LOS ANGELES — Standing on the first base line, with Chavez Ravine glistening from the lenses of her pink sunglasses, Nancy Carillo shook her head. The Los Angeles native did not want to drift back to last year’s World Series.
But she obliged.
Carillo, a school teacher who often travels to Japan to teach, watched last November’s Game 7 in the library of her Japanese school. She was confident when former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish stepped up to the rubber, but then …
“A lot of things went wrong,” Carillo recalled.
Darvish’s pitching performance was definitely one of those things. He allowed five runs in a mere 1 ⅔ innings pitched. The Dodgers lost 5-1 to the Houston Astros and ultimately lost what would have been their first World Series since 1988.
With the Chicago Cubs in town, Darvish — who now pitches for the Cubs — spoke to the Los Angeles Times about leaving Los Angeles. Because of his outing in Game 3 of the World Series, he expected he’d be booed by fans if seen or referenced. Once again, Carillo shook her head.
“It’s not like he’s Steve Bartman or anything,” she said, laughing.
Yahoo Sports spoke with a number of fans Thursday who shared Carillo’s sentiment. Some, though, phrased their message similar to the message of the Japanese-born 31-year-old Darvish: It’s a complicated relationship.
For Darvish, those complications stem from the fact that he had lost his baseball love around last year’s July 31 trade deadline. In the interview with the Times’ Dylan Hernandez, Darvish even went as far as to say he was thinking about retirement — until the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for him.
Darvish has said playing for the Dodgers made baseball fun again. He was rejuvenated by the environment, the expectations and the enthusiasm shown by fans. Yet with those three “e’s” came pressure.
“When we got him at the deadline, I was so excited,” said 59-year-old fan Oscar Ruiz. “I thought [the pennant] was ours.”
Darvish affirmed Ruiz’s excitement in his first two starts. He and the Dodgers won both games. Then, inconsistency rose, worrying fans like 71-year-old Chuck Wigley who has been coming to 20 games a year for close to 25 years.
Wigley said he was also weary of Darvish’s struggles to stay healthy.
“At times, he was great,” Wigley said. “But when he got hit, he got hit hard.”
Never was this more apparent than in the World Series. Not only did Darvish give up four runs in Game 3, but he also only secured five outs in Game 7. Afterward, he was as disappointed as Dodger fans themselves, mulling over what he could have done differently.
Still, when free agency began, Darvish wanted to sign with the Dodgers. In a sense, the lore of Los Angeles was enticing as well as his want to right the World Series wrong. In another, Darvish’s social media was filled with hostility to the point the pitcher told the Los Angeles Times he was concerned for his kids at school (something Carillo said she believed would have never been an issue).
“What bothered me was the idea that Dodgers fans were disappointed,” Darvish added in the Los Angeles Times interview, expressing honesty in ways athletes often do not.
The two sides discussed a possible deal, but talks stalled due to Los Angeles’ wanting to stay below the luxury-tax threshold. So ultimately, Darvish inked a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.
Upon signing, Darvish pulled up the calendar. He wanted to check when the Cubs played the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and he wanted to do it immediately. The calendar said June 25. This past Monday, he arrived.
Though as has often been the case in his seven-year MLB career, Darvish is on the disabled list for tendinitis in his right triceps. A return to the starting rotation this weekend is likely, but that didn’t prevent Wigley from shedding a sly smile underneath the Southern California sun.
“I’m glad he’s not with us,” he said.
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