This year, both League Championship Series feature prominent players squaring off against their old teams - Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira vs. the Rangers, and Pat Burrell vs. the Phillies. As expected, each player has been on the receiving end of some hearty booing from the opposing fans. Not that I'm opposed to booing the away team's players, but the games of the past few days have had me thinking about when is it or is it not appropriate to boo an opponent, especially if he used to play for your team.
We'll deal with Burrell first. The Citizens Bank Park crowd didn't boo him mercilessly, but the booing definitely outweighed any "welcome back" golf clapping. Did he deserve it? Yes, I think he did, in light of the manner in which he left the team after 2008. Pat the Bat made it abundantly clear that he was going to take his pull-happy swing and no-play-is-routine defensive skills elsewhere. Nevertheless, Burrell was a consistent producer and did a great deal to help the team up off the mat after the Terry Francona days. Let's also not forget that he was taken with the draft choice given back to the team after J.D. Drew refused to sign in 1997. All in all, Burrell got a fair reception in Game 1. When you willingly spurn your original team for money, especially as a free agent leaving a fairly well-heeled team like the Phillies, the booing is justified. There are exceptions, but generally it's a good rule of thumb.
On the matters of Tex, I have a major issue with the Rangers fans. Maybe I'm just a huge Yankee homer, but I'd like to remind the Dallas-Fort Worth area that Mark Teixeira did not leave the Rangers of his own volition - he was traded away to Atlanta at the 2007 deadline. Not only has Teixeira never said anything negative about the Rangers organization (although friction between him and Bubbles - wait, I mean Ron Washington - is acknowledged), please take a look at what that trade netted them. If you scroll down to the "Transactions" section of this page, you'll see that the Rangers owe their starting shortstop and flamethrowing closer to the Teixeira trade. Fans of the Angels have a something of right to boo Tex because he left them in free agency, but even then he was only in Anaheim for 3 months. The Rangers fans, however, should be thanking their lucky lone stars that Teixeira's time in Texas ended the way it did, for their team would likely not be nearly as complete otherwise.
And now, we move on to A-Rod. Of course he's going to get booed everywhere, because he's A-Rod. There's no issue with that. However (and this is reason #2 why the Dallas area sports fans are on my shit list right now, reason #1 is coming in a future post about my trip down there), the "You did steroids!" chant while A-Rod is at the plate is utterly stupid. Yes, he took PEDs. And you know what team he was playing for during the time that his steroid use was proven? That's right, the Texas Rangers! How can you do a steroids chant at a guy who did them while he was playing for YOUR TEAM? I'll bet the few fans that even paid mind to the Rangers in those days sure didn't have such a beef with A-Rod when he was averaging 52 homers and 132 RBI a year for them. Not to mention, he also left the team via a trade, a trade that greatly helped the Rangers escape the financial hole that his $252MM contract put them in and begin using their money to build an entire team. I've written on this topic before, but it's not Alex Rodriguez's fault that the Rangers jumped in way over their heads when they signed him in 2001.
So when is it OK to boo a player coming back with a different team? Well, first and foremost, if the guy sucked when he played for your team, then boo the hell out of him. If he was an irresponsible douche who couldn't stay off the DL, then boo him with everything you've got. If he bad-mouthed the city, the fans, the organization, or any of the above during his time there, then you're fine to boo. If he caused internal problems on the team leading to his ultimate departure, it's fair game. On the other hand, use discretion if the guy helped your team win a championship, if honest injuries derailed his tenure, or if he was traded away without demanding so. There are more examples, unwritten rules, and exceptions out there, so feel free to add anything in the comments section.