Banister benches Prince Fielder
Well, to be honest I thought I was gonna be wrong the day after I wrote that Jurickson Profar should stay with up with the Texas Rangers and not be sent down to Triple-A. It may not be under the circumstances I would have liked but it does look like he’ll be around in the big leagues a bit longer.
Profar played in each of the seven games Rougned Odor missed while he was suspended for punching Jose Bautista. Profar had hit in each of those seven games, plus one more, now owning a .378 batting average. With Odor back, there was talk of Profar, once the number one prospect in baseball, being sent back to the minors. Instead of heading back to Triple-A he was moved into the designated hitter position, a position normally occupied by slugger Prince Fielder.
Fielder was not too happy to be kept out of two consecutive games, but told the media that he understood and respected second-year manager and reigning AL Manager of the Year Jeff Banister’s decision. While Fielder had never been benched before he went on to say,
“Never done this before,” he said. “It happens. It’s baseball. Last year, we had a lot of issues, the same thing with a lot of guys. They turned it around, had good years. So I’m no different. Not to mention, we’re winning. Last year, we weren’t winning. We’re winning now. Who I am to sit here and complain? We’re winning.”
It’s not a bad attitude to take although he wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows about being benched. He was not a happy camper. However, he’s right – this is baseball and this happens often in baseball. Being in a slump cab get you benched. In Fielder’s case we don’t know yet if his benching is over or will continue.
The infamous slugger was traded from Detroit to Texas in the second year of his nine-year, $214 million contract. There are four full years remaining on that deal, worth approximately $100 million. Texas has only seen the benefits of Fielder, who underwent neck surgery in 2013, in just one season. It’s likely the Texas brass who will be paying him all that money are starting to get nervous, especially since Fielder said he is physically fine.
Fielder has been far from a slugger in 2016. The 5’11” 275 lb., six-time All-Star is hitting just .187 this season with just three home runs in 53 games. At the same point of the season just last year, Fielder was hitting .358 with 10 homers and ended up making his sixth All-Star game appearance. He finished the season above his career batting average of .283 with a .305 average, 23 home runs and 98 RBI.
Most concerning is Fielder’s loss of power. During his time with the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers from his official rookie year in 2006 until he was traded to the Rangers after the 2013 season, Fielder averaged 35 homers a season. His best season power-wise was hitting 50 long balls in 2007. Fielder said he isn’t worried about his power, just his ability to hit the ball.
“You guys can have the power,” Fielder said. “I’m trying to get hits. Trying to drive in runs. Trying not to get benched for two days. I’m just trying to play baseball. I don’t care about homers.”
Banister said that he is looking at benching Fielder as giving him a 20-second timeout. Still, one has to wonder how long this 20-seconds will last considering the way that Profar has been hitting. It may be awhile before we see Fielder playing again or perhaps, 20-seconds really does mean 20-seconds and he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow.
This is baseball which is as always unpredictable. Fielder, however, needs to figure out what exactly is causing his slump before he gets benched permanently. No matter how much a player is scheduled to make, teams would rather win than worry about the money. If Profar helps the Rangers, who swept the Seattle Mariners over the weekend, continue their win streak there is no telling when Fielder will be back in the Rangers’ lineup.