The Cardinals pulled the trigger on one of the most roundly debated moves in many years Friday afternoon, by trading third baseman David Freese to the Anaheim Angels. It is a decision that is good for business, but more difficult for the heart.
With all due respects to Colby Rasmus, perhaps no Cardinal in recent memory has had a steeper roller coaster ride than Freese did over his career. It was a five-year run highlighted by one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time, balanced in the middle by All-Star effort and local celebrity. Yet it also saw some dark recesses of freak injury and spoiled expectation.
However, perhaps he never received a fair shake either. After his incredible October in 2011, he instantly, he became one of the great hometown heroes in the city’s history; the prodigal son turned Cardinal great. It was an irresistible combination that was further in his encore season. In 2012, he hit 20 home runs and made his first All-Star team, a performance which further extended his heroic nature.
Yet what became painfully true was that his peak created that skewed image. At best, Freese was a sensation, whose had a four week run that raised him to a level of expectation that he never should have been at long-term. Expectations overextended the reality, and when his year in the clouds came back to Earth, the reality became even harder to take. Then, when complicated with active nostalgia and the hope that his peak could be regained, his continued struggles with the strike zone, along with growing compensation due, amplified frustrations to a point where a change of scenery was a must for both side.
Ultimately, change had no choice but to come. He had become a man out of place, as well as out of time. Freese never looked comfortable in 2013, and was creating void far too wide to ignore. His numbers plummeted across the board, and his defensive range followed as well. For a team with few, but glaring, needs that the Cardinals already have, another year with Freese potentially underachieving was not an option. He became a man without a role in the lineup; a presence at a run producing position that could not drive in runs, as well as a single-dimensional player that did neither well enough to warrant a regular position.
And now, he leaves as he came in many regards. He was the return for Jim Edmonds in the trade that sent him to St. Louis after the 2006 season. In the full-circle nature of the life, there is some interesting closure in the departure of Freese. Edmonds arrived in St. Louis as an exciting defensive presence that immediately revived a stagnant Cardinal club. The return for him is yet another former Angel that will bring the same type of ability to a Cardinal outfield that Edmonds did in 2000. Peter Bourjos is a welcome upgrade from the overrated ability of Jon Jay in center and a needed ground covering presence between Matt Holliday and the likely duo of Allen Craig and Oscar Tavares in right. He is an instant upgrade, and in all truth, a steal in regards to return on where Freese’s stock seemed to be.
But now, the slowly grinding reality of trading away one of the preeminent faces of the city to Anaheim will set in, where he will not-so ironically join the last man that left an emotional void in the Cardinal fanbase when he departed. Yet the question begs to be answered, how does the . The organization that turns pages with more ease than any other will do just that, and a fan base that has had a more complicated time in doing so will have to once again.
For Freese, there will always be country within Cardinal Nation. And now with, both his highs and lows in the rearview, his legacy will begin to set itself; as a complicated, yet great flash in team history, and one that will one day have a place within the walls of Busch again, just not in the now.