Wiedmer: Could it be that Freddie Freeman regrets leaving the Braves?


We all have them. The road not taken as much as the path we chose. The girl or guy we let go or never pursued. The job we turned down or the one we took.

It's life, in all its frailties and uncertainties.

And on Friday afternoon at Truist Park, former Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman seemed to have at least a few regrets about his decision this spring to say good-bye to the team he played and starred on for 12 years in favor of the team he watched as a youth in Southern California - the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Said Freeman during a pregame interview: "The regret question is a whole different side of the story that I'm not here to talk about because I think, one on one, the people I've talked to know that's a different side of it. Cause if I got into that, oh, we'd be here a long time."

Exactly what he regrets, he never said. Maybe he regretted letting the question of whether or not he'd remain a Brave drag on for so long. Maybe he regretted seeming to hint that Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn't do enough to keep him before making a trade with the Oakland Athletics that, in essence, brought in Freeman's replacement, Matt Olson, before the longtime Brave was officially out the door.

Maybe he regrets leaving a place he has said on more than one occasion "will always be home" for his childhood home in Orange County, not terribly far from Dodger Stadium.

But reading the words spoken at that afternoon presser and watching him choke back tears 15 minutes before Friday night's first pitch as Braves skipper Brian Snitker presented him with his World Series ring and the crowd loudly chanted, "Fred-eeee, Fred-eeee, Fred-eeee!" called to mind two well-known sayings filled with regret:

A) You never know what you've got until it's gone.

B) The grass is always greener on the other side.

It's not like Freeman has erred financially, though it could certainly be argued if he wasn't penny wise and pound foolish when one factors in the cost of living in Southern California as opposed to suburban Atlanta.

In fact, if the numbers tossed about are accurate, his yearly salary with the Braves for the five-year, $135 million contract they offered him would come out to the same $27 million per year he's getting to be a Dodger for his six-year deal with L.A.

Don't get me wrong: $27 million is $27 million. That would be a lot of money to leave on the table. But contracts can be renegotiated. And while the cost of living in California over six years may not come out to $27 mil more than the Big Peach, it is likely enough more to have remained a Brave.

For proof, merely consider the price of gas in Atlanta compared to L.A. According to AAA, a gallon of regular unleaded in Georgia's capital city went for $4.49 on average this past week. That same gallon of gas in SoCal went for $6.33, or $1.84 more. And it's doubtful the Freemans are driving vehicles drinking regular unleaded.

Point is, to return to a line uttered by Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who spent his entire career in Atlanta: "If you want to play in Atlanta, you play in Atlanta. You maybe take a little less to be happy and play in a place that is comfortable for you."

This is where everything about Freeman's exit becomes difficult, muddled, a conundrum. No one could watch Friday night's festivities, or clips from the afternoon press conference, and feel like Freeman is completely happy being a Dodger.

Even Hollywood's best actors can't fake tears and emotion in the same way they poured from No. 5's eyes and mouth prior to the start of L.A.'s eventual 4-1 win. He was clearly struggling, and he later said of the overwhelmingly positive reception he received from Braves Country: "Couldn't feel my legs for a few innings. I tried to envision what tonight was going to be like, and this far exceeded my expectations. It was just a special, special evening."

Indeed, it was.

And the fans Freeman left behind did so much to make it so. Or as Snitker told television reporters just before the game began: "Couldn't be more proud of our fan base and how they reacted to this."

But should it have come to this?

In some ways, you even wonder if Atlanta's brass was all that determined to keep him. After all, the Olson deal was reached before Freeman inked with Dodger Blue. One could argue that Anthopoulos was almost happy to move on with a younger version of his All-Star first baseman, especially because Olson grew up in Atlanta and would seem to want to play out his career there.

Of course, had Freeman really wanted to stay, he could just as easily have met with the Atlanta front office after last season's world championship, told them he'd take anything reasonable - let's say $24 million over six years ($144 mil total) - made such a request public, and Friday night would surely have been a whole lot less emotional, just two great franchises playing an early summer game under the Truist Park lights.

Instead, it was all about Freddie coming home to where his heart still seems to be, rather than the area code where he hits the pillow most nights.

Said Braves radio announcer Chip Caray on Friday, referring to the famous line in "A League of their Own": "Yes, indeed, there's crying in baseball and there's nothing wrong with that."

No, there's not. But when Freeman told the crowd, his eyes watering and his voice cracking, "I love Braves Country and I always will," you also can't help but wonder if No. 5 wouldn't rather best be playing for Atlanta instead of L.A.

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

Upcoming Events