Prince Fielder has signed a 9-year contract with the Detroit Tigers worth $214 million.
No one was more surprised at Fielder signing with the Tigers than his father "Big Daddy" Cecil Fielder who played with the Tigers for seven seasons during the 1990s. In 1990, Fielder hit 51 home runs for the Tigers after a stint in Japan. In an interview with MLB Radio, Fielder said:
That just shocked me. I just landed in New York...and I got that call -- that's crazy! He's going to come full circle. You know, he's been there in Detroit most of his young life, so I think he'll be comfortable in that place... I know Mr. Ilitch (Tigers owners) is probably excited, because he's been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish.
Big Daddy isn't kidding when he says that Mike Ilitch has been interested in Prince Fielder since he was a kid. People were talking about his prodigious homeruns in Little League when he was all of eight years old. Legend has it that when he was twelve, Fielder took batting practice in Tiger Stadium and hit a homerun into the right field lower deck.
The elder Fielder also mentioned that he and his son are on better terms. They've been estranged for a number of years now.
In six plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Fielder has hit 230 homeruns including 50 during the 2007 season. Overall, Fielder is four hits shy of 1,000 for his career, has a lifetime batting average of .282, an OBP of .390 (his OBP has been above .400 each of the past three seasons) and has 656 RBI including four seasons of 100 or more RBIs.
I think this deal will be good for the Tigers in the short term. It certainly makes up for the loss of Victor Martinez who is out for the 2012 season with a torn ACL. He'll make one hell of left handed-right handed punch with Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the Tigers order although I'm not sure he'll hit as many homeruns at Comerica Park as he did at Miller Park.
The big question is will be productive for nine seasons. I'm sure that's what had teams like the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners reluctant to sign him. While Fielder is 27 (he turns 28 in May) his physique and conditioning leave something to be desired. I think one other reason why some clubs might have been hesitant is because of his temper. Despite his talent, Fielder is a handful to say the least. In 2008, Fielder had to be restrained by teammates after he shoved teammate Manny Parra during a game against the Cincinnati Reds. In 2009, he tried to storm the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse following a game after being hit with a pitch by Guillermo Mota. Last season, he accosted New York Mets pitcher Tim Byrdak after the end of an inning although both sides said it was a misunderstanding. I guess Fielder doesn't like pitchers very much. Whatever the case, the younger Fielder lacks his father's sunny disposition.
Nevertheless, the Tigers are prepared to pay Fielder a princely sum.
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