Fielder's swing-for-the-fences mantra too much for Derby rivals
To anyone who would ask if he tried to hit home runs when he went to bat,
If Mantle has a successor in today's game, it is someone who bears almost no resemblance to him otherwise. Mantle was nearly 6-feet tall and rippling with muscle, while
Fielder swung hard enough and well enough to produce not only a Derby title -- but the only memorable moments of an otherwise ho-hum Home Run Derby. This may not get him mentioned in the same breath as the Mantles within the game's rich history, but it should at least give him a well-deserved glimpse at the national spotlight. Fielder has been getting his share of attention for years -- first as the son of a former major league All-Star, then as a high school player with incredible power and then as one of the game's premier sluggers. He has also played too well (the fifth most home runs in baseball since 2006 and one of only four players since then with a 50-home run season) to have been completely overshadowed. But in a week in which every player here not named Pujols has been relegated to second-class status, Fielder managed to wrest not only the tile, but the spotlight from
Appropriately, that man is Fielder, who has been overshadowed by his NL Central counterpart throughout his career. In the eyes of the nearly 46,000 fans who came to Busch Stadium to watch Pujols cover himself in glory, it may seem the wrong prince is wearing the crown of Home Run Derby champion. But Prince Fielder, not Prince Albert, won, while reminding baseball fans everywhere of his phenomenal skill. Fielder was the only one of the eight participants who consistently delivered the jaw-dropping power the Derby has become famous for. In the semifinals, he launched a 503-foot moon shot ("the first time I've ever hit a ball 500 feet" he would say later) on the heels of a 497-foot bomb in the opening round.
Even without the relationship, there are traces of Cecil in his son. Both had prodigious power that became their calling card and that same all-or-nothing batting style. But son has the all-encompassing gifts at the plate his father only wishes he did. He ended the first half with a .315 average and .442 on-base percentage, both of which would easily be career highs. He still hits for power, of course, with 22 homers at the break, but he is becoming even more dangerous at the plate, given the variety of his talents.
Fielder's basic approach to hitting extends to his bats. He says he can't even remember the last time he used his own bat. He has been borrowing teammate