The picture shown here could very well be the last time that Prince Fielder greets his teammates on Opening Day in a Milwaukee Brewers jersey.
There, I wrote it.
This is not a reality that I look forward to.
In fact, Fielder playing Major League Baseball in a uniform other than the Brewers is probably the thing I'm least looking forward to as it relates to the Brewers since Robin Yount's retirement.
To be fair, though, 2010 doesn't have to be Fielder's last as a Brewer. In fact, unless the Brewers choose to trade or release him before Opening Day 2011, there is no way for Fielder to play for anybody but Milwaukee in 2011.
But how far Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and team owner Mark Attanasio can let this go remains to be seen.
That's also not what we're gathered here today to discuss. Whether or not they will, or they should, is a topic unto itself.
I'm wanting to look at the Milwaukee Brewers without Fielder. Let's take a peek at how the Brewers will perform without their two-time All-Star first baseman.
It's not actually all that difficult to envision, because all one has to do is take a look at the team that's on the field this season.
There, I said that too.
Fielder is one of the most talented players to wear a Milwaukee Brewers jersey.
He was the youngest player in Major League history to hit 50 home runs in a season. He led the league with 141 RBI, while setting team records in that category and walks in a season. He hit as close to .300 as you can get (.2994) without having his average reflect that on paper.
All of this is true.
What's also true is that there are a lot of men playing professional baseball that are capable of hitting .244/.311/.370, with 15 strikeouts, and a measly three RBI, in 45 at-bats over 12 games.
That's the fact of the matter.
Will Fielder hit that line with over 200 strikeouts (a third of a projected 600-plus ABs), and about 40 RBI? Of course not.
Fielder will warm up at the plate, hit plenty of homers, drive in a boatload of teammates, and will show his plate discipline, strike zone awareness, and his keen batting eye. Fielder is a notoriously slow starter, especially in the power department.
He'll be fine. He'll get his.
Lately, when people wonder about a vacant Milwaukee throne if and when the Prince leaves on his royal steed, I tell them to just take a look at these games. Fielder has basically been a non-factor.
But what does that mean?
The team's biggest issue this season, like last season, is still its pitching staff. They are surrendering runs at an alarming rate, including setting a team record for the number of home runs allowed to this point in the season. It doesn't matter if you score 12 runs a night if you're giving up 13.
Even with Fielder in a cold spell, teammates Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee are white-hot. All three hitters will have to come together so when Fielder starts to heat up, no doubt the other two will have cooled off a bit—perhaps the offense is doing what it will do this season, regardless.
Regardless of other players' individual performances, the Brewers without Fielder would be playing just as well (or possibly even better, depending on the replacement) as it has been with him.
That performance has been "good" for a 5-7 record, while scoring runs at a clip of basically five per game (to date, 61 runs in 12 games).
Again, I'm not necessarily making an argument for or against trading away Fielder before he might leave in free agency. This is simply an exercise in "what might be" instead of constantly analyzing "what is," "what has been," or "what could have been."
I urge you to take it for what it's worth in helping you to form your own conclusion on what to do about Milwaukee's everyday, 25-year-old first baseman.