Dodgers Dugout: Freddie Freeman comes to town; Eric Karros answers your questions

Eric Karros waves a towel before before Game 4 of the 2021 NLCS.
Eric Karros waves a towel before before Game 4 of the 2021 NLCS.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and let’s talk about Freddie Freeman and then let’s talk to great former Dodgers first baseman.

Moments before I was about to make the final preparations for delivery of this newsletter, news came through: the Dodgers and Freddie Freeman have reached an agreement on a six-year, $162-million deal.

We’ll talk more about this deal next week, but it’s hard to find a downside to this. Last year, while leading Atlanta to a World Series title, he hit .300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs and 83 RBIs. For his career, he is hitting .295/.384/.509 with an OPS+ of 138, meaning he is 38% better than a league average player in his career. He’s a local player (El Modena High) coming home. He has made five All-Star teams, won an MVP award and a Gold Glove award.

He is 32 (turns 33 in September). He is durable, having missed only seven games in the last four seasons. He draws walks. He doesn’t hit into a lot of double plays (11 last season).

Wait, here’s something troubling. He hit .167 in 2010. Oh, that was in only 24 at-bats. Here are his batting averages since 2016:


2016: .302
2017: .307
2018: .309
2019: .295
2020: .341
2021: .300

Our stat analysts are all hungover right now, but I’m pretty sure those are good numbers.

And now this is the Dodger lineup (just one possibility of many variations):

RF-Mookie Betts
SS-Trea Turner
DH-Max Muncy
C-Will Smith
3B-Justin Turner
LF-AJ Pollock
CF-Cody Bellinger
2B-Chris Taylor

You would also have Gavin Lux, Austin Barnes, Edwin Ríos, Matt Beaty and Zach McKinstry, among other possibilities, on the bench.

That is one heck of a lineup. The best lineup in baseball. The best Dodger lineup perhaps in L.A. history. You have basically traded Seager for Freeman. And while Seager plays the more important defensive position, Freeman is a top defensive first baseman and, is a bit better than Seager offensively, and is less injury prone (hopefully I didn’t just jinx that).

In 2027, will it be possible the Dodgers regret this signing as Freeman turns 38? Anything is possible. But right now, there is nothing to complain about. It’s an average annual value of $27 million, and the way things are going, $27 million could be the minimum salary in 2027.

We’ll have more next week. Until then, read what the rest of The Times’ baseball crew is saying at And my apologies for the length of today’s newsletter, but a lot happened right after the lockout ended we need to catch up on.

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Ask Eric Karros

Eric Karros holds the L.A. Dodgers record for most home runs (270) and was kind enough to spend some time on the phone this week answering questions posed by Dodgers Dugout readers. As always, I list the name of the person who asked the question first.

From Jonathan Marmor of Seattle: What was it like for you when Peter O’Malley sold the Dodgers to Fox Group?

Karros: Surprised. I remember I was in my car on the freeway, and we were all plugged into a conference call. Mr. O’Malley addressed us all, and he let us know that it was a family decision to sell the Dodgers. This was during the season. I had an opportunity to speak and I just thanked him for all that he had done for us as a team. But nobody saw that coming. (Follow-up question from me: Was there a big difference when Fox took over?) Karros: It was different. One was a family-run business. The environment, the way your family was included in parties. My parents flew on the team plane for a part of six or seven seasons. It was a family environment and a corporation couldn’t mimic that.

From Keith Burruss: Were you surprised to be traded to the Cubs?

Karros: No, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t the same type of player. The front office was different. I don’t know that (then-manager) Jim Tracy was all that excited to manage me. They would have had a public-relations nightmare if I had reached a certain number of at-bats the next year, which would automatically trigger in at a crazy price at the time and I certainly wasn’t worth it. And you couldn’t very well sit me on the bench after the career I had. So it was not a surprise. If I were the Dodgers I’d have done the same thing.

Anthony Lucero: What is your fondest memory with the Dodgers? And Shannon Almadrones ask: What was your favorite game you played in?

