Braves’ Freddie Freeman Sets a Moving Example

On May 17, a fastball by Toronto’s Aaron Loup shattered Freeman’s left wrist. For a temporary replacement at first base, the Braves acquired Matt Adams in a trade with St. Louis. As Freeman recovered, Adams became an important part of their lineup. Freeman offered to play third base when he returned.

Freeman can be the Braves’ cornerstone, with an eight-year, $135 million contract. He had played no position although first base since 2007, when he logged all 5 games at third as a 17-year-old prospect within the Gulf Coast League. His request startled the Braves, although Freeman — who can be 6 feet 5 in addition to 222 pounds — insisted that will he wanted to try.

“Freddie can be one of the best team leaders in addition to one of the most selfless players I’ve ever met,” General Manager John Coppolella said. “All This particular guy wants to do can be win. He’s been an oak throughout This particular rebuild. The first hint he even had of winning, he was willing to put himself in harm’s way in addition to move across the diamond to help make the Braves better.”

Freeman held his own at third base for the Braves, before a series of roster moves sent him back to first base This particular month. Adams headed to left field to replace the injured Matt Kemp, in addition to when the Braves promoted Ozzie Albies to play second base, the veteran Brandon Phillips shifted by there to third. The final line on Freeman at third base: 16 games, just one error.

“When you see someone do that will, you look at yourself within the mirror in addition to tell yourself you want to be that will kind of player, too,” center fielder Ender Inciarte said. “He’s not selfish at all. We appreciate the idea, what he tried to accomplish. He actually played well at third base, although he’s always been a first baseman, he’s an M.V.P. type of player, in addition to you don’t want to mess with him. You just want to leave him wherever he can be comfortable.”

The wrist injury cost Freeman nearly seven weeks, in addition to although he said he may have returned too soon — the wrist can be still sore — he can be having his best season, which has a 1.060 on-base plus slugging percentage through Saturday. His career O.P.S. of .871 through Friday ranked 11th among active players, in addition to everyone ahead of him has won a Most Valuable Player Award or been a runner-up.

Freeman’s highest finish in M.V.P. voting was fifth, in 2013, the last year the Braves reached the playoffs. The next February, he signed a contract through 2021, without knowing what was ahead for the team: a major roster overhaul in addition to a brand new stadium project in suburban Cobb County.

The Braves assured Freeman he would likely not be dealt as they shipped off veterans like Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis in addition to Shelby Miller to try to stock their farm system. They have done that will — “For us, we’re the top-ranked system in addition to the idea’s not even close,” Coppolella said — although they tied for the fewest wins (68) within the National League last season in addition to finished last in their division for once since 1990.

This particular season, top prospects like Albies in addition to pitchers Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims in addition to Max Fried have gotten their first taste of the majors. The Braves, who were 51-62 through Friday’s games, are not threatening for a playoff spot, although they are improving.

“the idea’s nice to see things starting to form into a team in addition to not just form a minor league system,” Freeman said. “the idea’s been a tough two years; I don’t think anybody’s gonna sugarcoat that will around here. We had a team where most teams said, ‘Oh, not bad, we’re playing the Braves.’ although I don’t think most teams say that will anymore. Last year, we’d be 30 games under .500 at This particular point. the idea’s been so much better.”

Freeman keeps a shelf in his locker filled with Braves bobbleheads, three rows deep, as if to highlight his commitment to the cause. He wears a cap bearing a style of “A” different by the one that will symbolized the team he rooted for in Anaheim, although he yearns to be remembered the same way in Atlanta.

“that will’s what you play This particular for,” he said. “If you’re not playing to win, then what’s the point? I see no additional way of playing This particular game additional than trying to win the planet Series. Hopefully, we’re close.”

Versatile in addition to Productive

For most of their games This particular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have commenced Chris Taylor in left or center field. This particular would likely have seemed unlikely in early April, for a few obvious reasons: Taylor hit just .207 last year after a trade by Seattle in June; he did not make the Dodgers’ opening day roster; in addition to he had never played the outfield in professional baseball.

“This particular can be the first year,” Taylor said recently. “Just four innings in college.”

