Gil LeBreton

As Fielder leaves, is it polite to talk about the insurance check?

Rangers Jeff Banister and Jon Daniels discuss Prince Fielder's retirement

Rangers manager Jeff Banister and general manager Jon Daniels react to Prince Fielder being forced to retire for medical reasons (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).
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Rangers manager Jeff Banister and general manager Jon Daniels react to Prince Fielder being forced to retire for medical reasons (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

He wore No. 84 in Texas because, as Prince Fielder would eventually explain, that was the year he was born.

And that’s what his time in a Rangers uniform was supposed to be – a rebirth of his baseball career.

Back to the future. Back to the happy Prince, the everyday Prince, the Prince who sent home runs soaring 30 times a year.

It would be wrong, though, to label the trade for Prince Fielder as the biggest blunder of general manager Jon Daniels’ career. Without Fielder batting .339 and driving in 54 runs in the first half of the 2015 season, the Texas Rangers would never have made it into the American League postseason.

But so much more was expected.

Fielder’s usefulness to the Rangers’ lineup had ebbed to an uncomfortable low when he was placed again on the disabled list in mid-July.

No one knows, I suppose, how Fielder got from the middle of the Rangers lineup – and their World Series dreams – to an operating room and, come Wednesday, to a microphone to announce he will no longer play baseball.

Maybe his neck issues are something he inherited. Maybe he unwittingly hurt himself while trying to prepare for the season.

It doesn’t really matter now. Fielder’s usefulness to the Rangers’ lineup had ebbed to an uncomfortable low when he was placed again on the disabled list in mid-July.

Manager Jeff Banister had already sent Fielder to the plate 370 times, hoping he would bust out of whatever slump the one-time slugger was in. But his average rose to only .212 at the end with eight home runs.

The Rangers were 55-39 when Fielder played his final game July 18. They are 67-47 now and their AL West lead has grown to seven games.

Yep. They’ve done better without him.

There likely are a lot of conflicting emotions, therefore, among Rangers fans – and maybe even discreet others – over how to feel about Wednesday’s planned news conference.

But he was traded here to hit home runs, and for that reason alone the deal failed miserably.

If you will, let’s take the high road. Fielder wasn’t at all the aloof, disinterested bystander that the people around the Detroit Tigers said he would be. When healthy, he played with a full-swing, belly-flop zest. He added a positive presence to the Rangers clubhouse.

But he was traded here to hit home runs, and for that reason alone the deal failed miserably. His three seasons in Texas produced only 34 homers. Clearly, something was wrong.

The party hat in the corner that no one wants to publicly don is the insurance policy. Truth be told, that’s why you won’t see anyone at the ballpark Wednesday wearing black.

The Rangers stand to recoup an estimated $36 million on Fielder’s contract. If his legacy proves to be a Daniels shopping spree for future seasons, Prince is likely to be cool with that. He’s not a selfish guy.

His smile will be missed. Really.

But unless I miss my guess, Prince Fielder has already come to grips with the realities of his latest neck injury. He wants to be able to enjoy his two sons, Jadyn and Haven, and there’s no sense in risking that.

So much more was expected here, but that’s the way baseball go, as the former manager would say.

It’s tragic to see a star player, only 32 years old, having to end his career. My advice is to take the high road and wish No. 84 the best.

It’s more polite than camping out at the mailbox, waiting for that insurance check.

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre talks about the void created by designated hitter Prince Fielder's decision to undergo season-ending neck surgery (video by Jeff Wilson).

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