After returning to Atlanta last weekend, crying hard there and then firing his agent for allegedly mishandling the free agency negotiations that led him to sign with the Dodgers and not his beloved Braves this offseason , Freddie Freeman said Tuesday night that “there has to be a closure. It’s time. I’m a Dodger.” This all sounds nice and sane, although it’s funny for a few reasons. First, just three days earlier, Freeman had protested the idea says Ken Rosenthal in an interview, “I’m not aiming for a degree. I don’t want to close something that was so special to me.” Whatever’s been going on between Freeman, his former agent Casey Close, and the Braves has since escalated to the point where the “closure” doesn’t look like it will they will take place in the foreseeable future.
ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported on the failed negotiations between Freeman’s camp and the Braves in March, when the departure of the first baseman from his 15-year organization “felt like the divorce of a seemingly happy couple.” The March story said the Braves made Freeman a five-year, $135 million offer prior to the lockout. But the deadline for closing deals dwindled when the lockout ended and when it did, Close sent the Braves two higher propositions with an hour to respond. That deadline passed without the Braves accepting or coming close to a proposal; they just made a slightly higher counter offer than their original amount. Believing the deadline meant another team was in the mix, the Braves front office assumed negotiations were over and moved on to bringing on Matt Olson as Freeman’s replacement at first base. Olney’s follow-up report, released Tuesday after Freeman fired Close, said Freeman “discussed events during talks with Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos over the weekend and appears to have made his peace with the organization.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Doug Gottlieb (of dubious credibility here) added a inflammatory allegation to the story: He tweeted that Close had never made the Braves’ final offer to Freeman and this Freeman, who would have accepted it had he known, only found out about it over the weekend. Close denied that in an opinion issued by his agency, Excel Sports, Wednesday evening: “Doug Gottlieb tweeted a completely inaccurate characterization of our negotiations with the Atlanta Braves on behalf of Freddie Freeman. We will immediately examine all legal options to take action against the reckless publication of incorrect information.” In another statement sports illustratedClose said he would testify under oath that Gottlieb was wrong.
Asked about all of that on Wednesday, Freeman had no comment. He’s looking for closure! The players involved have decided to take their frustration out on the innocent baseball. On Wednesday night, against the Rockies, Freeman scored in the first spot he saw. Perhaps he imagined it was Casey Close’s head, which he’d flung onto the seats through the thin Colorado air.
Dodgers fans and Braves fans alike may wish the story ended soon. But consider that an imagined rivalry could lead to a very good baseball. Not to be outdone, Matt Olson, the poor guy stuck between Braves fans and Freeman while they publicly pine for each other, has been really picking it up lately. He reminded everyone he’s still here and an absolutely 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 that this is happening to him. “Obviously what he did on the field was a great time, but it’s definitely not easy to deal with all the stuff that’s happened off the field when you know the history of everything,” Braves said -Starter Kyle Wright. “He was just super mature, super professional.”