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Freeman, umpires differ on his role in fracas

ATLANTA -- The Braves were fortunate none of their players were injured during the benches-clearing confrontation that developed after Carlos Gomez admired a solo home run and then completed a slow, animated home run trot during the first inning of Milwaukee's 4-0 win on Wednesday night at Turner Field.

Now they can only hope Freddie Freeman does not receive any significant punishment for his involvement in the fracas. Freeman said he did nothing more than attempt to separate players in the scrum that developed near the plate. The umpires who ejected him had a different take.

"When the group got together, you can see on the video very well, Freeman was overaggressive," crew chief Dana DeMuth said. "Right when he came in, he went boom with an elbow, which we saw, and it caught the third baseman [Aramis] Ramirez. That right there is just like throwing a punch. That is overaggressive. That number one calls for an ejection. What we saw out there was the same as we saw [on video]. There was nobody else that was overly aggressive, other than Gomez, of course."

While Freeman might have inadvertently struck Ramirez, who was forced to exit two innings later with a sore left knee, he adamantly told reporters that he did not throw a punch and was not acting in an aggressive manner as he simply attempted to move the pile.

"I don't know if they just picked the biggest guy in the pile and kicked him out, or I don't know what was going on," Freeman said. "It was just one of those things that's unfortunate. It's a tough game, and unfortunately I got kicked out in the first inning for doing nothing, so it's a little frustrating."

While Major League Baseball could issue further punishment to both Freeman and Gomez within the next day or two, both players would have the ability to appeal, which would set up the possibility that they could be suspended at the start of next season. The 2014 season, coincidently, begins with the Braves opening up in Milwaukee.

Even if Freeman is issued a suspension, it would not apply to the postseason. But as they trail the Cardinals by a half-game in the battle for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs, the Braves need his powerful presence in the lineup for the final four games of the regular season.

"I don't know what Freeman did to get ejected," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "They told me he was throwing punches. I haven't seen the video. Some of the guys who have seen the video say he wasn't throwing any punches. Anyway, it was just a weird start of a game. There were a lot of guys on both sides who were surprised the way that whole thing went down."

Still miffed by the fact Paul Maholm had hit him in the left knee with a pitch on June 23, Gomez chose to admire the solo shot he hit off Maholm in the first inning. His slow trip around the bases drew words from Freeman as he rounded first and created a unique confrontation with catcher Brian McCann, who stood in Gomez's way, not about to let the Brewer have the pleasure of reaching home plate after the trot heard 'round the world.

This led both benches and bullpens to clear. Gomez never touched the plate during the ensuing melee, during which he was hit in the face by Reed Johnson. But he was still awarded the run because of the obvious obstruction ruling.

McCann also got in Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez's face after he admired the home run he hit off Mike Minor at Marlins Park on Sept. 11. The only difference -- he first allowed Fernandez to touch the plate.

"Mac doesn't stand for that stuff," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "I don't think Mac was interested in having that kid go home and touch home plate, so he met him halfway up the line and had some words for him. But he handled it the way a true pro should handle it and back up his pitcher."

Gomez apologized for his actions and said he understood and respected the reactions from both McCann and other Braves players.

"It's not good for the game, but it happened and you can't control it," Gomez said.

Gonzalez certainly agreed with this assessment.

"I think it was embarrassing for a professional baseball player to handle himself that way," Gonzalez said.

Now, Gonzalez and the rest of the Braves can only hope Freeman does not receive any substantial punishment from MLB.

"I don't want a suspension for that," Gonzalez said. "We lost our number three hitter during the course of the game. OK, fine. But I don't want anything else going forward from our league office because I don't think he did anything else to deserve that kind of punishment."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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