From Spring Training, here's my exclusive Just Hangin' Fan video interview with Prince Fielder.
Stats of the Week
*Since June 8 (53 games), Mitch Moreland is slashing .310/.359/.632/.992 with 14 HR and 27 RBI. His OPS since that date ranks 7th best in the A.L. and his 9 HR since the All-Star Break ranks T-6th in MLB.
*Entering today, 64 players have hit 19+ HR's this year. The Rangers have five of those players currently on their roster Beltran 24, Odor 22, Desmond 20, Moreland 20, Lucroy 19), more than any other team in Major League Baseball.
*Rougned Odor and Ian Desmond are two of the only four players in the league who have at least 20+ HR, 60+ RBI, 25+ 2B, and 10+ SB. The other two? Mookie Betts and Mike Trout.
Quote of the Week
"I feel like my mind is the weakest part of my game." -Yu Darvish to Evan Grant (DMN) in a very insightful article about how Carlos Beltran has helped Darvish.
"When I put a finger down, I do it for a reason." -Jonathan Lucroy after catching Yu Darvish in the team's 8-5 win over the Tigers Friday night.
Covering the Bases
*I'm not incredibly concerned about Ian Desmond's struggles, but I wouldn't mind seeing him drop down in the order until he gets his bat going again.
*Some people believe certain players are clutch, while others believe being "clutch" is a media created myth. If you believe that there is such thing as a clutch hitter, Mitch Moreland is certainly one. According to FanGraphs and their "clutch" metric, Moreland was MLB's second-most clutch player last season. I have no clue how they come up with it, but it involves production in what they consider "high leverage" situations. If you want something easier to understand, Moreland's 22 game-winning RBI since the start of 2015 ranks T-7th in the A.L. Moreland's not a perfect hitter by any means, but I have zero issue with him batting in a big spot.
*Whether or not the Rangers should re-sign Ian Desmond has been a hot topic this season. I'm on board with the Rangers pursuing that avenue without hesitation (pulling the trigger only for the right price, of course), but if given the option of re-signing either Desmond or Lucroy (free agent after 2017), give me the catcher. It is rare to find a catcher with Lucroy's offensive and defensive skills, let alone a catcher whose skills reach his levels. While ability deteriorates with age, the mind doesn't at the ages of these guys. Lucroy's mind and game-calling ability behind the dish is elite and is a boost to any pitcher. In a perfect world, give me both. In a realistic world, the Rangers don't necessarily have to decide one or the other, but I guess only ownership knows the answer to that. If they do have to decide, give me Lucroy.
*Yu Darvish suggests he's already benefitted from the presence of Carlos Beltran, according to a story from Evan Grant (DMN). Darvish said that a conversation with Beltran helped further demonstrate the importance of pitching inside. Since that conversation, he's attacked right-handed hitters on "inside" pitches about 10% more frequently. It's crazy how the human mind works and processes information. I'm sure Darvish has heard this a number of times. Sometimes it takes hearing the 22nd version of the same message for it click. For Darvish, I guess that came from a near 20-year veteran...hitter.
*On paper, the bullpen has the potential to be a very strong group that carries the team in the post-season. Their inconsistencies, however, are why I think they are the biggest unknown--even with known commodities, to an extent--as we head down the stretch.
*The Rangers have a 5.5 lead in the AL West. Is it over? No. But the Rangers have earned the opportunity to give some guys who can benefit from rest, rest. Those complaining that Jonathan Lucroy doesn't catch every day or that Adrian Beltre DH's some need to remember that these are humans and not robots. The grind of a baseball season wears you down and with a playoff run likely coming up, I'd much rather take my chances with a division lead and do my best to preserve bodies than win the August and September World Series that doesn't exist.
As a baseball player, I hope fans remember Prince Fielder as one of the game's feared hitters for nearly a decade-long stretch. The Rangers never quite saw that guy, but I can promise you, for those of you who forgot, he absolutely existed in that form. Check out his ranks from 2006-2013:
HR: 4th (283)
RBI: 4th (860)
OPS: .9th (.918)
H: 10th (1335)
R: 8th (734)
G: 1st (1283)
GW RBI: T-2nd (114)
He hit 50 HR in 2007. In that same year, Alex Rodriguez hit 54. Since then, however, only Chris Davis (53, 2013) and Jose Bautista (54, 2010) have reached the half-century mark.
Fielder and Ryan Howard tallied 141 RBI in 2009. No one has reached 140 since then.
Some people might remember Fielder as a 13-year old who was hitting no-doubt home runs at Tiger Stadium. Others might remember that pudgy youngster doing the same thing with the same ease against MLB pitching less than a decade later. He always played the game with an infectious smile (and, when you got to be around him, an infectious laugh) as well as a subtle competitive fire.
Damn. He was so good. We just never saw it.
When I think about what I will remember about Prince as time passes, I think about something he said at one of the lowest points of his career, at least according to the court of public opinion.
It was October 20, 2013. The Tigers had just lost in the ALCS to the Red Sox. Fielder had a rough post-season, hitting just .225 with not a single RBI and just one extra-base hit ( a double). Living and working on-air in Michigan at the time, I remember that Fielder was the primary culprit as far as Tigers fans were concerned.
After the deciding game, the media asked Fielder about his struggles, a critical base-running error, and the loss, in general. When asked about the disappointment of the playoff exit, Fielder responded very candidly: "You got to be a man about it, you know. I got kids...if I'm sitting around pouting how am I going to tell them to keep their chins up or keep their heads up when something doesn't go their way?"
When asked a follow up, he explained: "I still have to be a father and take care of my kids, so you have to move on."
Fielder was ripped mercilessly in the media for what they believed to be a lack of competitive fire and a disregard for the goals of the team. Some believe it was his final straw, ultimately leading to the trade that off-season that sent him to Texas.
I went on-air the next day and defended him and felt like I was in the extreme minority doing so. Years later, I stand by that.
I'm a die hard sports fan, rooting passionately for my favorite teams, maybe to the detriment of my long-term health at times. With that said, my reaction to Prince's comments was way less outrage and way more, "If I can only be so lucky one day," thinking about the great opportunity to be a dad.
Maybe Prince's timing wasn't right, but the guy was being honest. And he lives that message, too. After being around him with the Tigers and the Rangers, I can tell you his comments weren't just lip-service. He absolutely loves having his kids around and the easiest way to get Prince talking is asking him about his kids. I know more about his kids than I do him. For instance, I know that Haven, his youngest, loves basketball but, according to Prince, tries too hard to be Steph Curry shooting from the perimeter instead of "getting his big butt down on the block." There's so much more, too.
I'll remember Prince as a uniquely talented and shaped baseball player and I'll remember him as someone who absolutely loved playing the game. I'll remember the praise bestowed upon him by teammates in Texas for his leadership and the respect they had for how much pain through which he paid. But, more than anything else, I'll remember the day Prince Fielder put everything in perspective right after one of his lowest professional moments, expressing genuine love for his kids only to get absolutely ripped in the media for doing so. If only I can be so lucky one day to have kids about whom I care more than my job.
Until tomorrow, Peace Be the Journey
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