Karros: My fondest memory is kind of crazy, but it would be my first appearance in a Dodger uniform in the big leagues. At the time I thought it was the culmination of all my hard work, later I would realize it was just the beginning. It was against the Chicago Cubs, and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda used me as a pinch-runner for Mike Sharperson. And that was my first appearance. That’s something I will always remember. A game that I will remember was one against the Atlanta Braves in the mid-90s facing Greg Maddux. I had never had success against Maddux. We go into Atlanta, I believe it was a Saturday night game, so Friday night I stayed out a little longer than normal and rolled in about 5 a.m. Saturday. I probably was a bit overserved. And that night I went home run-double-home run off of Maddux. So I will never forget that. That was the most total bases Maddux had given up to a player in one game.

From Lawrence Gagliardi: Which pitcher did you hate facing? Which one did you love facing?

Karros: Maddux was tough on me. Not intimidating, but tough. Randy Johnson was intimidating. I had some mild success against him, but he was intimidating. For the best, Brian Bohanon in Colorado and Greg Harris in Colorado. Those two ... they just couldn’t get me out.

Editor’s note: In his career, Karros hit .421 against Bohanon in 17 at-bats, with two doubles and four homers. Against Harris, he hit .450 in 20 at-bats, with two doubles and three homers. The only pitcher he hit more home runs against than Bohanon was Pete Harnisch, six in 30 plate appearances.

From Monica Yoshinaga: What are your thoughts on the DH coming to the NL?

Karros: I like offense and I look forward to it. I understand the strategy parts that may be lost but I am always eager to see someone else in the lineup that can hit.

From Randy Moore of Lancaster: How did you like having Mike Piazza as a teammate and what did you think when he was traded?

Karros: For a period of time, we were as close ... we were like brothers. And that was a function of Tommy and the two of us coming up at the same time. We had a lot of similar characteristics. Until he grew that Fu Manchu, we would often be mistaken for one another. So, we were very close. When he was traded I remember I was in the training room icing my knee. He came in with Todd Zeile and Derrick Hall and Fred Claire and they went to Dr. Frank Jobe’s office. And whenever you went in there, that was a double-secret meeting sort of stuff. They were in there for a period of time and then Mike walked out looking like he’d seen a ghost. And he said to me “Dude, I just got traded.” Todd’s walking out like “I got traded too!” But everyone was more focusing on Mike. We were like “Holy ... , Mike’s gone.

From Gary Platt: What did you think of Bill James’ recent suggestion to shorten games in which a batter gets two foul balls after two strikes, and the third foul ball is a strikeout?

Karros: The pitchers would love it. As a hitter, well, it’s so difficult to hit anyway, it will never happen. It’s an interesting concept, but then you would never see things like Alex Cora‘s 18-pitch at-bat that ends in a home run.

From James Malone: It is an honor to have a chance to (sort of) speak with you. I sat in the bleachers at Candlestick Park in 1992 and watched you hit a home run over my head that crashed off the Budweiser sign in left-center. It was positively awe-inspiring to my 12-year-old brain. I was just wondering what players you were in awe of or impressed by.

Karros: My favorite player as a kid was Pete Rose. Maybe I was just enamored with the head-first slide into third and sprinting to first base on a walk. When I was in the big leagues, I would try to get out and watch batting practice for Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. The ability of those two guys to hit the ball so far. I mean, you watch your peers and say “That guy’s good, but I’m good too.” But those guys were on a completely different level. Bonds especially. You can say whatever you want to say about him, to me he was the greatest hitter to ever walk this planet.

From Steve Latiner: How many weeks of spring training do you think is necessary?

Karros: I go back to 1995 when we had a shortened spring training after a labor dispute. That was three or four weeks and that worked great for me. I understand it is different for pitchers. Of course, back then, and more so now, the money we make allows us to not to have to work in the offseason. So you could stay in shape. Not baseball shape, but physically you are ready to play. While back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, guys had to get jobs in the offseason to make money and needed a longer spring training.

