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You can’t go home again: In defense of Freddie Freeman

Or “The internet can be a mean place.”

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman is interviewed after receiving his 2021 World Series ring in Atlanta. June 24, 2022.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Nostalgia - noun

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations or

the suffering evoked by the desire to return to one’s place of origin.

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta’s prodigal son, returned to Atlanta for the first time as a Dodger this past weekend. He got emotional before the game, during the pregame press conference.

He got emotional when he finally received his 2021 World Series ring.

He got emotional during the game.

He was emotional after the game and throughout the weekend.

You would think that this reunion would be universally heartwarming. I did not think I would have to write about anything. However, parts of Twitter and Dodger media were not having it.

Heck, even Clayton Kershaw (really?!?) spoke up about it to the Atlanta media (double really?!?).

Atlanta Journal Constitution, Gabriel Burns, June 25, 2022:

“It was very cool (to see Freeman’s reception Friday night),” Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw told The AJC. “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. I think whenever he gets comfortable over here, he’ll really enjoy it. It was a good night for him (Friday).”

[emphasis added.]

Personally, this whole kerfuffle feels like a tempest in a teacup. But at this point, I am mildly surprised that people did not reference that famous scene from “A League of Their Own.” Who turns down an excuse to reference Tom Hanks - not this writer!

The internet is a mean, callous place sometimes. I bring that fact up because I have been professionally writing for this site for about half a year. If this gig were taken away from me, I would be quite sad as I do truly enjoy writing my perspectives about the Dodgers (and other Dodger-adjacent things). So I cannot fathom the following hypothetical.

Imagine the depth of loss of leaving a place where you got your start. They hired you, trained you, and were with you in the bad times, made you the face of the organization, and in a moment of crowning glory, you made it to the mountain top, in that you achieved the pinnacle of success in the profession.

Freddie Freeman caught Dansby Swanson’s throw to first for the final out Tuesday, retiring Yuli Gurriel to end the World Series.
Bob Levey/Getty Images

And along the way, you also happen to develop a reputation as one of the nicest and most beloved people in your job, if not the entire profession, as a whole.

And then, when it is time to re-up your contract, you are unceremoniously shown the door as the organization hires your younger replacement. I would be devastated and probably be vowing revenge (for a bit). Time would have to heal that wound personally.

Yes, this train of thought is a thinly veiled allegory of what happened to Freddie Freeman. And before anyone goes “Um, actually...” and starts listing a timeline of events, I am going to preempt that line of discussion by pointing out that at the end of the day, Atlanta did not re-sign Freeman regardless of who said what and I wrote at the time that the decision made no financial or baseball sense. It is not as if Freeman had transformed into Cody Bellinger. But Freeman’s departure has clearly been the Dodgers’ gain. It is worth noting that Freeman won over the fanbase and the City, even with its allegedly infamous lifestyle.

With all of this backstory in mind, this past weekend Freddie Freeman went home. As for baseball, prior to this year, Atlanta was the only organization he ever knew. Freddie Freeman went home after a tumultuous end. Any prodigal son worth his salt would show emotion at coming home. Heck, based on everything I know about the man, I would be surprised if he was not emotional.

If anything, the past couple of years has taught me that being cynical is so easy and lazy. Caring and showing emotion, and accordingly, being vulnerable enough to show that you care and be kind. I might be in the minority but I have no problem with what Freddie Freeman has done publicly in Atlanta on the weekend of June 24 to 26, 2022.

And, if there is anything I learned from talking with Mickey Jannis earlier this year, who is also a prince of a human being by the way, at the end of the day, professional athletes want to play. Now it might be different if an organization treated its players poorly, but for the most part, there is a line between childhood fandom and working in your profession as an adult. Case in point, see below:

Freddie Freeman is not going to secretly or openly play badly because he is playing in Los Angeles instead of Atlanta. Barring something extremely unexpected, he’s going to be the starting first baseman in Los Angeles for the next six years. Even Freddie Freeman is tired of this discussion:

And the Dodgers just won probably their game of the year, so far - in no small part, due to Freddie Freeman.