Hardships of '15 have Freeman eyeing future
Braves first baseman calls season frustrating, but is eager to come out on other side
ATLANTA -- This offseason, the Braves sat down with Freddie Freeman to explain how trading Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis could benefit the club in the future.
The young first baseman appreciated the gesture, and he walked away from the late January meeting with a better understanding of the plan. Still, the 25-year-old first baseman could not prepare himself for what transpired this year, when the physical pain he endured over the past 3 1/2 months might have actually been trumped by the mental anguish created by the team's second half.
"You knew it was going to be tough going into the year, but I don't think you could have wrapped your mind around having a season like this," Freeman said.
As the Braves find themselves needing to win one of their final six games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1988, one can only wonder how things might have transpired had Freeman not injured his right wrist while taking a swing during a June 13 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
When Freeman injured his wrist, he was hitting .307 with 12 home runs. He ranked ninth in the National League with a .907 OPS and he was on pace for the first 30-homer season of his career. Since then, he has spent eight weeks on the disabled list and played a total of 51 games, hitting .243 with six homers and a .761 OPS.
Freeman also suffered an oblique strain that sidelined him through a significant portion of August. He's spent the past few weeks playing through lingering discomfort caused by his previously sprained right wrist. He wants to play each of this season's final six games, but the pain was significant enough for him to exit Sunday's series finale in Miami.
"If I can stay healthy, I think we all know what can happen on the field," said Freeman, who produced a .871 OPS over the 2013 and '14 seasons. "That's the frustrating part this year -- a swing in June injures my wrist and has caused the pain I've continued to feel. It's just frustrating, because I couldn't do anything about that. It's just been frustrating this year."
Even though it might have been in their best interest to continue making moves this year to strengthen their future, the Braves have lost 52 of their past 72 games dating back to July 8 . They encountered some success after Freeman was initially sidelined in June, but they benefitted from a lineup that included Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson -- both of whom were traded to the Mets on July 21. The Braves' already-thin bullpen was weakened by Jason Grilli's season-ending Achilles injury on July 11 and decimated by the July 30 trade that sent Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan to the Dodgers as part of the Hector Olivera deal.
Freeman might not have been enough to prevent the Braves from experiencing a second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1990. But his healthy presence might have at least allowed these past couple of months to be more manageable from a psychological standpoint.
"It's been a frustrating season for everybody, from a personal standpoint and team-wise," Freeman said. "Nobody wants this, but I think the gratification of coming out on the other side is going to be that much more fulfilling. When you come back on top after you've fallen, it's a better story."