Freddie Freeman, working hard? The epithet hardly seems to apply to a man who makes $27 million a year, flies charter flights, stays in five-star hotels and collects $100 a day on the road while playing baseball for a living.
But that’s the mindset of a veteran who has started all 123 games for the Dodgers at first base this season, even as his team, with a 19 ½-game lead entering Friday’s game in Miami, is on pace for its ninth title of the National League West in 10 years.
“It’s my job,” said Freeman, who is hitting .326 with a .920 on-base percentage and 16 homers and 79 RBI. “I don’t come here to sit on the counter and collect a paycheck. I don’t believe in that. No one in this world comes to work and just sits there. If they did, they wouldn’t keep their jobs, you know?
“That’s been my approach since I got to the big leagues. I am an employee. My employer has a job for me to do and I will do it.”
Freeman, 32, has a colleague in the lunch pail brigade. Trea Turner, 29, has started 123 games at shortstop for the Dodgers.
Only two other major leaguers have started every game in the field this season and are also teammates playing first base and shortstop — Matt Olson and Dansby Swanson, who have 126 games and counting for the Atlanta Braves.
“I don’t know if it’s pride or ego, but I feel like I owe it to my teammates to be out there every day if I’m healthy,” said Turner, who is hitting .311 with an .847 OPS, 18 homers and 85 RBI.
“If I need a breather or something bothers me, it’s smart for the team to take a day off, but I feel good so I want to play. That’s what I’m paid to do, so I should do it if I can.”
There’s no Iron Man competition between players who have eight All-Star Game selections, one MVP award (Freeman in 2020) and two World Series rings between them, Freeman leading the Braves to the 2021 title and Turner helping Washington win in 2019 There is no friendly bet on who can go deeper into the season without a day off.
It’s more a result of the Dodgers fulfilling a promise they made when the players arrived in Los Angeles, Turner via a trade from the Nationals last summer and Freeman via a six-year, $162 million free agent deal he signed in March.
“When I talked to teams in the offseason, all I was asking about was winning, family and playing every game,” said Freeman, who played all 162 games in 2014 and 2018 and a 60-game shortened 2020 due to a pandemic for the Braves. “The Dodgers said, ‘If you want to play, you can play.’ I said, “Okay, that sounds good to me.” “
Turner has played 162 games just once in his eight-year career, in 2018. He missed 62 games with a right hamstring strain and right wrist fracture in 2017 and 39 games with a broken finger in 2019, but in his first conversation with Dave Roberts, told the Dodgers manager that he preferred to be in the lineup every day.
“Yeah, that’s something I told them when I came in last year,” Turner said. “For me, I never liked the away days because I felt like I always got into a double play in the fifth inning or had to pinch-run or pinch-hit or play defense. So I never liked her in that sense.
“Now it’s a little different with it [designated hitter in the National League], but I just told them that if I feel good, I want to play. It feels weird to take a day off.”
Both Turner and Freeman, now entrenched at second and third in the lineup behind starter Mookie Betts, say playing every day helps them maintain their pace at the plate, which shows in the performance their.
Freeman leads all of baseball with 156 hits and Turner ranks second with 155 as the duo looks to become just the sixth set of teammates — and the first since Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone in 2001 — to finish a- two in the big one. championships in hits.
They are also on pace to become the eighth set of teammates and the first since Betts and Dustin Pedroia for the Boston Red Sox in 2016 to each collect 200 hits in a season.
“Baseball is a game of routine and repetition,” Freeman said. “If you take a day off, you never know if that one day can throw you out of sync for a day or a week, and then you focus on trying to get it back. … I know what my body is like, how to prepare it for a game. I know how to get through a 162-game schedule.”
The upside for Roberts is that with Betts leading off, Turner and Freeman manning second and third, Will Smith locked in the cleanup spot and Max Muncy usually fifth, there’s virtually no guesswork in filling out the top of the lineup.
“It’s huge,” Roberts said of the significance of posting his stars. “They have the mindset that they want to be there every day, and that’s contagious. We have a lot of good players. Everyone wants to be in there every night. It’s a high-quality problem.”
But with the Dodgers well into the August dogfight and owning a major league-best 86-37 record, it would be unwise to give Freeman and Turner more time off in the final six weeks of the regular season so they can fresh and healthy for the playoffs?
“Some guys are built physically, mentally, to play every day and they work to prepare for it,” Roberts said. “I think we did a good job, when we could, of taking them off their feet in certain games to help them physically and mentally. But I don’t hesitate to write their names in the lineup every day.”
Both Freeman, a left-handed slugger, and Turner, a speedy right-hander, have retired early from one-sided games 11 times this season, with Turner sitting for 37 innings — the equivalent of about four games — and Freeman sitting for 34 innings from those games.
“Those three innings in one game might not seem like a lot, but it’s three innings away from our feet, which equals an hour of baseball,” Freeman said. “It builds up over the course of a season. That’s like a full three or four games out.”
Freeman, Turner and Roberts all agree on when day one will come for them this season: after the Dodgers win the division title.
But Freeman doesn’t envision an easy September as the Dodgers prepare for October. Gaining home-field advantage during the playoffs, a luxury afforded the team with the best record in baseball, is a priority for him.
“If we make the World Series, I want to have home-field advantage, so I have to think about that,” Freeman said. “Hopefully we can win the division soon, and I’ll have a day, but I’m fine if I never have a day.
“My body feels great. I no longer do therapy. Nothing hurts me right now. My job is to play baseball, and if there’s a baseball game, I want to play.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.