from Pedro Moura
FOX Sports MLB Writer
As emotional as Freddie Freeman clearly remains until the end of its 15-season cycle with Atlanta Bravesit is hard to argue that this affects his performance with Dodgers.
He performs almost exactly at his excellent career standards. He is the most permanent member of a surprisingly unstable list in which so many of the other stars have fought or suffered significant injuries.
All of this makes the ongoing drama surrounding his weekend return to Atlanta a curiosity rather than a concern for LA And it’s certainly curious. When was the last time someone showed so much emotion about which team paid them to play baseball?
Freddie Freeman’s emotional return to Atlanta
Ben Verlander talks about the emotional scene that unfolded in Atlanta when Freddie Freeman returned to Truist Park for the first time as the Los Angeles Dodger.
Freeman spent the weekend, alternating between crying, hugging his former teammates and continuing to hit his typical elite video. The Braves’ visit to Los Angeles in mid-April was similar. Freeman spent hours at first base in the Dodger Stadium’s foul area before the games, catching up with coaches, Braves players and even beating reporters.
Then he released a few homers.
But these were the Dodgers’ 10th, 11th and 12th games of the season. It had only been a month since Freeman had decided to leave the Braves. Now, half the season is approaching and Freeman is still talking about the ending – sometimes how he doesn’t need it, other times how he does it.
“If you’ve had a relationship for 15 years and it’s over, you’ll have feelings,” Freeman told reporters after reaching the Dodgers’ next destination on this trip. “And I had feelings. I went through this process of grief and now I’m in the process of healing and moving on.”
In a sense, many of us crave this from the athletes we support. We want them to care so much about the companies that hire them, and we curse them when they go somewhere else. Freeman’s case is so opposite that it irritates some who wonder why he still worries about his previous employer when his current one has so many strengths.
He is close to home, a fact he emphasized at his introductory press conference. He obviously plays for the winner. And the Dodgers fan base, top executives and top players have already shown affection for Freeman. Fans chanted his name during his first weeks at the Dodger Stadium. Baseball President Andrew Friedman has used the word “really” three times to emphasize how good he thinks Freeman is. Muki Bates described him as a close friend.
Braves, meanwhile, have made it clear they have moved on. When asked in April about leaving Freeman, manager Brian Snitker raised many other weaker players who also left the organization as a free agency.
The closest thing to public criticism Freeman heard from the Dodgers was Clayton Kirshaw’s remark to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend, which said it hoped the Dodgers would not be a “second violin” after Freeman. In particular, Kershaw himself chose to continue his 16-season relationship with the Dodgers in the last off-season, instead of signing with the team closest to his home.
“I think whenever he feels comfortable here,” Kershaw told the paper, “he’ll like it very much.”
If Freeman hasn’t enjoyed it yet, again, it’s not exactly in his game. He walks, limits his outs, manages the bases well and hits lines. He plays every single game. His struggles to move from his term on the Braves are not rated close to the top of any list of the Dodgers’ biggest struggles so far this season. (To be clear, any such list must be marked with an asterisk with the fact that the team remained at a rate of 100 wins, entering the game on Wednesday. But they have higher expectations in Los Angeles.)
Far higher on the Dodgers’ current list of concerns are the injuries of Kershaw, Walker Buhler and now Bates, as well as the poor performance of Justin Turner, Max Muncie and Craig Kimbrell. Freeman does exactly what the Dodgers imagined when they rushed to defeat Braves’ offer.
Although, due to delayed money, due to reported negligence of the agent, it may turn out that the Dodgers’ offer did not actually beat Braves. And it’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the events this weekend, except that Freeman wanted to sign again with Atlanta if the offers are really tied – or even close to tied.
It’s too late to change, and the only way to make it a problem for the Dodgers is if Freeman is so incapable of moving forward that it affects his performance, or if that inability affects his relationship with his teammates. This is possible.
But given his results over three months, Freeman seems more likely to play well enough to be good in Los Angeles.
Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for three seasons for The Athletic, and before that, Angels and Dodgers for five seasons for the Orange County Register and the LA Times. He previously covered his alma mater, USC, for ESPNLosAngeles.com. The son of Brazilian immigrants, he grew up in the suburbs of Southern California. His first book, How to Beat a Broken Game, came out this spring. Follow him on Twitter @pedromoura.
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