Why Freddie Freeman feels extra settled this yr with Dodgers
He sneaked up behind Mookie Betts and lifted him into the air. He bear hugged Gavin Lux. He exchanged smiles with Max Muncy.
Instead of nervously taking in a wierd new atmosphere, Freddie Freeman was catching up with buddies.
“It’s nice knowing everybody now,” Freeman mentioned of reporting to spring coaching this yr in comparison with final yr.
Freeman values consolation, which is why the All-Star first baseman is taking extra measures to really feel extra at residence in his second season with the Dodgers.
He’s in search of a house nearer to Dodger Stadium to cut back his 90-minute commute from Orange County.
And final week, he spent near an hour on a golf cart parked by the Dodgers’ administrative places of work at Camelback Ranch explaining how he thinks and the way he works.
Freeman wasn’t occupied with revisiting our battle from final yr, which centered on my objections over how he tried to painting himself as some type of sufferer when the Dodgers performed at his longtime baseball residence in Atlanta. His desire was to begin over.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time together,” he mentioned.
What was very noticeable final yr, and once more right here, was how a lot Freeman needs to be favored.
Freeman didn’t disagree with the characterization. He acknowledged it was “very fair” to imagine that a part of him made transferring from the Braves to the Dodgers notably troublesome.
“I think anybody that goes into a new job, you never really know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to go,” Freeman mentioned. “The first day I walked in here not knowing anybody in this clubhouse, other than the guys I played against, that it’s a little unnerving. You’re always going to be a little unsettled your first couple of days.”
How human of him. How bizarre.
In the world of competitors, outcomes result in acceptance, and there aren’t many safer bets in baseball to provide outcomes than Freddie Freeman, who batted a cumulative .305 in his last six years with the Braves.
Manny Ramirez walked into the Dodgers clubhouse and straight away behaved as if he owned the place. He knew he’d produce.
Yasiel Puig walked into the identical room and straight away behaved as if he owned the place. He at the least thought he’d produce.
“That’s not me,” Freeman mentioned with amusing.
Freeman acquired the reassurance he was in search of final yr within the Dodgers’ residence opener, when just about everybody within the stadium began chanting his identify after he doubled within the eighth inning of a win over the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s almost like they knew I needed a little oomph to get going,” he mentioned. “It was a relief that all the fans took to me and my family.”
The chants continued all through the season. By the time the Dodgers staged FanFest earlier this month, followers had been chanting not solely his identify but additionally his 6-year-old son Charlie’s. He has grow to be one of the crucial fashionable gamers on the staff, alongside Betts, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias.
Freeman provided audiences causes to cheer. He exhibited a aptitude for the dramatic, hitting at any time when he had one thing to show.
He homered in his first at-bat in opposition to his former staff, which was at Dodger Stadium in mid-April. He was 4 for 12 with three walks within the Dodgers’ three-game collection in Atlanta two months later. He collected 4 hits on the day the unique listing of All-Stars was launched and he was excluded from the National League staff. (He was later added as a substitute for a participant who dropped out.)
Heck, he went on a tear after I wrote a column that was crucial of him.
“Which one?” he requested. “You wrote two.”
For argument’s sake, let’s say the primary one, which was revealed on-line on July 1. Freeman batted .345 within the 84 video games that remained after that exact column appeared. He completed the season batting .325 with 21 homers and 100 runs batted in.
But Freeman pushed again in opposition to the view that he purposefully elevated his recreation in crucial moments.
“I’m not trying to rise,” he mentioned. “I’m trying to stay [even].”
Freeman ran his hand throughout the air in a straight line.
“My goal every year is to play 162,” he mentioned, “and for [manager Dave Roberts] to be able to be able to pencil me in and have no worries. That’s all I can try and do.
“If you rise, you’re going to fall.”
He mentioned he tries to stay emotionally degree when enjoying baseball, no matter what’s going on round him, no matter what turmoil he’s experiencing off the sphere.
However, the consistency shouldn’t be mistaken for a scarcity of depth, Freeman saying he tries to present every part he has, whether or not he’s enjoying in a recreation or getting ready for one.
Freeman’s description of himself matched what Roberts mentioned about him. While Roberts noticed a scarcity of vitality from his staff when it misplaced to the San Diego Padres within the National League Division Series, he mentioned the outline didn’t apply to Freeman, who batted .357 within the 4 video games.
Roberts mainly mentioned that Freeman didn’t must rise to the event as a result of he was already there.
“He doesn’t take a pitch off” your complete season, Roberts mentioned.
With Freeman a yr extra snug, Roberts is hopeful he can unfold his type of constant depth all through the Dodgers clubhouse, calling him one of many candidates to interchange Justin Turner because the staff’s vocal chief.
But if that occurs, Freeman needs it to occur organically.
“If I come in and say, ‘I’m going to be the leader, guys,’ that’s weird, isn’t it?” Freeman mentioned with a chuckle.
Track data are foreign money in clubhouses, nevertheless, and Freeman is a six-time All-Star. I instructed him that if he speaks, folks will hear.
“For me, I do that one on one, sitting in a cage,” Freeman mentioned.
He’s taken a selected curiosity in two gamers who might resolve the course of the Dodgers’ season, Lux and Miguel Vargas. The youthful center infield pairing might return the Dodgers to their acquainted place as World Series favorites or fully blow up their season.
The beginning shortstop, the 25-year-old Lux, has performed nearly his complete main league profession at second base. Vargas, 22, is the projected starter at second despite the fact that he spent the vast majority of his time within the minors at third.
Vargas mentioned he performs the identical fielding drills as Freeman, together with ones on his knees and with a flat glove.
“I do the same exact routine he does,” Vargas mentioned in Spanish.
Lux cracked up when requested about Freeman’s affect on him, telling The Times’ Dodgers beat author, Jack Harris, that he retains his locker clear as a result of Freeman instructed him to. Freeman’s philosophy is that doing small issues appropriately will result in large issues.
“It’s like my dad telling me to do my chores,” Lux instructed Harris. “I don’t think there’s a better human being than Freddie Freeman, and he’s obviously a great player. So, when you mesh those two things up, when Freddie talks, you’re going to listen. Whatever he says, I’m probably going to end up doing it.”
Freeman is a superb participant. He’s confirmed that past any doubt over his 13-year profession. As far as Lux’s analysis of him as a human being, I’ll must see him in additional character-revealing moments with the staff earlier than I’m completely satisfied.
We have time. Including this yr, 5 assured years stay on his contract. Like he mentioned, we’re going to be spending loads of time collectively.