Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and the Race Card
It has now been a week since Ryan Braun signed his record-breaking contract extension with the Milwaukee Brewers, but there is an issue that seemingly is not going away on several sports radio shows. Many people feel that race was an issue when the Brewers signed Braun over first basemen Prince Fielder.
For the sake of saving several people that may accuse me of racism, let me preface all this by saying that I am white, therefore it is hard for me to relate to a Black man like Prince Fielder or even Ryan Braun being of Jewish decent. I also believe that race is an issue not only in several instances in sport but also this country, but race is used FAR too much as a crutch for all races when it really isn't an issue and this happens to be a case of that.
For those that might not know or have forgotten, Braun signed an eight-year, $45 million dollar deal with the team. That contract was not only the longest but financially the largest contract given in Milwaukee Brewers' history.
The decision to sign Braun over Fielder had nothing to do with race. It was a decision based on service time for each player as well as the long-term potential of each player. Ryan Braun is a zero-plus player, meaning that even after this season he would be three years away from being arbitration eligible for a large pay raise. Prince Fielder will be entering the arbitration process this offseason and will be in line for a substantial bump in pay.
Basically, Prince is going to make a lot more money right now and in the near future than what Braun was due. It makes no sense for Prince to sign a long-term deal at the moment until he sees at least one year of arbitration to see where is value is at the moment. If Prince can turn his season around and finish the season batting .280 and hit 35 home runs he should make anywhere from $5-9 million next season. It's at that point that the Brewers, Prince and his agent Scott Boras could get together and sign Prince for 4-5 years for maybe $10 million a year. It would be bad business for Prince to sign any sooner then that and although it angers me and almost every other Brewers' fan; it's the best thing for all involved.
The Brewers are taking a gamble on Braun even though the general public feels the team got a steal with this deal. To a point they may have, but I think overall it was a very fair deal for all involved. Braun shows commitment to the franchise long-term and the team is showing the players and fans they are just as committed to fielding a competitive team with top-level talent. If Braun sustains a long-term injury, this deal all of a sudden is less appealing to the team as all Major League contracts are guaranteed. On Braun's end, this is a great deal because he will be earning a ton more money over the next four years than he would have had he not signed this contract. If he keeps up his current pace of simply mashing the baseball every game then he will be vastly underpaid and the Brewers will have bargain that so many friends are already talking about.
Braun is a far better all-around player than Prince is and that gap in talent is only going to grow over time as Prince's waistline gets larger. Braun is a five-tool player while Prince can hit for a decent average and power but he will never be a great defensive player or be able to be the base running threat that Braun is. Prince's future is that of a designated hitter while Braun will either be an above average fielder with one of the best bats in baseball.
The numbers don't lie and show that Braun is the better player. In only 157 games, not even one full season as a Major Leaguer, Braun has a career batting average of .315 with 47 home runs and 133 RBI. He is slugging .621 and in addition to all those home runs, he has 40 doubles and 7 triples. He has 201 hits and scored 115 runs. Those numbers compare with the very best players in the history of the game. Prince Fielder's stats are nothing to feel bad about, but they just don't compare to Braun's numbers. Fielder is a career .277 hitter with 86 home runs and 234 RBI in 398 career games. He is slugging .533 with 87 extra base hits in addition to all those home runs. Prince has scored 213 runs and has 377 career hits.
Believe me, it may sound like I'm hating on Prince but I'm not. Anyone who knows me knows that I am as big of a Prince Fielder fan as anyone. I told anyone that would listen that Prince would be the next big star in this city when he was still in the Minors.
The best case scenario will see Fielder join Braun in making a long-term commitment to the team. More than likely, Fielder will eventually be dealt and sign a long-term deal with an American League team. My money will be on Prince signing with the Red Sox and replacing David Ortiz as DH. Matt LaPorta will do just fine at first base so Brewers' fans need not worry about losing Prince.
The decision to sign Ryan Braun over Prince Fielder came down to signability and overall baseball talent and potential. It had nothing to do with the skin color of either player.