Sunday, March 2, 2008

Money Where His Mouth Is

So, Prince Fielder has publicly expressed displeasure with the paltry $670,000 he's going to have to play for this year.

"I'm not happy about it at all... There are a lot of guys with the same amount of time I have who have done a lot less than me and are getting paid a lot more. But my time is going to come and it's coming quick, too."
Really. How Sheffieldesque.

I've always thought that the one skill that sports stars are generally extremely lacking at, that would benefit them greatly if they were good at, is how to market themselves. Everything they say - everything they do will influence how much money they will make over the course of their careers. By publicly complaining about a contract over which he has no control (thank you Donald Fehr), and with which the Brewers are handling in a fiscally responsible manner, Prince Fielder has begun the process of labeling himself as a complainer. A label that could eventually cost him far more than the two of three hundred thousand extra dollars he wanted this year.

For example, if you were Doug Melvin right now, would you be thinking that you can get better value out of signing Prince Fielder to a 5-year deal or Ryan Braun? Or Rickie Weeks? Or J.J. Hardy or Corey Hart? Prince has sent the message loud and clear that he is going to drive a very hard bargain. Maybe because of that you let him go and concentrate on signing your other players. From Fielder's point of view, that's one less team to negotiate with. It's not that he won't find another team to sign with, but it gives him that little bit less leverage when he does. All of this then assuming he stays healthy until the big payday comes. By taking a hard line, he's bearing that risk himself rather than selling the risk to his team.

Another marketing faux pas Prince made this spring was to announce that he is a vegetarian. No one wants to hear that their 280 pound slugging first baseman has switched to tofu. Far be it for me to tell anyone how to eat. If he wants to be a vegetarian, I suppose I'm ok with that as long as it doesn't hurt his performance on the field, but again it's a nightmare for his image and will hurt his earning potential down the road. He should have kept that development to himself.

Prince has also had a well-publicized spat with his father in which he is the one refusing to bridge the gap. When I first heard the story a few years ago, I thought, "what a jerk Cecil Fielder must be." As Prince's career plays out, I'm now beginning to wonder how far the apple fell from the tree. Prince needs to realize that the people who could be soon writing him $10M checks will be wondering that too.

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