When Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish steps onto the Dodger Stadium field Saturday for the first time since his disastrous performance in the 2017 World Series, fans aren't expected to welcome him back fondly.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and some of Darvish's former teammates who still play for Los Angeles don't think fans have any reason to boo the pitcher, however.
"To be looked at in that light by a fan base and a very big fan base in a city I know he enjoyed, it's tough. It's gotta be tough," Roberts said, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
"I thought he had some really good moments with us. People want to reference Game 7 a lot - which is unfortunate, which was unfortunate obviously for all of us. … I think for him it's more a personal thing. I know he loved his time in L.A., loved the Dodgers and the fans. I think it's more Game 7 didn't go well for any of us and I think that's kind of his cross to bear maybe a little bit."
Darvish struggled in the '17 World Series against the Houston Astros, lasting just 3 1/3 innings during two starts with an ERA of 21.60.
The 32-year-old took a lot of the blame from Dodgers fans for losing the series, but his former teammates believe the responsibility for the defeat rests with the entire club.
"I don't think Yu Darvish lost the World Series," Enrique Hernandez said. "I think the Dodgers did."
The Japanese hurler left L.A. for Chicago following the World Series debacle, signing a six-year, $126-million contract with the Cubs in free agency. Darvish said last June he was interested in re-signing with the Dodgers despite the backlash from fans but admitted he was worried about how his children would be treated in school had he stayed.
"Fans have the right to boo players who don't perform, there's no doubt about it," Clayton Kershaw said, according to Plunkett. "I just think when you're in here in the clubhouse with the team and you know everything we go through on a day-in, day-out basis and you know Yu performed really well up to that point, pitched two really big games to get into the World Series - against the Diamondbacks and the Cubs. We wouldn't even have been in that position without him.
"People forget that fast and I understand that. But to us, to me - he was a big contributor to us being there in the first place. That's kind of how I think about it."