Updated: Jul 18, 2022
“That’s Fucking ridiculous!” said Joshua Kusnick, former MLB player agent and guest on the most recent iteration of the Conduct Detrimental Podcast. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. In a story first reported by Doug Gottlieb, A Fox Sports radio host, Doug made a few wild allegations relating to the reasons star first baseman Freddie Freeman fired his agent, Casey Close. Doug’s “source” reportedly told him that the firing was related to the fact Casey and the agency he worked for failed to communicate the Braves' final offer to Freeman in the offseason prior to his move to Los Angeles
In the same podcast that the beautifully succinct quote from above was pulled from, Joshua, Dan, as well as the other members of the podcast all examine and weigh in on the possibility of the allegation being true, and the implications both if it turned out to be true and also the more likely option that it was the manufactured story given to Gottlieb by someone pushing an agenda.
As a Braves fan there was part of me reading the article for the first time that wanted to believe that the allegations were true and at the Braves weren't the ones that ultimately caused Freeman to go to Los Angeles for more money, but the more that I thought about it and looked at it the less likely that outcome actually is. The fact of the matter is that Casey, as well as the agency he works for, Excel Sports Group, are incredibly Braves friendly. They are the same agency that represented Chipper Jones and helped him to stay a Brave for his entire career, and they represent many other current Braves players and prospects. The idea that an agency with such close ties to the team they reportedly “screwed over” in dealings for one of their club favorites is absolutely ludicrous, and it appears to have no basis.
I can't pretend to know exactly what went on behind closed doors with Freeman agents in the club, but after all my interactions with current and past MLB agents, the idea that a final offer reportedly worth approximately $160 million wasn't communicated to Freeman? That simply wouldn't have happened, and if it did Casey would likely be suspended indefinitely by the MLBPA. Both Casey’s and the agency's vehement denial of these facts and their “pursuit of all legal options” against Dough seems to indicate it is false.
It's not all that uncommon for a player to switch agencies even once they have made it as big as Freddie has. After Freddie made the move to LA, it would make sense if he no longer wanted to be associated with an agency that has such close ties with the club that he just left. Also, it wouldn't make sense if these allegations were true to leave the agency now—Excel and Casey will both get paid regardless of current employment for the remainder of Freddie’s contract, as they're the ones negotiated in for him.
With all this said, I'm left with one burning question I'm unable to answer. If these allegations are false (and they are very likely to be), who was it that would have had the motive to have this story published in the first place? Well, the more that I thought about it only two possible answers exist. Option one is that it was perpetrated by whatever firm Freddie plans to go with to represent him in the future. However, that would have very bold move on their part even despite the competition normalized in the industry between rival agents and agencies. The only other possible option in my mind is that someone within the Braves organization wanted this article to be published so that the public perception would shift, making them look like they are the “good guys” for bringing in Matt Olson as his replacement. I don't like either of these options, especially as a Braves fan—but unfortunately, I think the most likely of these outcomes is that it was perpetrated by someone within the Braves organization.
Even if this is the case, I still don't fully understand the logic behind the decision. What is the best way to show the public that you made the right decision? Publicize it every time Olson does something good either on the field or off the field instead of spending a wild narrative that could potentially ruin an agent's career with a story that is incredibly unlikely to have occurred given the state and regulation of agent’s behaviors as fiduciaries of the players they represent.
Regardless of what actually happened, I hope that this debacle is the exception and not the rule for any organization (whether agency or team front office) going forward. Agents are bound to do what is best for their clients, which also happens to be what is best for them to make the most money. The idea that an agent would blatantly ignore their fiduciary duties, as well as a better payday for themselves, is completely ludicrous, and I'm sincerely surprised any “reputable” reporter would write such a story or issue such a tweet.
On the more legal side of things, Casey, as well as Excel Sports could have a very strong defamation suit against Doug, but they face the hurdle of proving that it was published with actual malice. This could be difficult to prove if Doug actually trusted the source that gave it to him no matter how crazy it was for him to actually do so—this would mean they would have no case against him.
However it ultimately ends, let this situation be an example for everyone to make sure the sources you're using are actually reputable because otherwise you become “the boy who cried wolf” and anything you write cannot be trusted.
Zachary Bryson is a graduate from Wake Forest University with B.A. in Economics and a Minor in Entrepreneurship. He is currently a JD candidate at Elon University School of Law, Class of 2023. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @ZacharySBryson.