After returning to Atlanta last weekend, crying very hard there and then firing his agent for reportedly mishandling the free agency negotiations that led him to sign with the Dodgers and not his beloved Braves this offseason, Freddie Freeman said Tuesday evening that "there needs to be closure. It's time. I'm a Dodger." That sounds all nice and healthy, though it's funny for a couple reasons. First, Freeman had protested the idea just three days before, telling Ken Rosenthal in an interview, "I'm not looking to have any closure. I don't want to close something that was so special for me." Also, whatever's going on between Freeman, his former agent Casey Close and the Braves has since escalated to the point that "closure" does not seem like it is happening anytime soon.
Buster Olney at ESPN first reported on the failed negotiations between Freeman's camp and the Braves way back in March, when the first baseman's departure from his organization of 15 years "felt like the divorce of a seemingly happy couple." The March story said the Braves made a five-year, $135 million offer to Freeman before the lockout. But the timeline for making deals shrunk once the lockout ended, and when it did, Close sent the Braves two higher proposals with a one-hour deadline to respond. This deadline passed without the Braves accepting either proposal or coming close; they only made a counteroffer slightly higher than their initial amount. Believing the deadline meant some other team was in the mix, the Braves front office presumed the negotiation over and moved to acquire Matt Olson as Freeman's replacement at first base. Olney's follow-up story, published Tuesday after Freeman fired Close, said Freeman spoke with Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos over the weekend "about what occurred during the talks and apparently made his peace with the organization."
Wednesday afternoon, Doug Gottlieb (of dubious credibility here) added an inflammatory accusation to the story: He tweeted that Close had never presented Freeman with that last offer from the Braves and that Freeman, who would have accepted it had he known, only found out about it over the weekend. Close denied that in a statement issued through his agency, Excel Sports, Wednesday night: "Doug Gottlieb tweeted a wholly inaccurate characterization of our negotiations with the Atlanta Braves on behalf of Freddie Freeman. We are immediately evaluating all legal options to address the reckless publication of inaccurate information." In a different statement to Sports Illustrated, Close said he would testify to Gottlieb's being wrong under oath.
Asked about all of this on Wednesday, Freeman had no comment. He is seeking closure! The players involved have decided to simply take their frustrations out on the innocent baseball. Wednesday night, against the Rockies, Freeman homered on the first pitch he saw. Perhaps he imagined it was the head of Casey Close he sent hurtling through the thin Colorado air and into the seats.
Dodgers fans and Braves fans alike may wish for the story to end soon. But consider that an imagined rivalry could lead to some very good baseball. Not to be outdone, Matt Olson, the poor guy stuck between Braves fans and Freeman as they publicly pine for one other, has really picked it up lately. He reminded everyone he is still here and a perfectly capable and desirable ballplayer by smoking two doubles in Atlanta's win over the Phillies last night. Is your beloved Freddie Freeman leading the majors with 31 doubles right now? A story today in The Athletic about Olson's season includes some praise from his teammates, who feel pretty bad this is happening to him. "Obviously what he’s done on the field has been big time, but to be able to handle all the stuff that’s gone on off the field is definitely not easy, knowing the history of everything," Braves starter Kyle Wright said. "He’s just been super mature, super professional."