For some reason there are a lot of New York Mets fans who seem to be clamoring for a first baseman who has made his mark playing for the division rival Atlanta Braves. And a lot of those fans are blowing up social media threads with the reasoning that bringing Freddie Freeman to the Mets would be tantamount to the acquisition of Keith Hernandez almost 40 years ago.
The social media experts…well…they’re wrong.
There are definitely some similarities between the pre-New York Mets Hernandez and Freeman’s career with the Braves.
Of course, Hernandez and Freeman are both lefty swinging first basemen. Hernandez, in his 10 seasons before his trade to the Mets, hit .299 with a .385 on base percentage (OBP), while Freeman has hit .295 with a .384 OBP in his 12 seasons with the Braves. Each can claim one National League MVP Award. Hernandez was a two-time All Star, won one Silver Slugger Award, and the first five of his 11 Gold Glove Awards. Freeman is a five-time All Star, has won two Silver Slugger Awards, and one Gold Glove.
Freeman has a pretty big edge over Hernandez in the home run department, already smacking more than 100 more dingers than Hernandez hit in his entire career. However, while Freeman has struck out over 600 more times than he has walked, Hernandez walked more than he struck out.
But while those facts undoubtedly draw comparisons between the two, that’s where it ends.
Hernandez was 29 years old when he was acquired. The Mets had just begun the transition from emerging from the doldrums of the awful teams of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The young talent was making its way up through the minor leagues.
Manning first base was the tandem of righty swinging Dave Kingman and lefty swinging Rusty Staub. Both had been recently brought back for their second tours of duty with the organization, and while both were huge fan favorites, it was quite obvious that the two were at the ends of their respective careers. Kingman hit .198 with 13 homers and 29 RBI, while Staub hit .296 with 3 home runs and 28 RBI. Hernandez would be displacing two aging stars.
Freeman is 32 years old for the 2022 season, three years older than Hernandez was when he got to the Mets. While the Mets have struggled a bit for the past couple of seasons, they are closer to being a team that could capture the division title than a team that could end up in the cellar. Unlike the Mets of 1983, there is a lot of young talent already on the scene.
Similar to 1983, first base has belonged mostly to righty swinging Pete Alonso and supplanted at times by lefty swinging Dominic Smith, who has gotten a lot of reps in left field to keep his bat in the lineup. Alonso has become one of the most feared hitters in the game while Smith, if not for Alonso’s prowess, would likely be calling the first base bag home. An acquisition of Freeman would mean displacing up and coming superstar Alonso and sweet-swing and slick-fielding Smith.
Hernandez was in the prime of his career when the Cards discarded him, on the right side of 30 years old. Freeman is on the other side of 30. And, yes, the Mets just gave the 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer a huge three-year free agent contract. But position players have traditionally proved to be busts when awarded contracts later in their careers. Let’s not forget how Mets fans clamored for the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets gave Cespedes a big contract, and it became nothing but a big headache with Cespedes going from hero to villain in the eyes of Mets fans.
Freeman has been a great player who has been a thorn in the Mets side, taking over the role for the Braves that Chipper Jones played for so many years. But what is the infatuation with Freeman? Because the Mets don’t need him. The Mets have Alonso, who at 27 years old, has hit 106 home runs with 249 RBI in two-plus seasons. His only position is first base. So why would the Mets want someone five years older whose only position is also first base, and who would not hit nearly as many home runs as Alonso?
It would be nice to face the Braves all those times without Freddie Freeman in the lineup. Yes, we can all agree that that would be a big plus for the Mets. But that doesn’t have to happen by adding him to the Mets roster. And it shouldn’t.