Freddie Freeman is arguably one of the most blessed men in the universe. In the last 24 months, he has won the National League MVP award, a World’s Championship, and then signed a $162 million contract to play first base for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers for the next six years.
So why can’t he stop crying?
Even in the midst of one of his strongest tears of the season, Freeman’s emotional return to Atlanta as a member of the visiting team has revealed to much of the world, including a national TV audience Sunday, that he was very, very much missed by the Atlanta fans who finally got a second championship after 26 years of trying to duplicate their 1995 win–despite a 14-year run as Eastern Division champion and subsequent post-season meltdowns.
They cheered vehemently with every one of his at bats, and each time Freeman became more emotional with his acknowledgments. By the time Sunday night’s ESPN telecast came about, a thrilling come-from-behind extra inning win for LA, he was in full blown bawling mode.
Yesterday we learned a little bit more as to why he has been blubbering. Turns out in the midst of last winter’s free agency negotiations, handled by one Casey Close, the Braves apparently had blinked at Close’s hard-line demands for something well north of the $130-ish range that Freeman believed was Atlanta’s
“best and final”. In the midst of this staredown, the Braves hedged their bets by signing a younger, somewhat less talented but very respected free agent, Oakland’s Matt Olson, to an even longer contract to play first base. Freeman apparently believed the Braves pulled the trigger, so he accepted his “fate”.
Except while in Atlanta this weekend he learned first-hand that it was Close who did the rejecting, and apparently not without Freeman’s knowledge.
Now it’s really easy for anyone to be cynical about this After alll, we’re talking about nine-figure deals with seven-figure commissions. And, to be sure, Freeman was going back home as well.
Except after several years of becoming a generationally transcedent talent that lifted a region back to their promised land, it was Georgia that Freeman considered his home now. Money is ephemeral. Home is a bonding. Freeman wanted to stay in what he considered as his CURRENT home. Close chose the pursuit of a few million more dollars instead,
Before Freeman left Atlanta, Close had been fired.
I’ve liked Freeman even from afar, now more so because he’s not a threat to the Mets for more than a few games a year, at least not until October. For him to care enough about where he performs, not how much he’s being compensated for it, reinforces his quality and character. He makes up for at least a few who would chosoe otherwise. He shares Los Angeles with Russell Westbrook for now.
Guess who I’m cheering louder for?