When He Was Fab: Braves 6, Reds 5

So here’s the thing: there are nights when the game is the most important thing that happened, and then there are nights when something else around the game asserts itself and demands our attention. Sometimes those things are bad (injuries, arrests, revealing you had a kid out of wedlock with a Hooters waitress) – honestly, it seems like most of the time they’re bad.

But every once in a while, they’re good. And even more rarely, they’re good in a way that takes you by surprise and slaps a silly grin on your face, and, frankly, it wouldn’t really matter if your team lost the game, because, in the grand scheme of things, one game is just one game.

But nice guys finishing first?

That’s a memory.

Officially it was Dale Murphy night at the Ted; #3 bobbleheads were handed out at the gates and many fans showed up in powder blue v-neck t-shirts in the style of the Braves’ early ‘80s uniforms, with Murph’s name and number on the back. Murph even threw out the first pitch. That was cool. In fact, on most days that would have easily been the coolest thing that happened in Braves Country.

But not today. Today, the implausible happened – and not by the skin of its teeth, either, but decisively, with the kind of heavy door slam that left no doubt.

Today, Fab 5 Freddie Freeman became the last man voted by the fans to the National League All-Star team.

Big deal, right? Except, actually, it kind of was.

From the moment the initial All-Star rosters were announced, two phenomena notable to Braves fans arose. The first was that, the flagging Justin Upton having fallen at the last moment out of the top-three vote-getters among outfielders, the team with the largest division lead in the Major Leagues, your Atlanta Braves, had exactly one man named to the squad. (That would be the Kobra, Craig Kimbrel. Bruce Bochy may play favorites, but he knows the value of having a lockdown closer on his staff.) That fact stuck in the craw for some of us, although the Oakland A’s have almost equal grounds for complaint, and it has been suggested in these parts that no other Brave has earned the honor thus far in the 2013 campaign. (As I’ve said before, if I’m Bochy I want Andrelton Simmons at shortstop with a late-inning lead, but Boche has won a lot more World Series than I, so I’ll shut up.)

The second phenomenon was revealed by the gimmicky “Last Man” vote roster, which included The Steadiest Brave of All, Freeman, and The Kid Everyone’s Been Talking About For Two Months (not coincidentally, the length of his ML service time), Yasiel Puig of the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. No sooner had this fact been revealed than every sports media outlet in America not directly related by corporate marriage to the Atlanta Braves National League Baseball Club crowed to high heaven with pleasure. (Especially everyone employed by ESPN, whose lack of bias regarding such stories as Tim Tebow or the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is well-known and even more well respected.)

Puig was so obviously a historically gifted player, albeit one only eight weeks into a sure ride to Coopersville (or Cooperstown, depending on which level you expect him to spend the most time at), that if there was one thing we could all, as Americans, agree upon, it was that that plucky little Cuban firecracker not only deserved that last spot on the All-Star team, but that he was absolutely, positively gonna get it. Of that, there was no doubt. Even Freddie Freeman, interviewed moments after the list was made public, clearly recognized he was going to have to give a lot of “it’s an honor just to be nominated” sound bytes. The national sports media’s love for Puig was in full and fragrant bloom, and it was just a matter of time until the inevitable became fact.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Citi Field. First, Freeman’s own teammates, no less aware of the futility of the exercise, made cardboard signs with Sharpies saying “Hey ‘Merica! Vote Freddie 4 ASG!” and held them up to the TV cameras during dugout shots. Their tone was playful, because they knew it wasn’t going to happen, but they wanted to let the world know just who they thought the MVP of this team with the biggest division lead was.

But it didn’t take long – less than twenty-four hours – for the relentless ESPN cheerleading for Puig to start pissing them off. And I don’t just mean Braves players – although some did begin to express their sincere disapproval of such glaring media bias. No, players on other teams started saying some of the same things. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, for one, received a lot of airtime for saying what many of his colleagues were muttering in their clubhouses: a Major League career shorter than a summer vacation does not an All-Star make.

