Back in late June, the Los Angeles Dodgers were a mere 18 games over .500 before entering a series with the Braves in Atlanta. That marked Freddie Freeman’s return after signing with LA in the offseason, which was a widely-documented saga since the moment he’d left the organization he spent the previous 15 years with.
In an unexpected twist, that weekend birthed more drama than anyone could’ve imagined. From Freeman being brought to tears multiple times — during the pregame presser, while receiving his World Series ring, and before stepping into the batter’s box for the first time — to Doug Gottlieb’s erroneous report, to Braves fans actually believing Freeman was unhappy in LA, to Clayton Kershaw’s quote, it really did feel for a second there like the Dodgers would be distracted beyond repair.
Out of all of those occurrences, Kershaw’s words were the one thing directly relating to the team that could’ve caused real friction among the Dodgers. Everything else was either conjecture, social media nonsense, or unrelated to the organization altogether.
Kershaw publicly stating that he hoped the Dodgers weren’t “second fiddle” to the Braves in Freeman’s eyes was, while nitpicked out of a larger paragraph that had kind intentions, still seemingly something that needed to be addressed.
After that series in Atlanta, Freeman addressed Dodgers execs, his teammates, and spoke to Kershaw individually about everything. From that point on, LA couldn’t have been in a better place.
Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Freddie Freeman talked after the Braves series in June
"“’I think I’d be the first to admit that I probably didn’t give him enough of a pass as I probably should,” Kershaw said last month, recalling those comments. “That was my fault that it even got out there like that.’It opened the door for a conversation that Kershaw called ‘eye-opening.’‘Our relationship got a lot better after that (talk),” Kershaw said. “I think there were some unintended good consequences that came out of that. I didn’t mean for anything, any of that to happen. But I think it was great for me, and I hope for him too.'”"
While it can be detrimental to draw such attention to the Dodgers in what was already a dramatic situation, this actually may have been a blessing. It seems Freeman and Kershaw had a candid conversation about the whole ordeal, which was tough and confusing for everyone, including Freeman.
Since taking that three-game set in Atlanta, the Dodgers went 66-25 to finish out the season. That was the best mark in baseball, which led to the best record (111-51) in baseball, and the most wins in the NL in over a century.
Had Kershaw not said anything, had Freeman not felt the need to speak to him, there could’ve been a lot more resentment boiling under the surface that affected the team in ways nobody could’ve predicted. Instead, everything was put out in the open and the Dodgers ran through MLB, putting themselves in the best position possible to take on the Braves once more before the Fall Classic.
Don’t sweat it, folks. The Dodgers are First Fiddle now.