Dan's Dugout: No One Can Replace Freddie Freeman • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: No One Can Replace Freddie Freeman

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At last December’s Baseball Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker suggested that this year’s Braves could repeat the worst-to-first miracle of 1991.

But that was before his best player went on the shelf for three months.

Freddie Freeman has no capable understudy

Freddie Freeman has no capable understudy

Freddie Freeman was the one man on the team who couldn’t be replaced, a man so durable that the Braves didn’t even carry a reserve first baseman on their roster.

Now he’s gone til mid-August, sidelined with a fractured wrist suffered Wednesday when Toronto pitcher Aaron Loup hit him with a pitch.

His loss is devastating.

Consider this stat: since the start of the 2016 season, only Mike Trout had better park-adjusted offensive numbers among players with at least 300 plate appearances.

This year, Freeman was leading the majors with 14 home runs while hitting .341 with a .461 on-base percentage and .748 slugging percentage. He even legged out a triple – not bad for a guy who can’t run – and collected 11 doubles.

Freddie Freeman has become the best first baseman in the NL

Freddie Freeman has become the best first baseman in the NL

He’s a fine defensive first baseman too, certainly in contention for his first Gold Glove.

The loss of their No. 3 hitter could prove catastrophic to the Braves, whose recent strong play catapulted them to second place in the National League East.

Beating the favored Washington Nationals at home Friday night gives Snitker’s crew even more credibility. If the manager can straighten out the erratic starting pitching, his strong-hitting team could even bid for a playoff spot as a wild-card entry.

But first they need to find a Freeman replacement.

The day after the injury occurred, the team signed ex-Met James Loney, a gifted fielder and competent contact hitter who provides little power.

It also could sign free agent Justin Morneau, a former American League MVP and National League batting champion who’s coming off two injury-riddled campaigns at age 36.

Convincing Adam LaRoche, a former Brave, to come out of retirement has been ruled out.

Nor is there much likelihood of acquiring Pedro Alvarez, a former NL slugger now languishing at the highest rung of the Baltimore farm system.

A better bet would be Oakland’s Yonder Alonso, who has added power to his resume, or perhaps

Jose Quintana could be traded to the National League

Jose Quintana could be traded to the National League

engineering a package deal with the Chicago White Sox that could include star southpaw Jose Quintana and third baseman Todd Frazier in addition to first baseman Jose Abreu.

With Freeman, a 6’5″ lefthanded slugger, the Braves had the perfect lineup, with a top four of Ender Inciarte (left), Brandon Phillips (right), Freeman (left), and Matt Kemp (right).

All had been hitting well lartely despite a slow start by Inciarte for the second straight season and a hamstring issue that sent Kemp to the disabled list for nearly two weeks.

The Freeman injury has forced Snitker to improvise, moving lefty-hitting veteran Nick Markakis from fifth to third, Freeman’s open slot, and maintaining solid production from the top half of his lineup.

It’s the bottom half that causes concern, with the likes of Jace Peterson, Kurt Suzuki, Adonis Garcia, and the slow-starting Dansby Swanson not always holding up their end. Suzuki did come through Friday, however, with an eighth-inning home run that plated two insurance runs in the 7-4 win over the powerful Nationals. And Swanson had a double and home run, lifting his average above .200 after a

Dansby Swanson was a preseason NL Rookie of the Year favorite

Dansby Swanson was a preseason NL Rookie of the Year favorite

terrible first six weeks.

Freeman’s loss cast a pall over the clubhouse Thursday, when Toronto trampled the home team by a 9-0 score, but Snitker has rallied the troops before. In fact, the team’s record when he succeeded Fredi Gonzalez last May was 9-28. After the All-Star Game, Atlanta was two games over .500, with 20 wins in its final 30 games.

Ah yes, the All-Star Game. Freddie Freeman would have been the starting first baseman for the National League.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Jered Weaver (Padres) was so dreadful in the first inning against Arizona Friday night (eight runs) that MLB Network ran a cartoon showing runners crossing home plate at a record clip . . .

The combined 11-1 start by Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers explains why Houston is making a mockery of the American League West title chase . . .

The reeling Royals can’t comprehend the sudden downfall of three-time All-Star Alex Gordon, who

Royals wonder what's wrong with Alex Gordon

Royals wonder what’s wrong with Alex Gordon

hasn’t snapped out of last year’s season-long slump . . .

Former Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, now with Tampa Bay, will return to action next month after missing extensive time with a torn ACL that needed surgical repair . . .

Also back next month are former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (back) and former All-Star closer Sean Doolittle (A’s), recovering from back and shoulder issues, respectively . . .

Tiny Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman, who barely stands 5’8″ tall, homered in Atlanta to become the second Blue Jays pitcher to connect . . .

Coors Field helps, to be sure, but better pitching is the biggest reason Colorado is off to the best start in its history . . .

It was only a matter of time before the Texas Rangers, winners of 10 straight, started playing up to their potential . . .

Jacob deGrom adds to the Mets' injury worries

Jacob deGrom adds to the Mets’ injury worries

The latest star pitchers to leave games early with injuries are Jeremy Hellickson (Phillies) and Jacob deGrom (Mets) . . .

As expected, bad pitching is keeping the Phils and Marlins at the bottom of the NL East . . .

Look for Atlanta to promote some kids and trade several of its five starters . . .

Doug Fister, an innings-eating starter, should be a big help to the Los Angeles Angels . . .

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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