I’m all for creativity. (Not that I possess any, but I support it as a concept.) Sometimes the best ideas are indeed the zaniest.
Like Isaac Newton getting bonked on the head by an apple and going, “Whoa! Gravity!” Like Brandon Tartikoff writing “MTV cops” on a napkin and winding up with “Miami Vice,” the one with Don Johnson and pastels and Phil Collins. Like Kyle Shanahan saying, “We’re up 25. Let’s keep throwing!”
(OK, bad example. Sorry.)
The Atlanta Braves are as creative as all get-out. I say that with the utmost admiration … or I least I did until Tuesday night, when word spread that the Braves, in the effort to keep Matt Adams’ bat in the lineup when Freddie Freeman returns, are willing to consider all possibilities, including — pause for emphasis — the notion of Freeman moving to third base.
As I understand it, Freddie at the Hot Corner isn’t Plan A or even Plan W. It is, however, something the Braves aren’t yet willing to rule out. Today I offer this piece of advice: Rule it out. Don’t wait even a nanosecond. Stuff that idea in yonder trashcan, never to be voiced again.
A few notes: Freeman is among the very best position players in baseball; him shifting to third base would mean him playing a position he has never played in the majors; over six big-league seasons, Adams has a career WAR of 5.1, which is less than Freeman mustered in 2016 alone, and — this above all — this same Adams was just traded for Juan Yepez.
It would be great if there was a way to fit both into a National League batting order. There’s not. Adams cannot play anywhere but first base, which belongs to Freeman. You can try Adams in the outfield — the Cardinals did for six games, right before trading him for Juan Yepez — but you’re looking at Evan Gattis all over again, with this difference: Gattis had an arm. There’s a reason Adams is playing the position on the diamond that requires the least amount of throwing. He’s terrible at it.
Is Adams having a great month? Yes. Has he been better than the Braves could have dreamed? Absolutely. But he’s still Matt Adams, who lost his job in St. Louis to Matt Carpenter and who’s a career .215 hitter against left-handers. He’s not Miguel Cabrera. He’s not Freddie Freeman, either.
Old-timers will recall the 1975 Cincinnati Reds moving the 1973 National League MVP Pete Rose from left field to third base to make room for George Foster, who would be the 1977 NL MVP, and proceeding to win 70 of their next 100 games. But that was Pete Rose, who’d come up as a second baseman and could play pretty much anywhere. (That was also the majestic Big Red Machine at its absolute zenith.) Adams is a nice hitter, but he’s not Pete Rose.
But the point isn’t so much Adams. It’s Freeman. He’s the franchise. You don’t mess with the franchise. (You also don’t pay so little heed to the importance of defense. Check out last night’s comedic eighth inning — an Adams throwing error included — for evidentiary backing.) You don’t take a great hitter and render him uncomfortable. You keep him where he is and let him hit. (You don’t see the Angels saying, “What if we move Trout to catcher?”, do you?)
I understand that Adams’ good month has made this a talking point. (Heck, I addressed it just the other day.) But he’s not the franchise. He’s a professional hitter having a big month. (Fun fact: Troy Glaus, professional hitter, was the NL player of the month for these Braves in May 2010. He played his final big-league game that October.) It’d be nice if there was a workaround. Unless the Braves move to the American League, there just isn’t.
From “This Is Spinal Tap”: “It’s such a fine line between stupid and … uh, clever.” The point being: It’s not a fine line at all; it’s as broad as the Downtown Connector. I can’t imagine any way the Braves would choose to play Freddie Freeman at third base. Because Freddie at third would be …
Uh, not clever. The other thing.