Schultz: Will Freddie Freeman be booed in his return?  What is the Hawks' plan?

Schultz: Will Freddie Freeman be booed in his return? What is the Hawks’ plan?

ATLANTA — When Tom Glavine left the Braves as a free agent in 2002 after 16 years with the organization and signed with the Mets, it didn’t go over well in Atlanta. Many fans viewed him as selfish and disloyal and basically a traitor. The fact he already had lost some supporters because he was a strong voice for the players’ union during a strike several years earlier — and had the audacity to sign with New York! — didn’t help.

So it wasn’t too surprising that when Glavine made his first appearance as a Mets’ pitcher in Atlanta in 2003, he was “booed pretty badly,” he recalled. “And people had some nasty things to say to the point that my wife and kids left.”

(It didn’t go well for him on the field, either. The Braves dented Glavine for six runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-4 win.)

The hope here is that the reception for Freeman is different Friday when he returns to Atlanta for a weekend series with the Dodgers. Regardless of which side you want to blame for Freeman signing with Los Angeles as a free agent — after the Braves effectively ended negotiations by trading four prospects for his replacement, Matt Olson — it would be absurd to boo one of the most loyal players in franchise history and the one most responsible for the team’s rise to World Champions last year. The “he never wanted to sign here” takes are lazy and patently false. But in sports people often lead with their emotions.

Glavine believes Freeman “will get a positive response.” There likely will be some boos — see poll results — but they should be drowned out by a loud standing ovation when he comes to the plate in the first inning Friday night.

The organization will treat Freeman’s return as a celebration, just as it has with other players from last year’s title team who’ve return in a different uniform this year, like the Giants’ Joc Pederson on Monday night. The Braves will present Freeman with his World Series ring, and it’s expected they’ll also have a video tribute of their former MVP before the game.

Just a guess but there will be some clips of Freeman homers and maybe one of him raising his arms at first base after taking a throw from Dansby Swanson to record the final out of the World Series in Houston.

Freeman homered in his first at-bat against the Braves in Los Angeles two months ago. This will be the only other series between the teams unless they meet in the postseason, in which case Braves’ Twitter would melt down.

It feels like. . . october?

If it felt like a playoff atmosphere for a Monday night game in June, there’s a reason. The Braves may have turned heads and turned around their season with their recent 14-game winning streak, but this week’s seven-game homestand against the Giants and Dodgers qualifies as a measuring stick. All three projects as postseason teams, as do the Mets, who come to Atlanta in a few weeks. So, yes, this is when a pecking order begins to take form.

Teams have great seasons when they get performance from unlikely sources. The Braves had one of those come through again in Monday’s 2-1 win over the Giants, when second baseman Orlando Arcia, who’s filling in for the injured Ozzie Albies, had a walk-off RBI single in the ninth to score pinch runner Phil Gosselin . Orlando Arcia? Phil Gosselin? Arcia is hitting .338 with a .941 OPS. The Braves’ top three OPS averages currently belong to William Contreras (.987), Michael Harris (.949) and Arcia, although none of the three have enough at-bats to officially qualify.

MBS could have grass all the time, but here’s why it won’t

By now you know that the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be switched from artificial turf to grass immediately following the final Falcons home game of the 2025 season to prepare for the 2026 World Cup. The exact timeline isn’t finalized yet, but MBS likely will need to install some sort of underground irrigation and ventilation system, as well as some sort of lighting system to replicate a greenhouse effect. The open retractable roof itself won’t suffice.

But here’s the question: With this all being feasible, why can’t the stadium have natural grass all the time? Answer: It can. But it won’t happen. MBS is one of the busiest sports facilities in the world. In the last pre-COVID year of 2019, it hosted 66 ticketed events and 275 private events for a total of 341 in 365 days. That includes football and soccer games, as well as concerts conventions, weddings, retirement parties, corporate events and more. Wood planks are used to cover the field before stages and tables are set up.

The grass would not survive that. Owner Arthur Blank is not going to sacrifice that revenue stream or add the cost of constantly repairing and replacing the grass. So you will get plastic turf and be happy with it.

Hawks need change via trade, not draft

The NBA draft is Thursday night and the Hawks allowed imminent new general manager Landry Fields, who will still answer to team president Travis Schlenk, to field questions from the media Monday. Fields handled it well, especially given this was his first formal news conference since signing with the Toronto Raptors 10 years ago. He succeeded in not really giving anything away on the team’s plans.

But here’s a thought: The Hawks’ only route to significant improvement over last year is via trade (or free agency), not the draft. This team is young enough and needs an NBA proven scorer and defender, which the draft can’t guarantee. (Schlenk shared some thoughts with The Athletic here.) Fields on weighing the benefits of trading versus keeping the pick (currently 16th overall): “There’s always a fine line. There’s only a few times each year when you can upgrade your team, and one of those is the draft. In this league you need talented players to win basketball games. We try not to get too caught up in positional needs. It’s still very much best player available.”

Truth, fiction and somewhere in between …

• How come nobody is talking about the Phillies? Their record in June (15-3) is only one game worse than the Braves’ (16-2)

• Wizards guard Bradley Beal is expected to decline his $36.4 million player option. It’s “widely assumed” he’ll do so to sign a max deal with Washington, via The Athletic’s Josh Robins. OK, now that I’m covered, let yourself imagine the Hawks with a backcourt of Trae Young and Beal.

• Seriously. (Kinda.) Sportabook.ag has listed odds for potential suitors if Beal doesn’t re-sign with the Wizards. Here are the top five: Celtics 3-1, Trail Blazers 4-1, Heat 5-1, Nets 6-1, Hawks 7-1, Nuggets 15-2, Lakers 8-1, Mavericks and Sixers 9-1, Knicks 10-1.

• Here are the unofficial odds on the Hawks being interested in the disgruntled (again) Kyrie Irving: zero.

(Picture: David Banks/USA Today)

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