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Column: Freddie Freeman plays role of entitled athlete perfectly

Just when the Freddie Freeman saga couldn’t get any more sickening, it kind of did. The Dodgers’ new first baseman hid before the opening game of a four-game series against the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

The story of his divorce with the Atlanta Braves will not die because the image-conscious part of him is determined to rewrite history, and his tearful efforts to continue playing the victim reveal that he is the archetype of the eligible athlete.

Good that he strikes.

Freeman has spent the last three months on a bizarre PR campaign trying to convince Atlanta fans that he didn’t leave the Braves for money, even though he now plays for the Dodgers because his former team wouldn’t make him the deal wanted that he was looking for.

This is a classic case of wanting it both ways — in this particular case, you want both the security of his six-year contract with the Dodgers and the adoration he once enjoyed with the Braves.

Freddie Freeman hugs former Braves teammate Marcell Ozuna during a game June 25 in Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman hugs former Braves teammate Marcell Ozuna during a game June 25 in Atlanta.

(Bob Andres / Associated Press)

There’s something repulsive about a 32-year-old man not accepting the consequences of his decisions, especially when the consequences include paying $162 million to play for a World Series contender in his hometown. In a new series set in Atlanta, Freeman acted like he was a prisoner released for the weekend, sobbing uncontrollably at a press conference and spending a lot of time at the Braves’ clubhouse.

Clayton Kershaw gave a glimpse of what the Dodgers were thinking when he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I hope we’re not second fiddle.”

I was open to the possibility that I was missing something, which is why I waited for Freeman and the Dodgers to return from their Three-City trip to write this column. On Thursday, a team spokesman conveyed my thoughts to Freeman and invited me on my behalf to clarify any misunderstandings I might have. He refused.

Freeman again declined when I approached him after the Dodgers’ 3-1 win that night.

“This chapter is closed,” he said. “It’s an opinion piece anyway. Nobody knows the truth.”

How convenient.

Freeman said little earlier in the week when it was announced he was ending his relationship with Excel Sports Management. (In a statement he released to MLB.com, Freeman described his relationship with the agency as “fluid.”)

The subtext was clear: Freeman blamed the agency for leaving the Braves.

Shortly after, Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb tweeted that Freeman fired Excel after learning that Agent Casey Close never told him about the last offer the Braves made him before he traded for a replacement first baseman traded into Matt Olson. Close knew Freeman would have accepted the offer, Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb isn’t known as a baseball insider and the report hasn’t been confirmed by anyone else, but the story made the rounds anyway. Close refuted the story twice on Twitter, calling Gottlieb’s report “completely inaccurate” on Wednesday and accusing the Braves of spreading a “false narrative” on Thursday.

Dodgers' Freddie Freeman reacts emotionally when Braves manager Brian Snitker presents him with his World Series ring.

Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers reacts as Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker presents him with his championship ring June 24 in Atlanta.

(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

By refusing to address the situation in detail, Freeman let the allegations of Close’s alleged wrongdoing rest. Freeman also avoided answering questions about his role in the failed negotiations.

Close and the other agents at Excel worked for Freeman, not the other way around. If they got a tough deal, it’s because Freeman paid them to do it. Even if Gottlieb’s story were true, nothing stopped Freeman from picking up the phone, calling Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and making a deal of his own. Freeman would not have been the first player to sign a new contract after refusing his agent’s advice. That’s what Jered Weaver did when he signed a subpar five-year $85 million extension with the Angels in 2011.

Freeman, of course, had no interest in speaking out, as he’s constantly blamed others for his breakup with the Braves.

He initially pointed the finger at the Braves, complaining at his inaugural press conference about their sporadic discussions with him about a new deal.

I wrote at the time and I still think the Braves should have offered him a six-year deal. What Freeman refuses to acknowledge, however, is that when they held the line after five years, he was given a choice: return to the Braves on their terms, or bet he could eventually force them to do it to him to give extra year.

“All the time Freddie wanted years,” his father Fred told The Times’ Jack Harris.

Nothing wrong with that. He’s earned the right to make that call.

But his carefully crafted public persona didn’t allow him to say he was chasing the bag rather than securing his return to the Braves. When his attempt to blame his former team backfired and turned his fans against him, Freeman changed his approach. In a seemingly calculated ploy to win her back, he kissed and reconciled with Anthopoulos. At some point between then and now, he blamed Close.

What a disappointment, a player who is viewed as class and acts like he is a third rate politician from Braves Country. Between that and what Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. said earlier this year about not missing Freeman, one has to wonder if his reputation was truly deserved.

Good that he strikes.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-01/dodgers-freddie-freeman-plays-role-of-entitled-athlete-perfectly-braves Column: Freddie Freeman plays role of entitled athlete perfectly

Emma Bowman

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