No love lost between Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) /

Freddie Freeman was introduced as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, but the bitterness of how he left the Atlanta Braves still stings

There will be a day when Freddie Freeman’s No. 5 Atlanta Braves jersey is hung from the third-level facade at Truist Park. When his statue is standing alongside those of Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox, and other Braves legends. But that day now seems further away than ever.

Freeman never wanted to leave the Braves, the organization that drafted him 15 years ago and nurtured him into becoming a World Series champion and National League MVP. He certainly never expected to leave the Braves. That became a reality, though, on Friday, when Freeman donned Dodger blue and was officially introduced as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers signed Freeman to a six-year, $162 million contract on Wednesday, adding the left-hander’s powerful bat to an already potent lineup that should be the favorites in the National League. It was the culmination of a long process that saw Freeman’s time in Atlanta come to a disappointing and acrimonious end.

The Braves rebuffed Freeman’s contract offer. No deal was reached last offseason, and there wasn’t any talk of a contract extension during the 2021 season. There was barely any communication between club and star player this offseason, either before or after the lockout. The Braves never called to tell him they were working on a trade for Matt Olson, Freeman’s eventual replacement at first base.

For a player who gave so much to the franchise, Freeman deserved better, and the bitterness he felt towards his former club was evident as he sat beside Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman at Camelback Ranch in Arizona on Friday.

“The communication wasn’t all there in the offseason. I got two phone calls all offseason. I got more from Andrew to my agents in a matter of a couple of hours,” Freeman said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

The Braves’ loss is the Dodgers’ gain. Friedman first explored the then-remote possibility Freeman would consider leaving the Braves around Thanksgiving when they had an hour-long conversation that touched on baseball and family. He called Freeman the day before the lockout, leaving a live performance from Nelly during Mookie Betts’ wedding. “Don’t forget about us,” was his message. On Monday, when the Braves traded for Olson, it became official: Freeman was available.

Freddie Freeman appreciates the opportunity to go home

Freeman lives in Southern California during the offseason with his wife, Chelsea, and their three children. His 68-year-old father and 86-year-old grandmother both live there. Having them able to come to his games, to see him play every day for the first time since he was in high school, mattered to him and was a key factor in his decision to sign with the Dodgers.

“I wanted to come home. If it wasn’t going to be the Braves, I think that was the best decision,” Freeman said. But that doesn’t mean it made leaving Atlanta any easier.

“I think Monday, the emotions were all over the place, to be honest,” he said. “When you spend someplace for 15 years and you see that chapter had got closed right then and there, I was all over the place. I didn’t really speak for a couple of hours, just trying to figure it all out.”

He’s now in a great spot, with a club that wanted him, appreciates his commitment to his family, and with the ability to win another World Series title. There is still a soft spot for the only organization he had known in his professional career, but Freeman seems perfectly content wearing a Dodgers jersey.

The hard feelings between Freeman and the Braves will take some time to heal. But they will, and the Braves will come to appreciate what they once had: a player who was one of the greatest in the long history of the franchise.

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