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When it comes to ex-Braves, do you cheer, or do you boo?

Loyalty can be fickle when your favorite team competes against a former teammate who just so happens to be your favorite player.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One
William Contreras gets his first shot at retribution this weekend against Atlanta.
Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

There’s a juxtaposition that some fans go through when their favorite players are traded, released or sign as free agents with other teams and end up on the opposite side of the field to face their former team for the first time.

Most people have an opinion on this - no one is right or wrong, it’s just an opinion - but this weekend’s series with the Milwaukee Brewers brings the topic back to light.

For parts of nine seasons, Julio Teheran was a constant in Atlanta’s starting rotation. For seven of those seasons, he started 30 or more games, made two All-Star squads and pitched well enough to lead a re-building Braves pitching staff. He won 77 games for Atlanta but until about two months ago he’d made a total of 11 starts since the 2019 season - his last with the Braves.

Sunday, he will take the hill for the Brewers against the Braves, facing his old team for the first time since his departure.

It’s possible his battery mate will be William Contreras - “Will Bill” to you and me and everyone else who embraced Atlanta’s former catcher who was traded this past offseason in the deal that landed Sean Murphy in Atlanta.

Contreras only played 153 games with the Braves but ended up in the NL’s starting line-up for last season’s All-Star Game. He slugged 20 home runs in only 97 games last year and looked to be a long-terms solution at catcher and/or designated hitter until he wasn’t.

Now he’s the starting backstop for the Brew Crew and his bat still plays but it looks like the Milwaukee coaching staff as unlocked the defensive side of his skills - something that gave his prior organization pause. This weekend will also be his first time facing his former club.

In the past 20 years, the list of this writer’s favorite Braves players include names like Martin Prado, David Ross, Gary Sheffield, Jessie Chavez, Ozzie Albies and William Contreras.

Oddly, Julio Teheran didn’t join the list until after he had moved on and a few years of objectivity led to an updated appreciation of his time with the team. Like many of you, I wanted Teheran to be more than he was - which was a dang-fine mid-rotation starter who was seemingly two walks and a blast away from squandering a lead.

That’s to say, he was kind of the OG Bryce Elder, a pitcher whose advanced numbers make you hold your breath because the outcome tends to outperform the metrics. Ironically, the two will match-up in Sunday’s contest.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
The Braves former starting rotation lead horse gets a crack against his former team as “El Caballo de Olaya” faces the Braves for the first time this weekend.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Back to that list above - it isn’t exactly a who’s who of Braves legends. I get that. Regardless of era, the superstar was rarely my favorite.

Dale Murphy? Nah, Glenn Hubbard and Bruce Benedict.

Tom Glavine? Nope, Steve Avery.

Javy Lopez? Sorry, Eddie Perez.

Chipper and Andruw Jones? More like Prado, Sheff, Crime Dog and Big Cat.

Some came back to face their former team. Others never had the chance. Regardless, that didn’t change my feelings for them.

For a lot of you, this subject was front-and-center when Freddie Freeman returned to Atlanta last year. Before his first at-bat, he received a hero’s welcome. There were cheers. There were tears. There were tears in beers and crying for you dears, because he was on your lonesome mind.

Not everyone felt that way. I get it. I do.

Some of you out there hate - and I mean HATE - any player who isn’t on your favorite team. You are the type that probably booed Dale Murphy when he was a Phillies. Good on you for that, my friend, I don’t have issues with your fandom. Likewise, you probably cheered the daylights out for J.D. Drew. I mean, I get it if you did, but gross.

Even bad guys are good guys when wearing the right threads.

When Dan Uggla came to Atlanta, well, that was a tough pill to swallow. Ditto Ozzie Virgil. When Julian Tavarez and Livian Hernandez had a pit stop with the Braves at the end of their careers, that was just, weird. That says nothing of Stan Belinda ... because that really was weird and also kind of sad.

On the other hand, there was a golden band, because I was loyal to Prado to the end. To this day, I want to see him back in the Braves organization. I didn’t even hate on him when he was with the Yankees. THE YANKEES.

When Hulk turned heel in 1996, a beach full of mids lost their every-loving minds. If you’d been buying that good-guy smokescreen with all the other little Hulkamaniacs, then I don’t know what to tell you, brother. (Also see: Swanson, Dansby.)

See, the good guys aren’t always the good guys, and the bad guys aren’t always the bad guys.

It’s more complicated than that.

There are a lot of you that love to boo the bad guy. That happens every time Bryce Harper walks to the plate in Cobb County. But the vitriol has turned more good-natured over the years. Like Chipper at Shea, sometimes you love that bad guy because he was really a good guy all along.

You know you fell in love with Harper bodying the Braves fan who kept incorrectly saying Ronald Acuña, Jr.’s name a few years ago. Don’t lie.

This weekend isn’t a homecoming for Contreras and Teheran since the series is in Milwaukee, but with Wild Bill doing well and Julio pitching like classic Julio, it's a reminder that cheering for your favorite team is cheering for laundry.

Sometimes, you want to cheer for the person wearing the wrong colors, too.

I’m not a jersey guy. I’m not a shirtsey guy, either. But I have a “Wild Bill” shirt from last year hanging in my closet that I have not worn since the trade. You better believe it will be making an open-air appearance this weekend.

Does that mean I want to see Milwaukee beat Atlanta? Of course not. But if, come Sunday, ol’ Julio tosses seven innings of shutout baseball and Wild Bill hits three solo home runs while the Braves rally to win 4-3, that would be alright with me.

Survey says, I’m that guy.

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