(None of this was to take anything away from Puig, who is indeed an exciting player off to a historically great start. But the road to a job as a Wal-Mart greeter is littered with the burnt-out walking dead corpses of players who started fast, then couldn’t adjust when the league adjusted to them. Puig may yet be an All-Star, and perhaps even more. The point is, there just hasn’t been time to know yet.)

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball released the first results in the fan voting. While they didn’t give out vote totals, it’s fair to say that everyone in the baseball world, very much including Freddie Freeman, was stunned to find that the Braves’ huggiest slugger was on top, with Puig second. The media screamed, and when they stopped screaming, they rationalized. First it was “early.” Then the Braves’ fans were “stuffing the ballot box.” (What exactly that meant in the context of an electronic tally in which you could vote as many times as you wanted as long as you could prove you weren’t a bot was never quite clear.)

By Thursday morning, with Freeman’s undisclosed lead having held up through the week, the pre-emptive grousing among the ESPNites had begun. They still wanted to believe Puig was going to pull it out, but they knew now that there was a chance he might not. And, dammit, they were going to let it be known just how unfair they thought that was. By this evening, once the tally was final and our very own SoCal Huggie Bear had won that last spot, there were not one but two consecutive posts by David Schoenfield on the SweetSpot blog making the point that, and I’m not making this up, Braves fans had robbed America of what it wanted.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that basket of sour grapes, shall we? Freeman received almost 20 million votes, far more than any other player has ever received at any stage in the All-Star voting process. A clearer-cut case of the vox populi making its will known you will not find in the annals of sport.

In any case: Bygones. Because who wants to sit around bitching about Bristol fashion when we can bask in the joyous fact that one of the sweetest guys in the sport just achieved something that, by his own admission, he never even dared to dream about – all because we, meaning both Braves fans and fans of other teams who believe All-Stars should have to have built at least a couple of lines of resume, didn’t like that the national baseball media tried to shove their preferred narrative down our throats. We had one we like better, and, anyway, they don’t get to decide. We do. And we did.

The joy was plenty sufficient to power the home side to a victory on this night. After a wobbly Top 1 from Tim Hudson, who threw 30 pitches while giving up enough seeing-eye hits to lend the Cincinnatus a 2-0 lead, Mat Latos took the mound in the bottom half and looked no better. Simba started us off with a nice single up the middle, Jason Heyward executed a nifty grounder between first and second to move Simba over, and Justin Upton continued his resurgence by singling his own self. And then Fab Five Huggy Bear strode bashfully to the plate. The crowd began to chant his name: Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!

And the Last Man named to the National League All-Star team doubled on the first pitch to knock them both in and tie the game.

The Schottzies went ahead again by a run in the 3rd, but the Braves knocked them back again in the bottom of the 4th on a walk by Simba and a triple by ReEd Johnson (after what seemed like the longest, most boring at-bat in the history of boring stuff). The infield came in for JUp, who (like Freddie) doubled on the first pitch and scored RJ. (Again, Justin seems possibly to be coming out of his funk. We shall see.) And then it was Freddie time again, as the man of the hour singled to center for his third hit of the night and a 6-3 lead.

There wasn’t much suspense after that; the Reds managed a single run off Hudson in the 5th and off Jordan Walden in the 8th, but you just had the feeling it wasn’t going to be enough on this night to overcome the good feelings suffusing the Ted, and you would be right. The only real negative was J-Hey straining his right hamstring sliding into third during that 2nd inning rally; ReEd Johnson replaced him at third and, as previously mentioned, came in to score for him. Heyward’s hammy will be re-examined on the morrow, but he told reporters tonight he hadn’t felt any alarming pops and expected it to be a relatively mild injury. We shall see. (If he’s wrong, I’m gonna start calling him Mr. Glass. Yeah, that’s right, Shyamalan. Sue me.)

Anyway, it was a glorious night to be a Brave, a Braves fan, or just a fan of plain old good kids. Decent kids. Kids who wear long sleeves in every game, even the night games, because their moms were taken from them far too soon by skin cancer. Kids who, as a result, know the value of every small victory, the damage of every loss. Kids who learn sooner than they should ever have to how to gain perspective, how to know what matters in life and what doesn’t. Kids who hug their teammates instead of just giving them high-fives, just because they really, truly mean it. Kids who play the game with joy and love and humility and appreciation for the family and friends and teammates and fans who give it all back to them tenfold.

