There are a lot of trade rumors surrounding the Padres, including the Rangers sniffing around at Andrew Cashner, but the majority of the buzz centers on San Diego's potential acquisition of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. The thought of Kemp relocating to America's Finest City has led to much debate among Friar fans, faithful and fairweather alike. While Kemp comes with a bevy of questions including "Who and how much would they have to give up?", "Can he stay in one piece?", and "How many runs is his glove going to cost if he does stay intact?", the sentiment I see most frequently is "Can I somehow bring myself to not hate that guy?"
It's a valid question, and for the purpose of this post, the only one I'll be attempting to answer. Setting aside all other concerns, it's tricky business to be expected to do a full 180 in the blink of an eye regarding your rooting interests in a player. That is amplified exponentially when the player in question has spent the entirety of his career -- nearly a decade -- wearing the uniform of your most hated team. Add on a few more degree-of-difficulty points for him being the rival team's marquee player part of that time, and it makes recalibrating one's rooting meter all that more difficult.
When Kemp's name comes up amongst a gaggle of Padres fans, his character will inevitably come into question. This is one of those things that some fans feel the need to do regarding any opposing player, and it takes form in many ways. In his case, people are especially fond of bringing up his parking garage altercation with Carlos Quentin and Clayton Richard following the Greinke-Quentin incident. To some, this is all the evidence they need to call him a hothead and other radio buzzwords, saying he needed to mind his own business, all while lauding Clayton Richard for being a great teammate sticking up for his foxhole brother.
Although I have never rooted for Matt Kemp to have success on the field, absolutely none of that has anything to do with Matt Kemp the human being. It's like Jerry Seinfeld's famous bit about rooting interests, except in this case I'm just rooting against laundry. I rooted against Todd Zeile when he wore a red 27 on the front of his jersey and I'll root against the next guy who does when Kemp leaves. The fact that someone is wearing a Dodgers uniform is enough for me; I don't need to grasp at straws to demonize the individuals when the only thing I truly dislike about them is wadded up in a hamper at day's end. There are enough Josh Luekes in the world to legitimately hate without manufacturing animus for guys who wear the wrong letters on their polyester shirts.
In my eyes, Matt Kemp is a Dodger until he ceases to wear a Dodgers uniform, and then he isn't. That simple. If he had spent these past nine years playing for the Orioles I wouldn't be sitting here wondering how to root for him if he became a Padre. Just because I don't care at all about the Orioles doesn't mean that I could never care about a player who had been an Oriole, so just because I hate the Dodgers doesn't mean I perma-hate everyone who has ever had anything to do with their organization.
So, no, I would not have a problem rooting for a Padres uniform with Matt Kemp inside it. Not that my opinion counts for anything in the big picture, but it's one less question for me to mull around while the professionals sort out the answers to the ones that matter.