Prince Fielder expects so much more

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Three days after a nerve root injection designed to provide Prince Fielder some comfort for the herniated disc in his neck, the first baseman said he wasn't ready to play Tuesday against Seattle.

This represents progress.

There's a reason the Bible talks about pride in at least 26 different books. Old Testament. New Testament. It's mentioned everywhere.

Pride can be your best friend. Or it can be your worst enemy. Fielder knows both sides.


See, it's his pride that kept the 30-year-old from revealing to general manager Jon Daniels, manager Ron Washington or anyone else the severity of the weakness in his arm or the pain in his neck caused by a herniated disc.

Even when his batting average dipped to .200 on April 28, Fielder kept his mouth shut.


Fielder didn't want it to seem as if he were offering excuses for a poor start. Players owed $138 million by the club over the next seven years shouldn't have slow starts.

It's the same reason why the Rangers asked Fielder three different times what they could do to help him at the plate before he finally gave them a legitimate answer.

Fielder wanted third base coach Gary Pettis, his hitting coach in Triple-A, to be more involved in his day-to-day work at the plate, but he didn't want to disrespect hitting coach Dave Magadan or put Pettis in a difficult situation.

And Fielder certainly didn't want to give the impression he was blaming Magadan for his early-season woes, so he kept his mouth shut.

The man despises excuses.

Consider this brief exchange with reporters before Tuesday's game.

Reporter: "Do you think this is the reason why your power numbers have been down?

Fielder: "C'mon man."

Reporter: "You're not offering any excuses?"

Fielder: "No."

Thirty tension-filled seconds later, the interview ended.

Fielder knows the deal better than anyone as the son of former slugger Cecil Fielder. He makes $24 million this year, a ridiculous amount of money. That's $148,148 per game. Or $4 million a month during the baseball season.

He gets paid to hit homers and drive in runs, something he has done his entire career -- at least until now. Fielder has a lifetime batting average of .285 with an average annual contribution of 34 homers and 105 RBIs.

This season, he's hitting .247 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games. The Rangers expected so much more. So did Fielder.

He's not getting the job done, and he knows it. But the narrative about him not caring, which seemingly began during the playoffs in October as a member of the Detroit Tigers should end.

The man cares. He always has been able to hit a baseball better than almost everyone else in the world.

These days, he can't.

With the Rangers trailing Houston 8-0 in the seventh inning May 13, Fielder lashed a hit down the left field line. He rounded first and dove headfirst into second. After a 2-minute, 40-second replay examination, he was ruled out.

A man who didn't care wouldn't have attempted that play. He'd have been content with the single.

Just like a man who didn't care wouldn't have spent much of his time in the clubhouse before the three games in Houston pulling black bat after black bat out of the bag resting in his locker.

He'd inspect the bats closely. Then he'd grab one and sit in the green folding chair in front of his locker wiggling the bat to and fro, trying to feel its sweet spot.

And when he wasn't doing that, Fielder was asking his teammates from Elvis Andrus to Adrian Beltre to Robinson Chirinos about their bats. He even borrowed bats from Andrus and Chirinos.

Don't laugh. After all, Fielder's last homer came with Andrus' bat.

The reality is that Fielder was a man desperately searching for a way to escape the worst start of his career, not a dude content to peek at his bank account on a daily basis.

His at-bats were slowly improving as he raised his average to a season-high .250. Then came his latest setback.

Any manager or general manager will tell you there's a difference between pain and injury.

Players can work through discomfort and get the job done even if it's not to their usual standard, but playing through an injury is a different matter. Playing through an injury usually winds up hurting the team no matter how pure the player's intentions.

Fielder finally put his pride aside last week and asked for help, even though it meant the end of his consecutive games played streak at 547 -- longest in the majors and yet another source of pride.

He approached Washington in the dugout during Friday's game against Toronto and said he needed to get an injection Saturday instead of waiting until Monday.

The weakness in Fielder's arm keeps him from driving through the ball and making consistently solid contact.

"My arm feels a little weak," he said. "It's not so much pain, but it's just a little weak, a little sore. I'm not too concerned now because there's nothing I can do right now besides give it the extra day. I plan on playing tomorrow. That's the plan."

Obviously, plans can change. Fielder's approach can't. Until he's healthy, he can't help the Rangers.

So he must put his pride aside -- as hard as it is -- and listen to his body. It will tell him when it's time to return.