Congratulations, Freddie. You earned it.

146 thoughts on “When He Was Fab: Braves 6, Reds 5”

  1. Well done. Nice write-up.

    I actually thought the 8th inning, and to a lesser degree, the 9th, were suspenseful. An IBB to put the potential go-ahead run on base with one out in the 8th, if my memory serves. And then facing Choo with the tying run aboard in the 9th — I know it was Kimbrel but Choo is just becoming a little pest against us. Maybe I just needed more faith in Murph/#VoteFreddie night.

    Also, I think you meant ‘Cooperstown’.

  2. What’d I say? Coopersville? Lmao at myself. I love brainfarts. :-) I’ll fix it when I get a chance.

    Personally, I never felt like the outcome was seriously in doubt, even when Waldo gave up the run. Dunno; it just didn’t seem like Cincy’s night. (Which of course means absolutely nothing; everything could have come out differently. I guess I just prefer to remember Freddie’s night through rosé-colored beer goggles. :-) )

  3. Nice recap and tribute to Freeman. A small quibble – the Reed Johnson BR link goes to “Ed Johnson,” whose career consisted of 17 PAs in 1920.

  4. @3 Gracias. :-)

    @4 I know, but it’s not my fault. We run these things through a linkifier at Baseball Prospectus, and for some reason it read Reed Johnson as ReEd Johnson. Fixing that is beyond my ken, I’m afraid.

  5. Braves Journal is a great place!!! Great Recap and congrats to Freddie he deserved every bit of it.

    P.S- Jose Miguel Cabrera is truly one of the best hitters ever.
    Braves Nation > ESPN/ Media Hype

  6. One quibble: Puig also set a record for votes so the masses were glued to their ipads this week. Still,I’m glad Freddie won. He deserved it.

  7. I’m quite amused that the big story-line going into the ASB is “But the fans voted for a guy I’d rather not see! And it was those unpassionate Braves fans who are like never passionate fans!”

    Personally, I think the whole thing is a farce. The Media/fans treats it like an exhibition game, the players treat it like an honor/award, and MLB treats it like an integral part of the playoffs.

    If we could just agree on what it is, it’d be much simpler…..

    That said, I’m glad Freddie won. Good for him. And good for the Braves fans who showed that, while we might not all live with driving distance of our stadium, we DO care.

  8. I think the Media might have run an end-around on this one.

    I mean, think about it, their interest is in generating narratives. What narrative do you get more traction from? An upbeat, feel good story? Or manufacturing outrage?

    ESPN got exactly what they wanted on this one.. They got something to bitch and moan about for a week, then they have the All-Star game, and they hope that was dramatic, and if it’s not, well.. More burying Arod?

  9. @14 I’m not at all perturbed that the article talks about “scoring your own way” then plugs BOB CARPENTER’S scorecard. Nope. My ass isn’t even the slightest bit chapped.

    Whoever wrote the article should have put more than a half an hour doing research on it.

  10. @14, 17 The first thing the Braves front office does in the morning is to read Braves Journal. Since they are intelligent, they should put Bethany’s score book in the Barves programs. She will share the royalties with us.

  11. Hotspur’s verbose eloquence (it’s extremely difficult to have both attributes) shines again!

    Thank you.

  12. Where are all those anonymous doubters of Freddie Freeman?

    +.400 RISP? Now there’s a stat to be valued.

  13. I’ve always thought the “Braves fans don’t care” tag was stupid.

    The Braves are a regional team. The fan base is very spread out.

  14. People value stats for different yet legitimate reasons. It’s a fact that Freddie’s productive when it helps the team most, and as a Braves fan, who could criticize that? Whether it’s predictive of future success in general or even in those circumstances is another matter, but I don’t think there’s anyone not celebrating right now.

