Please do not contact Freddie Freeman. This was the message sent to MLB agents by the players union this weekend, a message meant to ward off the many offers of representation that would have come his way once it came to light that the star first baseman is now listed in MLB’s central system as “self-represented.” The New York Post‘s Jon Heyman said that these emails are common when players change agents, but anyone who watched Freeman this weekend would agree he looked like the sort of guy who should probably be left alone. Freeman spent pretty much the entirety of the Dodgers’ series against the Braves in tears.
After winning a World Series last year with the Braves, his team of 12 seasons, Freeman signed with the Dodgers when the lockout ended. This first return to Atlanta was always going to be a meaningful one—the team’s first chance to fire up a big video tribute and to present him with his World Series ring. Frankly, who wouldn’t cry? Contrary to the saying, I submit that baseball is the ideal sport for crying, given the occupational sunglasses culture.
But man, there was so much crying. On YouTube, the Braves broadcaster has labeled Freeman’s first press conference “emotional,” which is putting it lightly. It’s not until the one-minute mark that Freeman is even composed enough to take a question. In fact, one reporter said Freeman walked into the media room to begin and was so overcome that he had to walk back out before trying again.
“I don’t even know how I’m going to get through this weekend, guys,” he said at one point in the presser. Freeman’s tears, just by sheer volume, prompted some questions about his departure from Atlanta. Were these not just homecoming tears? Were these, perhaps, the tears of regret?
It’s beginning to look that way. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Tuesday afternoon that Freeman is changing agents and has told friends he’s “angry with how his free-agent negotiations played out.” As Olney tells it, some tragic misunderstanding between Freeman, his agent Casey Close, and the Braves is to blame for all this. Freeman wanted to stay in Atlanta, Close wanted to hold out for a better offer, and the Braves called Close’s bluff by trading for Freeman’s replacement, Matt Olson, effectively closing the door on a potential Freeman return. Freeman’s very sad statement to MLB.com does not exactly deny that the teary weekend led to Close’s firing:
During the press conference, a reporter did ask Freeman about any regrets, and while his answer started with “I have no regrets,” that became less convincing as he continued talking. “The regret question is a whole different side of the story that I’m not here to talk about … Because if I got into that, we would be here a long time. And the emotion would change. Big time,” he said, pausing to thank the reporter for a question that helped him stop crying. He once more blew his nose into what was at this point a completely wrecked towel. “I think people that know me know a little bit about what happened a few months ago, so I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Freeman’s longing might not be mutual. Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. said in an Instagram Live interview in April that he and Freeman had clashed over things like wearing eye black and sunglasses. (They did hug this past weekend when Acuña reached first base.) And the Braves, surging in the NL East, are doing OK without him. In one of the more awkward moments of the series, Olson singled and accidentally hit Freeman in the face as he celebrated getting on base.
If he found some relief in firing his agent, Freeman will still have to suffer in the Dodgers dugout for now. When asked about Freeman’s return to Atlanta, teammate Clayton Kershaw said, “He’s obviously been a big contributor for our team. And I hope we’re not second fiddle. It’s a pretty special team over here, too.” Yeesh. There’s one way to resolve some of this tension: The Braves should trade Matt Olson for Freddie Freeman, straight up.