Alex Anthopoulos said he was too busy Friday to tune in to Freddie Freeman’s introductory news conference as a Dodger. By the end of the day, the Atlanta Braves’ president of baseball operations had struck a deal with former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to complete an indirect exchange of franchise cornerstones between the teams.
But Anthopoulos saw clips of Freeman’s introduction. And he noticed Freeman’s seething frustration with the Braves. At one point, Freeman was asked if he had watched the clip of Anthopoulos choking up talking to media last Monday after he acquired first baseman Matt Olson to unofficially end Freeman’s time in Atlanta.
“I saw ‘em,” Freeman said. “Yup. That’s all I’ll say.”
The terse answer came with an underlying message: Freeman, at best, didn’t care for the tears — if he thought they were real at all. He said the Braves’ decision to acquire Olson “blindsided” him. He thought it was an unjustifiably cold move.
On Sunday, Anthopoulos insisted the tears were real. He extolled the 2020 National League most valuable player for his play on the field and presence off it. He described Freeman as “a partner in a lot of ways” whom he sometimes viewed as an assistant general manager. He credited Freeman for his starring role in his four-year run of success leading the Braves’ front office.
“At the end of the day, he's going to be a Brave forever,” said Anthopoulos, who worked in the Dodgers’ front office for two years before joining the Braves in November 2017. “It’s a wave of emotions. Just like he said. Everyone's human. You have a wave of emotions. You're not human if you don't have emotion, right?
“It's a sad day, no matter how you slice it up. For our clubhouse, for our fans, for me personally. And that's being human and that's just the reality of it. And you can't be with someone for four years and grow close to them and go through what we've been through together and not have emotions.”
In contrast, Jansen on Sunday said he left the Dodgers on good terms after steady communication with team officials.
In Freeman’s version of events, the Braves’ final formal extension offer came at the trade deadline last season. He said team officials called him just twice during the offseason — once before the lockout and once after. He was then shocked when he saw the Braves traded for Olson and quickly give him an eight-year contract extension.
Anthopoulos disputed Freeman’s account without going into details.
“I don't have the facts the same way,” Anthopoulos said. “But I wasn't dealing with Freddie, so I can't speak to where he's getting his information from. I know Freddie. He's got a heart of gold. He's accountable. He's honest and we just don't have the same facts. And that's OK. But I wasn't dealing with him directly.”
It'll be remembered as an ugly divorce between a franchise and one of its icons. Freeman will flip the page for good Tuesday in his Cactus League debut with the Dodgers. He’ll see his former team when the Braves visit Los Angeles for a three-game series in mid-April and again when the Dodgers go to Atlanta in late June.
An October clash, the fourth in fifth years between the clubs, would serve as a fitting final chapter.
“He's in an unbelievable place,” Anthopoulos said. “It's an amazing organization. It's an amazing city. It's an amazing group of people — from the coaches, the manager, the front office, the general manager, the ownership group, the president. I mean, I know those people. It's a phenomenal place to be with a perennial contender and an incredible club.
“And what he's done in Atlanta, for Atlanta, that should be honored and respected forever.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.