Baseball comes to its senses. So where’s Freddie Freeman going?

Combined ShapeCaption
Baseball owners and players have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, thereby ending a lockout that had reached its fourth month.The last play of last season was Dansby Swanson throwing to Freddie Freeman for an out.That out earned the Braves its first World Series championship since 1995.Freeman is a free agent now, which means he might not be an Atlanta Brave when this season begins in April.Could the Braves really let him leave? Does Freeman really want to leave? If he leaves, who’s on first?

As they say in baseball, “That’s baseball.” Baseball is the sport that makes us want to quit it for good, but when, at blessed last, it comes to its senses, we forget everything and say, “Welcome back.”

So: Welcome back, baseballers. Welcome back, World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Welcome back (maybe), Freddie Freeman.

ExploreBraves finally get to build roster, defend World Series title

After months of nothing happening, baseball is about to hit us with a flurry of news. Word broke at 3:34 p.m. Thursday that the owners and players had agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, thereby ending a lockout that had reached its fourth month.

Remember the hand-wringing about missed games? MLB plans to play a full 162-game regular season, with nine-inning (as opposed to seven-inning) doubleheaders making a return. Opening day won’t happen in March, as was the plan, but it will happen in April, which comes just after March.

But that, again, is baseball. Just when you think it’s out, it pulls you back in. Players and owners wound up compromising, which invariably happens only after both sides refuse to budge an inch. Much of the problem with baseball is that the owners and players get so caught up in despising each other that both sides forget the reason players wanted to play this sport and owners wanted to buy franchises. Once the labor issues get resolved, baseball can be a fun thing.

Explore‘Play ball!’: Social media reaction to end of MLB lockout

Our last memory of baseball came on the night of Nov. 2. Will Smith delivered an 0-2 pitch to Yuli Gurriel, who grounded the ball to Dansby Swanson, who looked toward second for a possible force before throwing to Freeman, who celebrated the Braves’ first championship since 1995 by lifting both hands and howling at the autumn moon.

For us around here, baseball 2021 ended on the highest possible note. The Braves took a title they weren’t supposed to take, which always is a delight, and they did it being powered by guys who weren’t Braves on the Fourth of July. It would have been a crime had this lockout lasted another month or even another week: We around here really, really want to see what the Braves do next. Now we can.

In the cold light of hindsight, did it take MLB and its players too long to resolve issues that, at least to non-players and non-owners, didn’t seem all that compelling? Probably. Again, though: That’s … well, you know.

The minimum salary for big-leaguers without three years of service time jumps from $570,000 to $700K. The draft will feature a lottery, so as to discourage tanking – though three of the past six World Series winners (2016 Cubs, 2017 Astros, 2021 Braves) got good again because of tanking. The competitive-balance tax will be tweaked in a manner that makes it less onerous to splurge, which mightn’t sound like a big deal but became one to the players, who wanted no curbs on those owners prone to splurging.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Braves

Freeman alert: Teams can begin signing free agents as of Thursday night, which means we might have our answer any minute. Could the Braves really let him leave? Does Freeman really want to leave? If he leaves, who’s on first?

We’ve taken enough shots at baseball for being silly, but this must be mentioned: The players and owners went six weeks without meeting during the lockout, which ended on its 99th day. There was no reason for that except the age-old reason: Owners and players don’t like each other, don’t trust each other and can barely stand to share a bargaining table with each other. Eventually, though, even stubborn folks can come to see clearly.

If no baseball is played, nobody involved with the sport makes money. That truth should serve always as the lodestar for players and owners alike, but every so often it gets obscured. Moot point now, though. Both sides have seen the light. And that’s baseball, for better or worse. We hate it because we love it. Which makes us kind of silly, too.