Atlanta Braves, MLB Free Agency

Freddie Freeman’s choice: To be his generation’s Chipper Jones, or Tom Glavine

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has a choice to make: Does he want to be the next Chipper Jones, or the next Tom Glavine?

Atlanta Braves franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman is without a deal entering his age-32 season.

As with two of the greatest players in Braves history, Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine, Freeman was drafted by Atlanta out of high school. All became perennial All-Stars in Braves uniform, took home one Silver Slugger after another and helped the MLB team that first believed in them win a World Series champion. Freeman aspires to be a first-ballot hall of famer like Jones and Glavine.

However, there is a big reason why Jones has the greater reverence over Glavine in Braves Country since the duo hung up the spikes a decade ago. Jones never left. Glavine spent the final third of his hall-of-fame career with the arch rival New York Mets. Yes, it was a different time, as Ted Turner had just sold the team, but Glavine did not win his 300th game while wearing a Braves uniform.

So at this time, Freeman must decide what it more important to him and his growing family: His baseball legacy or getting the bag at all costs, even if it is not with the Braves.

Freddie Freeman dilemma: To be the next Chipper Jones, or the next Tom Glavine?

What is important to understand here is how much playing in Atlanta helped Jones’ career. He did not get to 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or win a Gold Glove, yet Jones was arguably the National League’s version of Derek Jeter. A perennial All-Star infielder who possessed the clutch gene and the necessary personality traits to perpetually emanate a winner of their respective clubhouses.

Had Jones have gone to another team, he would not be a first-ballot hall of famer. Yes, he would have gotten in eventually, as he was one of the game’s greatest switch hitters and third basemen, but him spending his entire career in Atlanta mattered. Glavine was a hall of famer before he left Atlanta, as one of the best left-handers to ever walk this earth, but the Mets were not well-run.

While his former teammate John Smoltz got the Braves boost by spending pretty much his entire career in Atlanta, Greg Maddux left the Braves a year later. This was expected, as his relationship with Braves Country had always been transactional. He never made Atlanta home. Though he had his best years with the Braves, his split allegiances with the Chicago Cubs always got in the way.

Simply put, Freeman’s career numbers are more likely to be in line with Jones’ than Glavine’s. For that reason, he should not sacrifice the potential legacy he could have in Atlanta to go play elsewhere if the money is close. If it is not, then by all means, go get paid. However, look at how Albert Pujols’ career played out after he left the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels.

As with Glavine, Pujols was pretty much a hall of famer when he left his first team. The Angels were not as well-run as the Redbirds and his 30s were largely wasted playing in relative obscurity for the second franchise in a major media market. Pujols is Cooperstown-bound anyway, but just imagine what his baseball legacy could have been if he stayed with the Cardinals the whole time.

While most players do not get to have this much say in their career, playing for only one team is a huge deal. Think about some of the hall-of-fame players it has helped along the way. From Jeter to Tony Gwynn to Cal Ripken Jr. to Mariano Rivera to George Brett to Robin Yount, these all-timers are synonymous with the team they played for. Freeman and the No. 5 can be that for the Braves.

Now that Freeman has won a World Series, he should be playing for one thing over money: Legacy.

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