MVFree: Freddie wins 1st NL MVP Award

After four top-10 finishes, Braves 1B claims honor

November 13th, 2020

ATLANTA -- Nearly a decade after picking up his phone to hear say, “I think it’s time we start to hang out,” can now compare MVP Awards with the Hall of Fame third baseman. 

Freeman was named the National League MVP when the balloting results were announced on Thursday night. The 31-year-old first baseman became the first Braves player to win an MVP Award since Jones in 1999.

“I don’t think anybody can ever dream of winning an MVP,” Freeman said. “As a kid, you’re just dreaming of one day being on TV, like the guys you’re watching. For it to come like this, it’s just amazing. I’ve had good years in the past. This year, it just all came together from start to finish.”

Freeman won his first NL MVP Award after finishing within the top 10 in balloting four previous times. He received 28 of the 30 first-place votes cast by select members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and the Padres’ Manny Machado were the other finalists for the award.

Moments after the results were announced, Jones posted a tweet congratulating Freeman and challenging him to garner this honor again next year. The two have shared a strong friendship over the past decade. Freeman’s first two full seasons with the Braves were the last two seasons of Jones’ career.

As Freeman received congratulatory texts from Jones, 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, Dan Uggla and many of his other friends from the baseball world, he was at his California home surrounded by family. He shared a heartfelt hug with his father, Fred, whose parental duties expanded when Freddie’s mother died of melanoma when he was just 10 years old.

Freeman had another emotional loss in March, when his grandmother died.

“It was a tough year for the Freeman family, how it started off with losing my grandmother,” Freeman said. “But I’ve got a couple angels up there. I think they really helped me get through this season and helped me win this award.”

Braves designated hitter drew a pair of third-place votes and finished sixth in the balloting. Ozuna belted an NL-best 18 homers as he spent the season batting behind Freeman, who hit .341 with 13 home runs and a 1.102 OPS during the 60-game regular season.

Freeman led the Majors with 51 runs scored and ranked second in the NL in batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.462), slugging percentage (.640), OPS (1.102) and wRC+ (187). The only player who finished ahead of him in each of those five categories was the Nationals’ Juan Soto, who logged just 196 plate appearances, 66 fewer than Freeman.

Freeman tipped his cap to Ozuna, and -- teammates who produced around him in the lineup.

“[Ozuna] is the reason I’m here,” Freeman said. “He was behind me, and Ronald was in front of me. I had damage around me. Having a right-left-right arrangement, with the three-batter rule, it’s really hard to bring in a lefty, especially with d’Arnaud hitting fourth and the way he swung it this year. I just had more opportunities to do damage. That’s because of Ronald, Marcell and Travis.”

As Freeman produced a MLB-high 3.4 fWAR, he distanced himself from the scare he received on July 2, when he tested positive for COVID-19. He prayed, “Please don’t take me,” after his fever rose to 104.5 degrees.

Freeman, who lost eight pounds during his illness, rejoined the team’s Summer Camp workouts six days before the regular season began. He crammed approximately 30 plate appearances over four days of intrasquad and exhibition games and then accepted the challenge of facing the Mets’ Jacob deGrom on Opening Day.

Freeman spent the first few weeks regaining his timing and strength. Through his first 15 games, he hit .200 with two homers and a .713 OPS. He then responded by hitting .384 with 11 homers and a MLB-best 1.220 OPS from Aug. 9 through the end of the season.

“It really is amazing,” Freeman said. “To take a step back and see how my first two weeks started, I was just trying to play so well so fast. I think I kind of asked too much of myself when I only had five days [to prepare]. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to do that. It just took me a couple weeks.”

Freeman joins Jones, (1991) and (1982 and ’83) as Braves players to win the NL MVP Award since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. (1957) and Bob Elliott (1947) are the franchise’s other winners.

“I went to dinner with Ryan Howard about a week ago,” Freeman said, “and he said, ‘When you put those initials [MVP] after your name, that changes everything.”