Dodgers’ David Freese retires after 11 seasons as premier postseason performer

Dodgers first baseman David Freese, one of baseball’s most clutch postseason performers ever, announced his retirement Saturday.

Freese, 36, played for four teams across 11 seasons in the majors. He started his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, spending parts of five seasons playing for his hometown team. He was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2011, and an All-Star in 2012 for St. Louis.

He finishes his career with a .277 batting average and 113 home runs in the regular season. He consistently elevated his performance in the postseason, hitting .299 with 10 home runs and a .919 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 69 career playoff games. He batted .315 with 11 home runs and an OPS of 1.002 in 162 at-bats for the Dodgers this season and was four for eight in the National League Division Series.

Freese became a legend in St. Louis for his heroics in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers when he cracked a game-tying two-out, two-run triple over right fielder Nelson Cruz’s head with the Cardinals down to their last strike. Two innings later, he clubbed a walk-off home run to force a Game 7. The Cardinals went on to take Game 7 and win the World Series. Freese batted .397 with five home runs and a 1.258 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 18 playoff games that October.

Advertisement He reached the playoffs five more times; twice with the Cardinals, once with the Angels, and twice with the Dodgers to finish his career.

The Dodgers acquired Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a last-minute acquisition before the Sept. 1 waiver trade deadline in 2018 to serve as a first baseman against left-handed pitching. He spent just two months with the team, but left an impression on a club that needed to force a 163rd game and to win the National League West.

While he performed on the field — he batted .385 in 19 regular-season games and .364 in 14 playoff games — Freese was beloved in the clubhouse. He became a quiet leader, offering advice and pointers. Teammates respected him knowing not only his on-field success, but the depression and alcohol abuse he had battled off the field.

“Right away, last year, there’s something about his voice,” Dodgers utility player Enrique Hernandez said. “He doesn’t talk much but when he does talk you want to listen and he’s got a lot of good input. And last year he was seeing it from the outside all year long. He came September first and saw it on the inside. And it’s nice to have one of those voices that’s been around for a while.”

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Freese was set on retiring a year ago after the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. He was about to become a free agent and figured the market wouldn’t be kind to a corner infielder in his mid-30s. But he decided not to after seeing teammates vouch for his return to team officials.

That night, he spoke with president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the two quickly agreed on a new contract. Freese signed a one-year deal for $4.5 million. He earned nearly $35 million in his career.

“I’m a lot like all these guys in here,” Freese said in late September. “I’m a lot like all these guys in this organization. From a personality standpoint I just fit in with these guys. It still feels surreal that I’m here even a year later. I’m just really grateful. It’s become kind of a cliche word but I am really grateful to the people on this team.”

Freese reported to spring training in February knowing this would be his final season. He wasn’t going to change his mind even after excelling in his platoon role this season. The looming end changed his perspective through the summer.

“It’s kind of been a feeling all year,” Freese said. “You go to stadiums, you understand that you might not be putting a uniform on in this park or that park ever again. Obviously, over the course of the season you’re like, we might see these guys in the playoffs, you don’t really feel the same way.

“You know, being in the NL Central for so many years, those parks have a different feeling than other parks. But it’s been crazy, man. I think things have slowed down a little bit, understanding where I’m at personally with all this.”

Dodgers Column: Dodgers must be bold in acquiring players necessary to win a World Series Dodgers Column: Dodgers must be bold in acquiring players necessary to win a World Series The Houston Astros in 2017 and Chicago Cubs in 2016 traded top prospects and were rewarded with World Series titles. The Dodgers similarly ought to go all in. Advertisement