There is a phrase in modern sports lingo that make no sense to Freddie Freeman: load management. The idea of sitting out now to stay strong later simply does not add up.
“You can be a five-tool player,” Freeman said on Tuesday, in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout before a game at Citi Field. “But if you don’t have the sixth tool of playing every day, what’s the point of the first five tools?”
In the last five seasons, no major leaguer has played in as many games or collected as many hits as Freeman. The Dodgers were 50 games over .500, at 91-41, after Saturday’s 12-1 win at home over San Diego, and Freeman has a perfect attendance record in his first season for the team.
“Just sitting there and making money and doing nothing — I don’t understand that, and I will never wrap my mind around that,” Freeman said. “I’m about to be 33 in two weeks. My career is getting toward the end. Soon I’m not going to ever be able to play again. Why would I just take a day off now? I don’t comprehend that.”
Freeman’s presence and philosophy highlight an evolution in a franchise trying to win its fourth National League pennant in the last six seasons. The Dodgers have a steady lineup headed by superstar imports: Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freeman. It was not always this way.
The Dodgers once chased matchup advantages with the fervor of Homer Simpson’s softball manager, Mr. Burns, who sat Darryl Strawberry against a lefty — “It’s called playing the percentages” — in a famous episode of “The Simpsons.” This is a team that gave every position player on the roster at least one start in the 2018 World Series, and batted Kiké Hernández third in the final game, even though he had not hit there since April.
Now the Dodgers have eight players with at least 400 plate appearances; no other division-leading team has as many. Freeman leads the N.L. in plate appearances for the second year in a row and brings quality to his quantity: a .326 average with a .908 on-base plus slugging percentage through Saturday.
“In the past we’ve had more platoons and matching up, and I think at times it’s a good thing,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “Other times, you have guys that know their roles but they’re not playing consistently, so sometimes I’ve seen that as …….