Just when the Freddie Freeman saga couldn’t get more nauseated, somehow it did. The evaders‘ new first baseman went into hiding on Thursday for the opening game of a four-game series against the San Diego Padres.
The story of his divorce from the Atlanta Braves will not die because the image-conscious part of him is determined to rewrite history, his tearful efforts to continue to play the victim and reveal him as the archetype of the entitled athlete.
Good thing he hits.
Freeman has spent the past three months on a bizarre public relations campaign trying to convince Atlanta fans that he didn’t leave the Braves for money, even though he now plays for the Dodgers because his former team wouldn’t give him the kind of deal. give that he willed.
This is a classic case of wanting both ways—in this particular case, of both the certainty of his six-year deal with the Dodgers and the adoration he once enjoyed on the Braves.
There’s something unpleasant about a 32-year-old man who doesn’t accept the consequences of decisions he’s made, especially when the consequences include getting $162 million to play for a World Series contender in his hometown. In a recent Atlanta series, Freeman acted like he was a prisoner being released for a weekend, sobbing uncontrollably at a press conference, and spending a lot of time at the Braves’ clubhouse.
Clayton Kershaw gave a glimpse of what the Dodgers were thinking when he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I hope we’re not second fiddle.”
I was open to the possibility that I was missing something, so I waited for Freeman and the Dodgers to return from their three-city trip to write this column. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the team relayed my thoughts to Freeman and invited me on my behalf to clear up any misconceptions I might have. He refused.
Freeman again refused when I approached him afterwards the 3-1 victory of the Dodgers that night.
“That chapter is closed,” he said. “It’s an opinion article anyway. Nobody knows the truth.”
Freeman barely said a word earlier in the week when news broke that he was about to go end his relationship with Excel Sports Management. (In a statement he released to MLB.com, Freeman described his relationship with the agency as “fluent.”)
The subtext was clear: Freeman held the agency responsible for leaving the Braves.
Shortly after, Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb tweeted that Freeman had fired Excel because he learned that agent Casey Close never told him about the last offer the Braves made to him before he traded for a replacement first baseman in Matt Olson. Close knew Freeman would have accepted the offer, Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb is not known as a baseball insider and the report was not confirmed by anyone else, but the story got the rounds nonetheless. Close twice refuted the story on Twitter, calling Gottlieb’s report on Wednesday “completely inaccurate” and accusing the Braves of spreading a “false story” on Thursday.
By refusing to address the situation in detail, Freeman let the allegations of Close’s alleged malpractice linger. Freeman also avoided answering questions about his role in the failed negotiations.
Close and the other agents at Excel worked for Freeman, not the other way around. If they made a hard deal, it was because Freeman paid them for it. Even if Gottlieb’s story were true, nothing stopped Freeman from picking up the phone, calling Braves CEO Alex Anthopoulos, and making a deal on his own. Freeman would not have been the first player to sign a new contract after rejecting his agent’s advice. That’s what Jered Weaver did when he signed a five-year extension below the $85 million market price with: the Angels in 2011.
Freeman, of course, had no interest in talking about it, as he consistently blames others for his breakup with the Braves.
He initially pointed the finger at the Braves, lament at his introductory press conference about their sporadic conversations with him about a new deal.
I wrote then, and still believe that the Braves should have made him a six-year offer. But what Freeman refuses to admit is that when they held on for five years, he was given a choice: return to the Braves on their terms or gamble that he might eventually force them to give him an extra year.
“All along, Freddie wanted years,” his father, Fred, told Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times.
There’s nothing wrong with that. He deserved the right to call.
But his carefully curated public personality didn’t allow him to say he was chasing the bag rather than securing his return to the Braves. When his attempt to blame his former team backfired and fans turned against him, Freeman changed his approach. In what seemed like a calculated trick to win them back, he kissed and made amends with Anthopoulos. Somewhere between then and now, he shifted the blame to Close.
What a disappointment, a player regarded as a class act operating as if he were a third-rate politician from Braves country. Between this and what Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. said earlier this year on not missing Freeman, you have to wonder if his reputation was really deserved.
Good thing he hits.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†