Thanks For the Memories, Prince

Prince Fielder is gone. We knew this day was coming for the better part of two years, but now that the day is actually here, it’s still hard to actually comprehend. Somebody — probably Mat Gamel — is going to be at first base on Opening Day for the first time since 2005.

It’s tough seeing Fielder go, but for most fans, I imagine this is a near-perfect situation.

He’s going to the AL, where he can seldom hurt the Brewers. He’s going to the Tigers, who are both a.) not the Red Sox or Yankees and b.) another Midwest team, so it will still be easy to root for him. The contract ended up being so ridiculous — 9 years, $214 million, no opt-out clauses — that no reasonable person can be upset at the Brewers for not bringing him back. And the Brewers will actually be getting a first round pick for losing Fielder, unlike when they lost CC Sabathia to the Yankees and got stuck with a second-rounder.

We can be sad or upset that the Fielder Era is over, but we can also choose to be glad the Brewers took a chance on him when it seemed like few teams wanted to. The guy Michael Lewis called “too fat for even the Oakland A’s” in Moneyball wound up hitting .282/.390/.540 for the Brewers, hitting 230 home runs (2nd in club history), making three All-Star teams, and perhaps most surprisingly, only missing 13 games in 6 seasons as a starter, and only one game in the past three seasons. He fell 21 home runs short of Robin Yount’s club record, but there’s no doubt that Fielder was the best (and most consistent) power hitter in the history of the Milwaukee Brewers.

He was a member of two playoff teams in four years. During his tenure in Milwaukee, the Brewers saw the most success over a six-year period they’ve seen since 1978-1983. That kind of success leads to a lot of special Prince Fielder memories. I asked you on Twitter what some of your favorites were. These were the most popular.

The Bowling Ball Walkoff, 2009 – A frustrating season was winding down, but Fielder gave Brewers fans something to cheer about with a screaming line drive down the right field line. Of course, the aftermath of the home run is remembered more than the game itself. The now-infamous bowling ball celebration at home plate sparked a feud with the Giants that’s lasted for a couple years.

14th-inning walkoff home run vs Colorado, 2011 – Maybe it’s because this is just fresh in everyone’s minds, but it was also one of the best games in what was a great year. Fielder ended a wild 14-inning affair with the Rockies with an absolute no-doubter that nearly reached the Dew Deck.

Walkoff home run vs Pittsburgh, 2008 – It was the last week of the season, and the Brewers were struggling to keep their heads above water in the wildcard race. A couple days before Ryan Braun’s iconic walkoff, Fielder had one of his own.

Aside from being an incrdible bat in the lineup, Fielder was always a guy who seemed like he genuinely liked playing for Milwaukee. Those guys are rare. For that reason, it will be easy to keep rooting for him to succeed in Detroit. While it’s always popular to be shocked or frustrated with some of the contracts that are handed out, it’s hard for me to feel anything other than happy for him. He’s earned it. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

So for one last time:

Prince Haters

Hopefully in 15 years, we’re talking about how the Brewers are unveiling a #28 in the outfield, next to 44, 19, 4, 34, and 42.