  15. Agreed. We need more pesky hitters like Choo. We’re overcommitted on guys who swing for the downs every time at the plate; it’s good to have some guys like that, but not to have most of the lineup with that same offensive profile. It’s too vulnerable to attack.

  16. Baseball is a funny sport. The Braves are 6 games up on the Nats, a team that is 2 games above .500. Meanwhile, the defending world champs are only 6.5 games out of first, but are NINE games below .500. And in the NL West, SF can make that up.

  17. Heyward said last night that he felt no pulls, strains, or pops. Just soreness. I’ve never seen anyone rolling on the ground covering their face with soreness. The slide looked fine also. I’m glad he’s ok, but he’s already said there is no chance at him playing today. They might as well DL him now.

  18. Geovany Soto started an ASG over Brian McCann.

    Chipper didn’t even go the year he won MVP. (Because the world desperately needed a Pirate in that game.)

    Cry about it, PuigSPN.

  19. @31

    It wouldn’t be a terrible idea. I think Gattis is going to play in a minor league game today. Maybe they could just activate him.

  20. Gattis needs some minor league ABs before being activated. He’s been out awhile and hasn’t actually tested his oblique in a game yet.

    And I’m not DLing somebody with soreness when I’m about to have a four-day break. Seems totally unnecessary. We can get through three games without that roster spot.

  21. Amazing: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/the-braves–freddie-freeman–a-blossoming-slugger–might-be-game-s-best-hugger-202505008.html

    “Sometimes you’ve got to wait for the right moment for everyone to release it to the world,” Freeman said. “I guess it took a couple years, but it’s out there now. I think this world needs a little more hugging in their lives.”

    “You can’t help but embrace a big, cuddly, 6-5 giant when he wants to give you a hug,” Uggla said. “His hugs are genuine. There is nothing fake about ’em. He’s a big, strong man. But he handles with care. He doesn’t give strong, crazy, jerk-around hugs.”

    “Daniel is pretty good,” Freeman admitted. “Uggs is good at hugging. Put an H on it and it’s Huggla.”

    “As long as it’s skin to skin, wrapped around – you’ve got to embrace it,” Freeman said. “You can’t try to be cool. Some people need to do the one arm, so they’re not fully embraced. No. No way. I’m an embracer. I’m gonna bring you in, get real close. I’m fully invested in it.”

  22. I think Freeman is a boarderline MVP. I think these double he is hitting will start going over the wall in the next few years.

    This guys has power to all fields and does a great job putting the ball in play.

    He is the guy I want at the plate with the game on the line.

  23. You know, as I watch athletes get busted for DUIs, assaults, and murder, I find it somewhat relieving that the Braves are best known as the team that hugs.

  24. Now all of you know how I feel when ESPN “reports” about college football playoffs. You don’t have to agree that I’m right to find the thumb on the scale thoroughly annoying.

    (lonely BCS fan here)

  25. “Now all of you know how I feel when ESPN “reports” about college football playoffs.”

    Thanks, Alabama fan!

    (I kid. And obviously agree with you.)

  26. @17 I don’t know if you meant the San Antonio Spurs or the Tottenham Hotspur FC, also known to their fans as the Spurs. (I appreciate your words either way.) I took my nom de web from Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which Hotspur is the commonly used nickname of Percy, who opposes Hal, er, King Henry. Just liked the name. :-)

    @21 Verbose eloquence is a pretty apt description. :-) I do tend to run on a bit. Apologies in advance if that rubs anyone the wrong way.

  27. Hotspur, I’ve come to think that you read like a Steinbeck fan. I mean that as a compliment, I hope you take it that way.

  28. @36: thank you. Just, you know, thank you. I’d hug you if I could.

    @42: SHARKNADO!

  29. I really do wish the hugging thing would start carrying over into the stands. Like, every time a Braves player hits a HR, you turn and hug the people sitting next to you. Both sides. One hug per side. That would be awesome.

  30. @49 – I’ll see what I can do to start that trend… not sure how the folks sitting around me will take it but I think I can approach the task without upsetting too many people.

