Prince Fielder has not been quite the player he was since his halcyon days in Milwaukee. But even owing to the gentle decline of players as they age, Fielder's production so far this season has been a mild disappointment to most Rangers fans. Through forty-two games, the Rangers first baseman is hitting .247/.360/.360 with a wRC+ of just 85, putting him in such tepid company as Chris Carter, Chris Colabello, and Norichika Aoki.
Now, it is becoming more and more likely that the team will be without their Twenty-Four Million Dollar Man for the remainder of the season. According to Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, the Son of Cecil is contemplating surgery for a herniated disc in his neck, effectively ending his season:
He was at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas visiting spine specialist Dr. Drew Dossett rather than at Comerica Park, where fans who had targeted him for their postseason failures a year ago had to find someone else to pick on.
Though Fielder received a nerve-root injection over the weekend, the shot doesn’t remove the chunk of disc from the nerve that is pinched and is causing weakness in Fielder’s left arm.
Only surgery can fix that. As of the opener of the four-game series, the Rangers are hoping that Fielder won’t become their 17th player to hit the disabled list this season.
The injury itself would explain some of Fielder's struggles so far this season, particularly his atypically low slugging percentage. He has averaged a .522 slugging percentage for his career, though it was only .457 last year, his lowest offensive production of his career since 2008.This year it is nearly a full 100 points lower at .360. On the season, Fielder has hit just three home runs and eight doubles, playing predominantly in a ballpark that is tailored to a powerful individual such as himself.
The Rangers have already sent a plethora of players to the disabled list this season; if Fielder opts for surgery, he would become the seventeenth in total.
And though we admire players who are willing to play through an injury for the good of the team, the evidence suggests that the Rangers might be better off with a healthy Prince in the future than a wounded one in the present.