From Andrea T: As a fellow UCLA alum, is it true that during 1995 spring training you would do the eight-clap during spring training and the other Dodgers got so tired of it they asked you to stop?

Karros: No, not true. In ‘95, I was on a plane with Billy Ashley flying to Vero Beach the night the UCLA men’s basketball team won the national title. Because of the lockout there was no spring training during the tournament that year.

Kershaw is back

It didn’t take long after the lockout ended for Clayton Kershaw to announce his free-agent decision: He’s coming back to the Dodgers on a one-year, $17-million deal, with incentives that could take it up to $22 million.

“At the end of the day, I wanted to be here and win a World Series,” Kershaw said. “I think the Dodgers give me the best chance to do that and I’m excited to be back.”

As far as his elbow injury?

“I wouldn’t come back if I didn’t think I could pitch a full season and be ready to go,” he said. “That’s what I’m here to do. ... As I started throwing in January, I started feeling better and better and every day I could throw more and I wasn’t as sore, then I threw off the mound a little more and kept bouncing back. I was like ‘Man, I’m healthy.’ ”

And for those who criticized Andrew Friedman for not making a qualifying offer to Kershaw, that was a factor in his decision to return.

“Credit to Andrew as well for not having to do the qualifying offer,” Kershaw said. “That was really nice. … It just gave me time to figure it out.”

This is a key signing for the Dodgers. When healthy, Kershaw is still one of the best pitchers in the game, and his numbers look bad only if you compare him with prime Kershaw.

And the Rangers, the other main suitor for Kershaw, respected his decision.

“I don’t hold any hard feelings or anything,” Rangers manager (and former Dodger coach) Chris Woodward said. “He obviously gave his reasons. I’m a little biased. I think we still have a chance to win a World Series. But that’s obviously not a bad reason to go back for one more year. But he told us, basically, right away. And that’s the integrity of Clayton Kershaw shining through, always.”

Most seasons with the Dodgers, pitchers

16 seasons
Don Sutton

15 seasons
Kershaw (includes 2022 season)

14 seasons
Don Drysdale

13 seasons
Orel Hershiser
Johnny Podres

12 seasons
Jim Brewer
Carl Erskine
Kenley Jansen
Sandy Koufax
Dazzy Vance

11 seasons
Ralph Branca
Watty Clark
Charlie Hough
Clem Labine
Ramon Martinez
Van Lingle Mungo
Fernando Valenzuela

10 seasons
Burt Hooton
Brickyard Kennedy
Nap Rucker
Bob Welch

Joe Kelly is gone

Reliever Joe Kelly signed a two-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $16 million. He certainly brought a certain swagger to the team, highlighted by his “pouty face” incident after “accidentally” throwing inside to a couple of Houston Astros hitters in 2020. He was a good reliever but seemed to always be injured. He probably won’t start the season with the White Sox as he recovers from a biceps injury suffered during the playoffs last season.

A fun story from Kelly regarding how popular the “pouty face” made him. In an interview with radio host Rob Bradford, Kelly said, “I got food on the way home from the drive-thru last night and someone asked me to make the pouty face because they recognized me and I said, ‘No man. I’m good.’ And my window was down and Knox was sitting in the backseat and goes, ‘I’ll make it for you!’ ”

Knox is Kelly’s 4-year-old son.

As always when key former Dodgers leave, the best thing to do as a fan is wish them well against everyone other than the Dodgers.

Free-agent watch

The Dodgers made a couple of signings, agreeing to terms with infielder Hanser Alberto on a one-year deal and on a minor league deal with third baseman Jake Lamb.

Alberto hit .270/.291/.402 last season with the Kansas City Royals and is a career .276/.298/.383 hitter over six seasons with three teams. He can play second, third and short.