  31. @29: wRC+ of 104, though. Good for second in the NL, just ahead of … the Dodgers?! Weirdly, there are only three teams in NL with a wRC+ of 100 or greater (Cards in first with 108). I know pitcher hitting hurts, but in a 15-team league you would still expect more than three teams to be producing a an average or better offensive performance.

  32. Yeah, I think pitcher hitting brings down the league average to a 96 or 97 wRC+. The point still stands, though. Almost every NL lineup is taking on water somewhere.

  33. Hugging could replace the tomahawk chop. It would be our “thing.” Like Sweet Caroline in Boston, or getting beaten unconscious after a Giants game.

  34. @46 I totally take it as a compliment, albeit one I don’t deserve.

    @48 Thanks! So happy you guys enjoyed it.

  35. The only time I’ve hugged a stranger at a sporting event was at the SEC championship when Auburn threw the hail mary at half. I grabbed the nearest person and gave them a giant hug.

  36. The article in 36 was the best thing I’ve seen today. I really really hated the narrative that wound up evolving around the All-Star vote – it was most unfair that some especially ugly subtexts got associated with a young guy who not only is a budding star, but apparently, a guy with some soul

  37. Greetings from Minneapolis…

    I’ve been to a lotta raves, so I’ve probably hugged more strangers than most.

    So maybe Freddie’s just a not-so-closet raver & the Braves are his shameless cuddle-puddle.

  38. Hugging could replace the tomahawk chop. It would be our “thing.” Like Sweet Caroline in Boston, or getting beaten unconscious after a Giants game.


  39. Something just occurred to me…I am absolutely NOT self-promoting (I’m southern; it feels unseemly), but it occurs to me some here might be fans of Arrested Development and players of video games. And that, if so, those people might be interested I reading a piece Gamasutra.com asked me to write comparing AD S4 and game narrative. If anyone is so interested, you can read it at <>.

    If this is considered inappropriate or if people just don’t like it, I will promise never to do it again.

  40. Amazing, amazing write up! Thanks so much for the great effort, I know keeping this site going can’t be easy.

    Side note: I voted for Freddie and it was the first time I’ve voted for the ASG, ever.

  41. The wailing from the national media today is every bit as glorious as I thought it’d be. My personal favorite thing about it is the assumption that “Braves fans trumped what America wanted”. Well, if America had wanted Puig, they could’ve freaking voted for him. Maybe America wanted Freeman. Or more likely, maybe America is sick of having to swallow every single contrived storyline ESPN throws out there. Maybe America is less stupid than ESPN thinks. Maybe they actually watch sports because they enjoy the game and not because there’s some silly little soap-opera storyline to follow. Oh well, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that when ESPN sticks their toe in one of these “sports that no one cares about because they’re not football”, things could go badly.

  42. Heyward just slammed Shanks on Twitter:

    You wanted to play for the Braves pretty bad when you were growing up huh? Lol @BillShanks I could see why the outcome of that dream would cause one to be as bitter as you come off. Thats unfortunate.. for yourself…. You welcome for the exposure; and the followers if you’re into that sort of thing

  43. The annoying thing, post-vote, is that the narrative has this undertone of “Puig is the better player, but it’s his attitude that lost him the vote.” Which misses maybe two-thirds of the point. But at this point, that’s to be expected, I supposed.

  44. @67 LMAO

    @69 That’s the line Buster Olney has been peddling, yes. It’s like they simply, truly can’t conceive of why anyone would want to see a player other than Puig win.

  45. As lousy as that Shanks piece was, I wish Jason wouldn’t personalize things. Let his play shut Shanks up.

    @36, Love every word of that. Thanks for the link!

  46. According to DOB, Heyward will likely be out for the rest of the series with his sore hamstring, but should be back after the All-Star break.

  47. My preference is for the players to rise above it. Take the high road, that kind of thing. Stay focused on the game.

  48. Besides, us Mom’s Basement types are quite capable of sticking up for ourselves….

  49. Apparently Shanks went after Heyward on his radio show again today, including criticizing his defense, which, say whatever you want about him at the plate, but his right field is clearly awesome. So it’s more of a multimedia, personal crusade against Heyward. He still shouldn’t have acknowledged it, but it was more than just one article that sparked it.

