Of Pedro Moura
FOX Sports MLB writer
Emotional like Freddie Freeman clearly remains towards the end of his 15-season run with the Atlanta Bravesit’s hard to argue that he’s impacting his performance with the Dodgers.
He is performing almost exactly to his own superb career standards. He was the most consistent member of a surprisingly flaky list, in which so many other stars have struggled or sustained significant injuries.
All of which makes the ongoing drama surrounding his weekend back in Atlanta more of a curiosity than a concern for LA. And it is certainly curious. When was the last time someone showed so much excitement about which team pays them to play baseball?
Freddie Freeman’s emotional return to Atlanta
Ben Verlander talks about the emotional scene that took place 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 poke at his signature elite clip. The Braves’ mid-April visit to Los Angeles went the same way. Freeman spent hours on the first base side of Dodger Stadium foul territory before games, catching up with Braves coaches, players and even reporters.
Then he threw a couple of homers.
But those were the 10, 11 and 12 games of the Dodgers season. It had only been a month since Freeman had decided to leave the Braves. Now, the middle of the season is approaching and Freeman is still talking about closing, sometimes about how he doesn’t need it, other times about how he does it.
“If you’ve been in a relationship for 15 years, and it’s over, you’re going to have feelings,” Freeman told reporters after reaching his next destination on this Dodgers journey. “And I’ve had feelings. I’ve been through this grieving process and now I’m in the healing process and in the process of moving forward.”
In a way, this is what many of us crave from the athletes we cheer for. We want them to care so much about the companies that employ them and we swear them off when they leave for another place. Freeman’s case is so opposite that it has unnerved some who wonder why he’s still worried about his previous employer when the current one has so many strengths.
It’s close to home, a fact he pointed out in his introductory press conference. Obviously he is playing for a winner. And the Dodgers fan base, executives and top players have already shown affection for Freeman. Fans chanted his name in his first few weeks of playing at Dodger Stadium. Baseball operations president Andrew Friedman used the word “really” three times to emphasize how good he believed Freeman was. Mookie Betts described him as a close friend.
Meanwhile, the Braves have made it clear that they have moved on. When asked about Freeman’s departure in April, manager Brian Snitker mentioned several other minor players who have also left the organization in free agency.
The closest thing to public criticism Freeman heard from the Dodgers was Clayton Kershaw’s remark at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend, saying he hoped the Dodgers weren’t the “second fiddle” for Freeman. Notably, Kershaw himself chose to continue his 16-season relationship with the Dodgers last offseason instead of signing with the team closest to his home.
“I think whenever he feels comfortable here,” Kershaw told the paper, “he will really enjoy himself.”
If Freeman hasn’t enjoyed himself so far, again, it’s not exactly noticeable in his game. He is walking, limiting his strikeouts, running the bases well and hitting the line drives. He is playing every single game. His struggles to get past his term as Braves aren’t high on any list of the Dodgers’ biggest fights so far this season. (To be clear, any such list should be marked with an asterisk with the team remaining at a 100-win pace coming into play on Wednesday. But they have higher expectations in Los Angeles.)
Much higher on the Dodgers’ current list of concerns are injuries at Kershaw, Walker Buehler and, now, Betts, as well as poor performances from Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Craig Kimbrel. Freeman is doing exactly what the Dodgers had imagined he would do when they rushed to beat the Braves’ offer.
Although, due to the deferred money, due to the negligence of the reported agent, it could be that the Dodgers offer did not actually beat the Braves. And it’s hard to draw any other conclusions from this weekend’s events other than that Freeman wanted to sign with Atlanta again if the deals really matched, or even close.
It’s too late for anything to change, and the only way it becomes a problem for the Dodgers is if Freeman is unable enough to move forward that it affects his performance or if that inability affects his relationship with his teammates. It’s possible.
But given his production for three months, it seems more likely that Freeman will play well enough to be comfortable in Los Angeles.
Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. Previously he covered the Dodgers for three seasons for The Athletic and, before that, the Angels and Dodgers for five seasons for the Orange County Register and LA Times. More previously, he covered his alma mater, USC, for ESPNLosAngeles.com. The son of Brazilian immigrants, he grew up in the southern suburbs of California. His first book, “How to Beat a Broken Game,” came out this spring. Follow him on Twitter @pedromoura.
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