I didn't know that Prince Fielder threw a curveball. But after Monday night's latest outburst by the Milwaukee slugger, he had better start fine-tuning his off-speed arsenal if he's going to be slamming the Brewers' pitching staff around.
The flare-up occurred with one out in the top of the seventh inning and the Brewers trailing Cincinnati, 6-1. Russell Branyan had just arrived in the batter's box to pinch-hit for starter Manny Parra when television cameras turned their attention to the Milwaukee dugout, where Fielder was being restrained by several teammates.
Fielder lost his temper, and the Brewers lost for the eighth time in 11 outings since their seven-game road winning streak after the All-Star break.
The incident reportedly occurred because Fielder took exception to Parra leaving the dugout while the visitors were still batting. Now if there's a written or unwritten team/league rule that says pitchers and/or players must stay to watch the next inning or the remainder of the contest after being removed, fine.
But there was no excuse for Fielder to get physical and start throwing his weight around, especially because he wasn't hitting his weight until the past couple of weeks. He should be more worried about his game than how Parra or anybody else is performing. Besides, Parra's nine-pitch battle to lead off the third was arguably Milwaukee's best at-bat of the night.
Fielder took three of his best swings of the night at Parra instead of taking better hacks at Bronson Arroyo's offerings. And that goes for the rest of the team's all-or-nothing offense, which has been horrendous with runners in scoring position and couldn't overcome Parra's meltdown after four wonderful innings of work.
The big question is what if Parra had been injured? And for what? Because big, bad Prince wanted him to watch Branyan strike out?
Fielder is supposedly the team leader. Leaders don't lead with their fists, they lead by example, and the first baseman's actions of late cast doubts on him in that role.
Ryan Braun was quoted as saying, "Sometimes you have to let emotions out, be emotional and passionate. I think that incident was the result of that. It wasn't a malicious thing. It was a minor disagreement that led to an altercation."
Minor disagreements shouldn't result in what happened. Fielder can take his frustrations out, but nobody else can? Guys walk back and forth from the dugout to the tunnel and clubhouse all of the time. Maybe Parra would have cooled down and rejoined his teammates. Who knows?
The Prince hasn't hesitated to take his anger out on water coolers or whatever he sees fit. And his little bat-busting temper tantrum against the Cubs on Thursday smelled more of horse droppings than home plate umpire Doug Eddings' strike zone.
As expected, manager Ned Yost and several other players who were interviewed said that the incident was "no big deal" and stuff like that happens with major league teams over the course of a long season. But the point is it should have been handled in the clubhouse, not the dugout.
One would hope that Yost at least fines Fielder for his actions. That will give him something more to pout about other than his contract.
It's hot, it's the dog days of August and some players and teams are scuffling. That's how it is every year, at least in Milwaukee. A year ago about this time is when Yost and players Johnny Estrada and Tony Graffanino were among those involved in an incident.
It begs the question, is this team buckling under the pressure and expectations of a pennant race again, or was it simply coincidence? Yost described it as the latter: "It's what happens. It makes teams better."
The fans, management and players better hope so because this isn't the way to go down without a fight.
Methinks Fielder better try a little soul searching and get a grip on his emotions. Potentially injuring a starting pitcher or even himself and possibly forcing Yost to sit him out a day or two to cool off won't help the Brewers reach the postseason.
It'll be interesting to see which way Fielder and this team go from here.