    Edit: That’s via twitter – I didn’t actually hear what he said.

  50. Or I remembering wrong, or didn’t Hudson need to be restrained after he confronted DOB? Think it was after Griffey, Jr. signed with the Mariners before the 2009 season.

  51. Apparently Shanks deleted the tweet because there’s nothing on his feed except college football.

  52. @76, I don’t know about tacky, but the old dictum about picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel still applies.

  53. @45 Tottenham for me here, thanks. I don’t watch the NBA. But I do show up to most watch parties for ATL Spurs, Ri Ri Irish Pub (for now) in Midtown. What better excuse to drink beer on a Saturday morning?

    PS- Article/analysis was way better than any in the national/regional media. How many Braves fans woke up this morning thinking, “Ha! Suck it, ESPN!” This nails it.

  54. Not saying Medlen’s pitching at all well, but if the criteria to be booted from the rotation is having a messy inning and giving up a few runs, there’d be some pretty big bullpens throughout baseball. Strasburg just gave up 5 in one inning. To the Marlins. I guess they should demote him?

  55. @95 LOL. i was thinking it. Success should be dousing himself with the magic spray soccer players use.

  56. 66 pitches in 2 innings, Strasburg has had 2 episodes. Phils may be second best team.

  57. I’ve noticed a pattern. Yesterday, our right fielder got hurt sliding at third base. Holbrook was standing at third base when that happened. Today, our center fielder got hurt sliding in shallow center. Holbrook was standing in shallow center when that happened.

  58. You’re losing by three runs, you moron.

    If we had any outfielders left, I’d pull him out of the game for doing something that stupid.

  59. Leadoff runner on. Let’s get a few runs and get back into this game.

    BTW, the record must note that Terdo played a double in the rightfield corner nigh perfectly. Positioned himself for the carom, scooped it cleanly, threw a bullet to the cutoff man at third.

  60. @109, No way! That really sucks. It’s amazing that he was able to play those couple games a few days after the injury.

  61. Stress fracture. Said he’s got 4 more weeks of healing and then will need a rehab assignment.

  62. Fredi is punting the game letting Wood hit. Hit Pastornicky now and save Laird for the last PH so you can save your backup C.

  63. Tom Hart says Wren will make a roster move tonight. Dunno if that means Heyward or Bupton to the DL.

  64. The next time the PH comes up probably won’t be until the 9th and he’s running out of outs. He is more concerned with saving the pen at this point.

  65. Justin hobbling. Great!

    He looked like he came up lame a few steps before touching first after a groundout. He just went down to the clubhouse. Looks like T-Pas is heading to the OF.

  66. Is there any advantage to leaving EOF and Lisp on the 15-day DL instead of switching them to 60-day? The only thing I can think of is if you were forced to add a player to the 40-man roster and couldn’t just leave a space. I guess it also eliminates the opportunity for a miraculous cure.

  67. I’m hoping Justin was just having cramps.

    Do the braves rush Gattis back for these two games?

  68. Can someone tell me why both Uptons are out? I didn’t ‘t see the game. What happened to BJ?

  69. BJ = adductor strain and Justin pulled up running out a grounder.

    May have been abductor actually. Not very distinguishable.

  70. BJ looked like the center fielder for the bad news bears. Misplayed a fly ball and stuck his knee in the ground. Somehow he pulled an AB muscle or something.

    Justin came up gimpy on a ground ball. Left calf strain.

  71. I bet Gattis is in the lineup tomorrow. Probably Gattis in LF, Reed in CF, Terds in RF.

  72. Oh, didn’t know that. Thought they said abductor strain, which made me assume an muscle. Sorry for the confusion.

  73. Could have been worse. Now we get to put together an outfield with crazy glue and string to replace the one we’re spending $100 million on.

    And Gattis-Constanza-Reed (or Terdo) really could perform better.

  74. Yeah I mean, if there was a plus side, it’s that Jason had been pretty good for the last 2 or 3 weeks, which means he wasn’t gonna be good again for another 2 months. Might aswell slump on the bench, amirite?

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