Returning to Atlanta for the first time since he left for Houston, Mike Hampton was showered with boos by the home crowd. While I think it was a bit misguided, the reaction was hardly surprising. Then, when leaving the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning after giving up six runs (five earned), he was booed even louder.
I understand why Atlanta fans are frustrated with Mike Hampton. I live and die by the Braves, and have for as long as I can remember. In his time as a Brave from 2003-2008, Mike played two full seasons, starting only 85 games during that six-year span.
As he aged Mike became injury prone, to say the very least. Although he was effective in his minimal appearances, compiling a 35-24 record, it seemed as though it was always one setback after another, limiting the Braves rotation and taking up too much payroll for a real fix to be possible.
The most astounding injury was in 2008, when after having a complete and healthy Spring Training for the first time since Tommy John surgery, he injured himself in the Atlanta bullpen warming up for his first start of the season.
Needless to say, the Mike Hampton contract was a disaster. When a player's time with a team goes as horribly wrong as his did in Atlanta, you can expect the fans to have a pretty bitter taste in their mouth. However, if I were in the stands I would not have booed him.
To any casual fan, all you see is that Mike Hampton cashed checks for six years and played in a Braves jersey about 40 percent of that time. What you don't see is all the physical rehab he did, the simulated games, the Mexican league games and the kind of teammate he was in the locker room.
No Braves player asked about Mike Hampton during his years with the team had anything but positive things to say about his effect on teammates, dedication to the organization and getting in game shape. Sometimes, your body just won't cooperate and after 12 years of being a starting pitcher in the big leagues, the innings start to take their toll.
In my opinion, with rare exception, there are two reasons you should boo an ex-player when they make their return. If they were a jerk or if they showed a lack of effort during their tenure, then they're fair game.
I see no need for a pleasant welcome if a player fails to do two of the things that any MLB player should be able to do, which is get along with your teammates and leave it all out on the field every night.
In Mike's case, he was guilty of neither and you can be sure that nobody wanted Mike Hampton to be on the mound more than Mike Hampton. He did everything in his power to salvage a situation beyond his control, and as long as he's not facing the Braves, I hope his comeback effort is a success.