.

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