When the Braves were beaten by the Cardinals in the 2019 NLDS, much of the blame fell at the feet of star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who batted a paltry .200/.273/.400 with multiple defensive miscues during the series. Freeman has been a steady, reliable performer in his career, which made his struggles in October even more perplexing. After the Braves were eliminated it was revealed that the Freeman would undergo surgery on his right elbow, which had reportedly been a nagging source of discomfort for much of the second-half. The extent of that discomfort was relatively unknown prior to Monday, when Jeff Schultz wrote about the injury.
He took a cortisone injection, then a couple of painkiller shots. He started taking two painkillers (20 milligrams of an undisclosed drug) from head trainer George Poulis just minutes before each game.
“If I wasn’t taking the really hard pain pills, I was taking as many extra strength Tylenols as I could,” he said.
He wouldn’t take the painkillers too close to game time because “It would make my vision go kind of blurry.”
These details paint a more gruesome picture of what Freeman endured during the second-half of the 2019 season. Disappointment and anger are natural reactions to an athlete’s failures, especially in the postseason, but the degree to which Freeman was debilitated, as detailed by Schultz, makes it difficult to fault the 30-year-old for his shortcomings. Schultz elaborated further on the mental strain that Freeman dealt with, including extensive sleep loss, due to the round-the-clock discomfort in his right elbow. Reprieve from the pain proved elusive for much of the season, and left Freeman exhausted by season’s end.
The argument regarding whether or not Freeman should have played is nuanced, in that Freeman has been the face of the franchise through good times and bad, which makes his participation in postseason games more palatable regardless of health. Except, the postseason is not a time for wasted at-bats, defensive misgivings, and overall poor performance. To prefer another Braves player at first base during the 2019 postseason is not a cardinal sin, nor an indictment of the career of Freeman, but rather an acknowledgment that stars are only stars when their health permits. A debilitated player is a liability, and Freeman was exactly that in October. Braves fans may never forgive Freeman for struggling or Snitker for allowing him to play, but at least they will now do so with full knowledge of how much was sacrificed by Freeman in his unyielding desire to continue playing in 2019.
The Braves got significant contributions in the first inning from outfield prospects Drew Waters and Cristian Pache, who each produced an RBI single and a stolen base. The game took a turn for the worse quickly thereafter, as Max Fried recorded just one out before being lifted. The Braves fell to the Blue Jays 4-3.
The Braves placed six players Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects List, which was released on Monday. Law had aggressive rankings on multiple Braves, including Cristian Pache and Braden Shewmake, but notably left Drew Waters absent from the list entirely. His omission drew (ha) the ire of Braves fans, but hopefully Law will shed some light via chat in the coming days.
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