- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2013


The Braves are in town for a three-game series of early season baseball that might mean something. Like the Nationals, the Braves have designs on winning the National League East. Like the Nationals, the Braves are plenty good enough to do it. It should be a fun weekend as two of the best teams in baseball meet for the first time in 2013.

Let’s hope another area team that does not play baseball is paying a little attention to what’s going on in Atlanta.

One of the many reasons Atlanta is so well regarded is Freddie Freeman, the Braves’ 23-year-old first baseman. He hit 23 home runs and drove in 94 runs last season. He’s a cornerstone of what should be a bright future in Atlanta. This Nats-Braves rivalry doesn’t figure to be a short-term thing.

Freeman won’t play this weekend. He’s on the disabled list with an oblique injury and guess what? It wasn’t his call. After seeing him grab at the injury during a game last Saturday, then wince when a trainer checked it out, the Braves brass wasted no time. Freeman went on the DL.

“I’ve got to sit now for 15 days when this is not a 15-day thing,” Freeman told Braves.com. “It could be a two-day thing. Now I’m out for two weeks for no reason. It’s not hurt to the point that I can’t play. I’m playing just fine.”

No question there. Freeman had a .412 batting average with a home run in five games. But general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez saw enough to be concerned and made the call to sit Freeman for a couple of weeks, no matter how angry it might make him.

Freeman out for two weeks is something the Braves can withstand. Freeman out for two months or more is a little dicier.

So applause to the Braves for thinking long-term and making a difficult decision that left an excellent player out of sorts.

“There really isn’t a gray area when it comes to obliques,” Wren told Braves.com. “Obliques are going to be a couple weeks at minimum. If you’re really lucky, you can get a player back right after the DL stint. This early in the season we’re not going to turn a two-to-three week [thing] into a six-to-eight week by tearing that oblique area.”

The lessons here — and this is where the other local team needs to pay attention — are athletes don’t make the call and you make the decision based on what you see, not on what you hear.

Yes, we’re back to the Redskins and RG3.

Sorry to go there again, but the sight of quarterback Robert Griffin III on the ground and unable to get up during the Redskins’ playoff loss to Seattle on Jan. 6 is not one that easily disappears. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that RG3 was hurt earlier in the game, especially when he hobbled badly on a run early in the fourth quarter. Afterward, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made the puzzling comment that Griffin told him what he wanted to hear. That he was fine to keep playing. Only when RG3 couldn’t get up did the Redskins take him out.

Use your eyes. Your eyes, not your ears. RG3, like Freddie Freeman, is very young and very competitive (and very important to the future of the team). Don’t leave it in his hands.

In fairness to the Redskins, RG3’s knee could have been damaged to the point it was before the game even started. He’s a superb athlete in excellent condition, so he could probably get by to some degree for a while. Maybe it was hurt on a first-quarter play, maybe on that fourth-quarter run. Maybe it didn’t totally give out until RG3 went down to stay.

That doesn’t really matter. At the first sign of trouble, the Redskins needed to pull him.

It’s never an easy call to take out an athlete who is still functional, one who is so vital to your success. It isn’t easy to think long-term when there’s a contest going on right now. But sometimes it simply has to be done.

The Braves did it the right way. The people in charged watched, didn’t like what they saw and made a decision. They didn’t have to listen. There’s really nothing to say when it’s right there for everyone to see.

• Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@washingtontimes.com.

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