Freddie Freeman understands the anger and pain some of you might still be feeling. He felt that same anger and pain when he learned he was no longer going to be with the Braves, and he’ll feel some lingering sadness when he returns to Atlanta for this weekend’s Dodgers-Braves series.
This homecoming was never supposed to happen. When Freeman met with his agents at his California home near the end of February, he made it clear the only thing he wanted was to remain with the Braves. Yeah, he would have liked a sixth year, but he didn’t view the lack of one as a dealbreaker.
So, what happened? Well, we have to first go back to the winter of 2014 when Freeman’s agents Casey Close and Victor Menocal got him an eight-year, $135 million deal after he had played just three full MLB seasons.
Freeman was 24 years old and financially set. So, it’s understandable why he placed so much trust in these same guys eight years later.
As the days, weeks and months of the offseason passed, Freeman just assumed he’d eventually end up with the Braves. He maintained this thought until the evening of March 12. This is the night when Close contacted Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, gave him two requests that far exceeded Freeman’s expectations and said the Braves had an hour to respond.
Freeman’s agents contend this wasn’t an ultimatum. But Freeman certainly felt like it was. When he received an update that evening, he walked back into his son’s birthday party and felt like he was in shock as he told his dad and wife that he didn’t think he was a Brave anymore.
Two days later, the Braves traded for Matt Olson. This of course led Freeman to sign his six-year, $162 million deal with the Dodgers.
In hindsight, should Freeman have taken more control of the negotiations? No doubt. Had he and Anthopoulos spoken directly, Freeman would still be a Brave and there would be a place outside Truist Park reserved for his statue.
Still, while it’s sad Freeman didn’t end up being with the Braves throughout his entire career, this weekend’s return should be a celebration. When you think of the greatest Braves of all time, he ranks up there with Aaron, Mathews, Spahn, Murphy, Chipper, Andruw, Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. He’ll be remembered as a Brave when he is one day inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Having seen Glavine booed when he returned with the Mets in 2003, I know a handful of fans will express their anger and resentment this weekend. But I’m looking forward to the rousing standing ovations Freeman will receive within a weekend, during which we should celebrate the countless great memories he created while becoming an Atlanta legend.