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MLB

Freddie Freeman fires his agent after Atlanta visit

Just days after an emotional return to Atlanta’s Truist Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman has parted company with his agent

Update:
Just days after an emotional return to Atlanta’s Truist Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman has parted company with his agent
Dale ZanineUSA TODAY Sports

Nobody represented the Atlanta Braves and all that they stood for going into the 2021 World Series more than Freddie Freeman. The standout, five-time All Star was a draftee of the Braves organization, directly out of high school, and worked his way up through the minors into the Show. From the young kid to the bedrock veteran, he was Atlanta Braves baseball through and through.

When his contract ended after their 2021 World Series win, the Braves organization found themselves acting in direct conflict with the fanbase and, it would now appear, with Freeman himself. Adored by the public, the consensus view among the Fulton County faithful was that no price was too high, no deal too sweet, to keep the Southern California boy playing first base in Atlanta.

When it was announced that he had signed a bumper six-year $162 million deal with the Dodgers, hearts were naturally broken across Georgia, but none held it personally against Freeman. Sanguinely noting that while he may love Atlanta, Los Angeles is actually where he is from and a return to California for Freeman would be bittersweet to Braves fans but a homecoming for the man. Fans cheered him on, if perhaps hoping that the Dodgers didn’t do too well in the National League, but happy for Freddie that he was continuing to make magic happen, albeit in Chavez Ravine, and actually being paid what he was worth.

On Friday, the Dodgers travelled to Atlanta for the first time with Freeman on the roster. In a ceremony before the game, Freddie was given his World Series ring to a warm, almost loving, reception by the Atlanta crowd. A visibly emotional Freeman took some Dodger fans aback with the level of feeling that was shown both to him and by him.

Back in November, Freeman was quoted as saying that “It means everything to put on that Braves uniform everyday, so hopefully I can continue to do that,” but it was assumed that once he got back home to California, all thoughts of Atlanta would subside. Not so easily done, it would appear.

In a shocking, yet not quite so shocking move, Freeman has now fired the agency that represented him during the offseason negotiations, Excel Sports Management. Reportedly in shock and angered by the way that his free agency panned out in March, Freeman is now listed with baseball’s central system as being “self-represented”.

Speaking to MLB.com, Freeman said, “Last weekend in Atlanta was a very emotional time for me and my family. I am working through some issues with my longtime agents at Excel. My representation remains a fluid situation and I will update if needed.”

Initially expecting to deal with the Braves only, Freddie was reportedly shocked by the way the negotiations ended, the signing of Matt Olson effectively making any deal with Atlanta impossible. The idea that he would play anywhere else seemed to take Freddie by surprise. After all, he was a franchise man, from soup to nuts. The Braves are the longest running professional baseball franchise in operation and in the more than 150 years that they have been around, only four players have ever won both an MVP and championship. Johnny Evers, Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, and Freddie Freeman. Rare company, indeed.

None of this is suggesting that Freeman is looking to leave the Dodgers, or even that he is unhappy there. On the contrary, he seems to be content at his reception by the fans and his play bears that out, hitting .304 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 72 games.

More likely that this is a statement that he is making to Excel Sports Management, and particularly Casey Close, the lead agent in the off season’s negotiations. While the focus of the agency was on securing a higher payday, carrying naturally a higher commission for themselves, perhaps not enough attention was given to the desire of the player.

To Close it may have all just been hard-nosed negotiations to get towards a bigger bottom line. The best deal possible. But to Freeman, it was all about getting the best deal possible with Atlanta. The hard-ball tactics backfired and the door to the Braves was firmly, and unexpectedly, closed.

Whether Freeman returns to the Excel fold or not, whether he continues to self-represent, hires another agent, or appoints his cousin to talk for him, none of that makes any difference. It doesn’t even matter, and I know that Dodger fans will disagree, but it doesn’t matter if he plays in LA or not. What matters is that he has made a clear stand that agents must heed, at their own peril.

The bottom line isn’t what is the biggest payday. The bottom line is what is best for your client. Or didn’t you watch Jerry Maguire? The take-away of that film wasn’t “show me the money”, it was “you complete me”. And for many Atlanta Braves fans, Freddie Freeman completes that team.

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