Mac Engel

Expect Prince Fielder to produce, to care, and to go home

His answers border brusque and his glibness can create the impression of a man who simply does not give a bleep, that Prince Fielder is just another Major Leaguer who likes the Major League Life more than the Major League Game.

A. He hears that.

B. Don’t buy it.

“The not caring part — that bothers me because if I didn’t care I would try to find ways not to play,” Fielder told me. “I play every day because I have two boys and I want to show them how to work hard. Any job you do, show up every day and work hard.”

A little secret about big leaguers — the ones who don’t care create reasons not to play. The ones who don’t care turn a hangnail into a trip to the disabled list.

Since 2007, Fielder has played in no fewer than 157 games a season, and all 162 in each of the past three years.

Of the two players whose seven-year contracts the Rangers acquired in the off-season — Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo — the better bet to be worth his contract is Fielder. He may never become a marketing machine, a big-time clubhouse leader, but he will provide numbers and power for forever. Expect him to play, to provide protection in the lineup, to drive in runs, and to go home.

Fielder’s reputation, which in his years with the Brewers was pristine, took a hit when the Tigers dealt him in the off-season only two years after signing him to a nine-year deal.

The Tigers didn’t just trade Fielder, they sent the Rangers $30 million to make him go away. Under any circumstance, that smells.

Perhaps the Tigers dealing him was nothing more than the desire to move the best hitter in the game — third baseman Miguel Cabrera — to Fielder’s position, and promote a prospect rather than any perceived disdain for Prince.

In two seasons with Detroit, Fielder averaged .295 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs. Those stats are hard to dislike.

But after the Tigers lost against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, Fielder didn’t make any friends. He said, “Nah” to a question of whether the loss would linger. Less than 30 minutes after the season was over, he shrugged and said it was time to move on.

Fans want to hear pain, suffering and depression from their favorite player after a loss.

“I meant what I said — it was over,” he said. “I didn’t know what else to say. If I had been slamming things, I would have been, ‘too emotional.’ Someone is going to critique what you do anyway. I said it, and I had kids so I can’t go home being poopy. How am I supposed to tell them to be an adult and take things like a man if I am over there acting like a child?”

The other knock on Fielder is that he will break down because he is fat.

“Yeah? OK,” he said with a smile. “It’s good. I’m glad I’m fat. Fat is what got me here.”

Fielder has been large since he was pictured by the Sports Illustrated cameras behind his famous daddy, totting around big league parks as a young boy. Do not let his 5-foot-11, 275-pound frame fool you into thinking he’s a sedentary blob. He is a tremendous athlete with quick hands and feet, who happens to be as big as an SUV. Not everyone can be built like Josh Hamilton.

Prince’s father, Cecil, was an even bigger man who in his early 30s wore down. Cecil was listed as 6-foot-3, 230, but clearly kept putting it on as he aged. And Prince, 29, has always been better than his dad, and he will age better than Cecil, too.

“I just want to be the best player I can be. If that’s better than my dad so be it,” he said.

What Fielder is not is cuddly. What he is not going to be is some big clubhouse guy who molds the younger generation.

What Fielder is is another in the long list of Scott Boras clients who put up numbers, do their own thing and see the game as the business it has become. He’s not going to be a problem, a distraction, or a salesman.

“I don’t want to miss any games. I don’t like missing games,” he said. “It feels like I left the iron on at the house. The 100 RBIs, that’s what you want. If I’m healthy, those [numbers] take care of themselves.”

He’s not too worried about what you think, but he is worried about doing his job well and going home.

That’s what the Rangers should expect.

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