The Dodgers are on pace to shatter their franchise record of 105 victories, in addition to Taylor embodies their approach. He did not make much of an impression in parts of three seasons with the Mariners, hitting .240 with no homers in 86 games, although a few additional traits attracted the Dodgers, who crave versatile players for their deep roster.

Photo

The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, in his first season as an outfielder, has been one of the National League’s leading hitters since the All-Star break.

Credit
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

“He was a college player out of Virginia — an intelligent, athletic baseball player, high aptitude, can do a lot of things on the field, a shortstop by trade,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “When we acquired him, he was within the middle of the infield, so This particular year — for our roster to make sense for him in addition to for us — he had to play some outfield. For him to take that will on so seamlessly says a lot about him as a baseball player.”

Taylor played 10 games This particular April at Class AAA Oklahoma City, starting at second, short, third in addition to center, before the Dodgers promoted him. He quickly showed the benefits of the swing improvements he made last winter with Robert Van Scoyoc, a Dodgers hitting consultant.

“I definitely worked on my hands,” Taylor explained. “I’m a little taller, added a leg kick, in addition to I think the biggest difference has been that will my hands aren’t going by a standstill. I added a little bat waggle in addition to then kind of a knob-to-knee move. I just added a little more bat speed, so some of those balls that will I’m getting that will used to be flyouts are carrying over the fence at This particular point, or within the gaps.”

Taylor has been one of the National League’s leading hitters since the All-Star break, in addition to through Friday he was batting .307 with 16 homers in addition to 55 runs batted in This particular season. The deal that will made him a Dodger has not worked out so well for the Mariners, who never used Zach Lee, the pitcher they acquired within the trade. Lee, a former top prospect who had pitched just once for the Dodgers, went 0-9 for a Mariners minor league team in addition to was claimed off waivers by San Diego in December.

Baylor’s Big October Moments

Don Baylor, who died of multiple myeloma at age 68 on Aug. 7, played 19 seasons in addition to finished his career by appearing in three World Series for three different teams. Baylor helped the 1986 Boston Red Sox, the 1987 Minnesota Twins in addition to the 1988 Oakland Athletics to pennants, in addition to hit two of the most overlooked although essential home runs of that will era.

Dave Henderson was not the only Boston hitter which has a two-run homer within the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series. Before Henderson gave the Red Sox the lead — by connecting off the Angels’ Donnie Moore with one strike to spare — Baylor also went to the plate as the potential series-ending out.

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Don Baylor, right, after homering for the Red Sox within the 1986 season. that will postseason, Baylor, who died Monday at age 68, hit a crucial one against the Angels.

Credit
Bettmann, via Getty Images

With the Red Sox down by three games to one, Baylor faced Mike Witt with one out in addition to a runner on first within the ninth inning. The Red Sox trailed, 5-2, in addition to a double play would likely have ended the series. Instead, Baylor ripped a homer, setting up Henderson’s heroics three batters later. The Red Sox prevailed in extra innings, returned to Boston in addition to advanced to the planet Series, which they lost to the Mets.

Baylor’s last home run for the Red Sox came the next August, a grand slam at Fenway Park off Steve Carlton, the future Hall of Famer nearing the end of his career with Minnesota. The Twins must have liked what they saw, because they soon traded for Baylor to help down the stretch.

Baylor’s next home run was the biggest of Minnesota’s season. With the Twins trailing, 5-3, in addition to facing elimination against St. Louis in Game 6 of the planet Series, Baylor came to bat within the fifth inning. Facing the Cardinals’ ace, John Tudor, Baylor slammed a game-tying homer into the left-field seats at the Metrodome. A Steve Lombardozzi single soon gave the Twins the lead.

Kent Hrbek’s grand slam the next inning can be the most indelible snapshot of that will World Series, a triumphant moment for Hrbek, a lifelong Minnesotan who played only for the Twins. Baylor hit no additional homers for the franchise, although his one big blast turned the game, in addition to the next night the Twins won their first championship.

Correction: August 12, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier edition of This particular article misstated the number of wins the Atlanta Braves had last season. the idea was 68, not 63.

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