Lamb was an All-Star in 2017 with Arizona but hasn’t been the same since having shoulder surgery in 2018. He hit .248/.357/.487 with 30 homers in 2017, but in 220 games since then, he has hit .203/.308/.355, including .194 with seven homers with Toronto and the Chicago White Sox last season. Maybe the Dodgers have detected a flaw they can fix. After all, they have rescued the careers of quite a few players, including Chris Taylor and Justin Turner.

Former Dodger Joc Pederson agreed to terms on a one-year deal with....... the San Francisco Giants.

New voices for the broadcast crew

The Dodgers have added five new members to their broadcasting team: former Dodger first basemen Adrián González and Eric Karros, former All-American softball player Jessica Mendoza, former Angels announcer José Mota (son of Manny), and two-time NL All-Star pitcher Dontrelle Willis.

They join the returning broadcast lineup of Joe Davis, Orel Hershiser, Jaime Jarrín, Fernando Valenzuela, Charley Steiner, Rick Monday, Nomar Garciaparra, Pepe Yñiguez, Jerry Hairston Jr., John Hartung, Tim Neverett and Kirsten Watson.

Hershiser is cutting back on the number of games he is doing this season, focusing mainly on home games, and some of the new faces will pick up the slack.

González will serve as an analyst on the pregame and postgame shows. Karros will call select home and road games alongside Davis, while also appearing on some pre and postgame shows.

Mendoza has been an ESPN baseball broadcaster since 2007. She will call select road games alongside Davis.

Mota will call select games for both the Dodgers’ Spanish and English radio.

Willis will call select road games.

Speaking of new voices

Joe Buck, the main baseball announcer and the World Series voice at Fox for years, signed a contract with ESPN and will be the main announcer on “Monday Night Football.” This means Dodger announcer Joe Davis, who has also called Fox games for several seasons, would be in line to become the No. 1 baseball voice at Fox. That shouldn’t affect his Dodgers duties, other than missing occasional weekend games, as he has been doing for a while now, just like Vin Scully did for years when he was a baseball, football and golf announcer for NBC.

Makeup games

Remember how the season is starting a week later because of the lockout, and seven games were going to have to be rescheduled? Here’s when those rescheduled games will be played:

As part of a doubleheader vs. Arizona on May 17

vs. Colorado on July 6*

vs. Arizona on Sep 19*

As part of a doubleheader vs. Arizona on Sep 20

Three-game series vs Colorado from Oct 3-5

*-was originally an off day.

A statue for Koufax

The Jackie Robinson statue at Dodger Stadium will have some company when the Dodgers unveil a statue of Sandy Koufax before the June 18 game against the Cleveland Guardians.

The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica Koufax statue.

The Koufax statue was originally to be unveiled during the 2020 season, but those plans were delayed until now because of the pandemic.

Single game tickets on sale Friday

Tickets for individual games at Dodger Stadium will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at Tickets for opening day won’t be available until March 24.

The Dodgers also announced their promotional schedule. The highlights:

April 15: commemorative Jackie Robinson jersey
April 16: Maury Wills bobblehead
April 18: Will Smith bobblehead
April 19: Hooded sweatshirt
April 30: Kirk Gibson bobblehead
May 12: Max Muncy bobblehead
May 14: Don Drysdale bobblehead
May 16: Walker Buehler bobblehead
May 31: Julio Urías bobblehead
June 4: Gil Hodges bobblehead
June 18: Replica Sandy Koufax staue
June 30: Trea Turner bobblehead
July 5: Chris Taylor bobblehead
July 26: Clayton Kershaw bobblehead
Sept. 22: Dustin May bobblehead
Oct. 3: Mookie Betts bobblehead

You can see the entire promotional schedule by clicking here.

Stories you might have missed

Rangers disappointed to not get Clayton Kershaw. But what about next year?

With ‘frustrating’ hip issue healed, Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is ‘ready to go’ this spring

Five Dodgers spring subplots: Will Trea Turner get an extension? Who is the closer?

Hernández: Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías is calmer and more confident for 2022

Former Dodger Corey Seager will take on a new, unfamiliar role with Rangers

And finally

Ross Porter talks to Eric Karros before the lockout ended. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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