Fielder intends to make Brewers pay
Updated: March 6, 2008, 10:28 AM ETBy Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com
PHOENIX -- Someone's going to pay for what happened here. Someone always pays when Prince Fielder thinks someone's screwing with him.This time it's money. Actually, it's not just the money, but what the money represents. There's a difference to Fielder.
On Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers renewed Fielder's contract for $670,000. That's a lot of money to you and me, and to Fielder, too. But this isn't about paycheck stubs. This has more to do with pride and with Fielder's insistence, his need, even, to always have an enemy. Someone must pay. Fielder hit 50 home runs last season, making him the youngest player (23 years and change) in big league history to do so. This wasn't just any record. For more than a half-century, it belonged to "The Say Hey Kid," Willie Mays. So Fielder led the National League in dingers, finished third in the MVP voting and finished second in the NL All-Star Game balloting. Pick a category -- RBIs, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, runs, walks, total bases -- and Fielder's numbers were among the league's best. And by the way, Milwaukee manager Ned Yost calls him "the heart and soul" of the Brewers and says he's "feared" by other teams. At 23. "There's only a few hitters in the league that really intimidate teams and managers, [where] you're looking to see when this guy gets up," Yost said. "And he's one of them." But business is business, which is why the Brewers renewed the first baseman's contract for $670K. This is like bidding $39 for a Priceline room and getting the presidential suite at the Waldorf. It's a steal -- or as Fielder sees it, an insult. The Brewers could have signed him for more, a lot more. But until a player accumulates three years of major league service time (he's at two years, 68 days), the team generally controls the salary hammer. Next year, though, Fielder becomes arbitration eligible. "His day is coming," Yost said. "There's no way around it." Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's day came Feb. 21. The third-year player went from $900,000 in 2007 to a record-setting arbitration award of $10 million this season. No wonder Fielder and agent Scott Boras are counting the nanoseconds until 2009. "It's a business," Fielder said. "[The Brewers] have their right to do what they want." And next year, Fielder has the right to do what he wants, which is make the Brewers pay.
AP Photo/Morry GashPrince Fielder has hit 78 home runs over the last two seasons, far more than any other under-25 player.
|• Here are the youngest players to hit 50 home runs in a single season. Ages are as of June 30:|
He'll just use [his contract situation] as another chip. Who knows? He might be looking at 60 or 70 [home runs] this year.
--Brewers teammate Tony Gwynn Jr., about Prince Fielder