The Atlanta Braves shocked the baseball world in March when they chose to trade for Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson instead of re-sign Freddie Freeman, one of the faces of the franchise dating back more than a decade. Whether or not that proves to be the right decision on the field is to be seen -- Olson did outhit Freeman last season and is several years younger -- but there's now reason to think clubhouse dynamics could have played a role in their decision-making process.
Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. did an Instagram live interview on Wednesday night with Dominican journalist Yancen Pujols in which he addressed Freeman's departure. According to Pujols, Acuña said that he won't miss Freeman and that he didn't speak with him often. He also claimed Freeman had been unkind during his rookie season.
Here's a snippet of the video, during which Acuña can be heard saying "nada" in response to a question about if they spoke frequently.
Prior to the Braves' first game, he told reporters that he felt his comments had been "exaggerated" and "blown out of proportion by the media."
"What I talked about was what happened in 2018 (Acuña's rookie year)," he said. Acuña added, "what should I miss about someone who's on another team?"
Freeman was asked about his relationship with Acuña during an MLB Network appearance Thursday afternoon and indicated he had no issues with his former teammate, though he did take a stand to defend the organization's unwritten rules.
"When you put on a Braves uniform in that organization, there's organizational rules. You don't cover the 'A' with sunglasses, you don't wear earrings. You have your hair a certain length. You wear a uniform out during BP. You don't have eye black coming down across your whole face," Freeman said (video).
"Those are just organizational things, so I guess I was one of the older guys that did have to enforce those kinds of things in the clubhouse. But when you put on a Braves uniform, those are kind of what happens. I didn't view it as any friction or clashes or anything like that. I loved Ronald, I still love Ronald, I'm gonna miss Ronald."
Clubhouse dynamics and interpersonal relationships are impossible to judge from the outside. Freeman had criticized Acuña publicly before, however. Freeman said the following in October 2019, after Acuña recorded only a single on a long flyball in a playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals because he behaved as if it was a sure home run: "It is frustrating," he said, according to USA Today. "I think you have that conversation once. Kinda beat a dead horse if you keep having that same conversation over and over again. That can't happen in the playoffs, can't happen in the regular season."
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Regardless of Acuña's thoughts on Freeman, the Braves will begin their championship defense on Thursday night (8:08 p.m. ET) against the Cincinnati Reds. Acuña, who is still recovering from a torn ACL and isn't expected to play until May, won't be in the lineup; but then, neither will Freeman.