Freeman campaign by fans impressive

July 13, 2013 

Marlins Braves Baseball

Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman won his way onto the NL All-Star roster thanks to a late push by Braves fans.

DAVID GOLDMAN — AP

If you didn’t hear, Yasiel Puig is not going to the All-Star game Tuesday. He lost the fans’ vote to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. That’s the way it was delivered by most of the national media. Puig lost the vote -- not that Freeman won.

It’s understandable to a point, I suppose, considering the unbelievable run Puig has been on since he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 3. But for ESPN to have a reporter, Pedro Gomez, in Los Angeles to report on Puig not winning and to not have someone in Atlanta was a joke.

Freeman deserves to be on the All-Star team. He has been outstanding this season at the plate and in the field. Freeman has been Atlanta’s most consistent performer, and on this team, that wouldn’t take much with all the inconsistency. But aside from that, there’s little doubt he deserves to play in New York on Tuesday.

But so does Puig. Sure, he only has played for five weeks, but he has been exceptional. Since the NL wants to win, and since this game now counts, baseball officials should have made sure he was on the roster. But there was no way he should have even been close to Freeman in the voting, and, thankfully, Puig wasn’t.

Perhaps if someone else goes down, Puig can make the team. But at the least, he should be in the home run derby Monday just to have him there. Puig is this year’s Fernando Valenzuela or this year’s Dwight Gooden. Remember when those two kids took baseball by storm and made the All-Star game in their rookie seasons? It was simply good for baseball to have them there, and it would be good for the game to have Puig there, as well.

The sad part is it could have been Evan Gattis who would have been in the same conversation. Gattis last played June 17. That’s almost four full weeks that he has missed. He had 14 home runs and 37 RBI when he injured his oblique, so it’s probably a safe assumption if he had kept up his torrid pace, Gattis might have been close to 20 home runs and 50 RBI if he had not gotten hurt.

How great would it have been for Gattis to make it considering he really hasn’t even played regularly and also ­considering his life story? Gattis was that rookie making the headlines before Puig arrived in Los Angeles, and Gattis would have been given consideration for the All-Star team if he had not gotten hurt.

The campaign by Braves fans to get Freeman on the team was really impressive. It was truly an indication of how strong this concept of “Braves County” really is around the Southeast. By the time Thursday rolled around, just about every tweet by anyone on Twitter who is a Braves fan had the hashtag #VoteFreddie. Those tweets counted and undoubtedly helped Freeman make the team.

Freeman could easily become the best first baseman the Atlanta Braves have ever had. Just Friday, The Telegraph wrapped up a poll to determine the all-time Atlanta Braves team. Fred McGriff was the runaway winner at first base, with 57 percent of the vote. Freeman came in second place, ahead of Chris Chambliss and Andres Galarraga.

McGriff spent four-and-a-half seasons with the Braves. He hit .293 with 130 home runs and 446 RBI. Of course, he was a huge piece of the World Series team in 1995 and was arguably the main reason the Braves caught the San Francisco Giants in the dramatic pennant race in 1993.

Freeman has been Atlanta’s first baseman for two-and-a-half seasons. So far, he has hit .278 with 54 home runs and 232 RBI. But Freeman doesn’t turn 24 until September, so he has plenty of time to put up numbers that probably will eclipse McGriff’s marks in Atlanta.

That’s why the Braves must lock Freeman up for the long-term this winter. He reportedly was offered a deal last offseason but turned it down, but there should be no bigger priority than making sure Freeman is Atlanta’s first baseman for the rest of this decade.

The fans love him as they showed this past week by getting Freeman into the All-Star game. It’s something he might never forget, and it might help in making sure Freeman is in Atlanta for many years to come.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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