After going 0-3 in game one of a three-game weekend against his former team in early July, Jayson Werth looked as motivated as ever to beat the Phillies in the final two games of the series, combining for two homeruns and seven RBIs. It doesn’t seem that the burning fire inside Werth, that he says Phillies’ fans lit in him during the 2012 season, has gone away.
“After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again,” Werth wrote.
I will defend Philadelphia sports fans, which I am one of, to my grave. But this was a below the belt move by certain members of this fanbase.
The problem wasn’t that a few frauds went down to D.C. to boo Werth just because they wished that he was still on the team, it’s that as a fanbase this move reflected our feelings towards someone that was a key member to the Phillies’ 2008 World Series winning team, and 2009 National League pennant team.
Since Werth left after the 2010 season to sign a seven-year/$126 million deal, he’s been subject to merciless boos and taunts in Philly, and before the Nats banned Phillies’ fans from buying their tickets, in his new home park in Washington, D.C.
But why? This isn’t J.D. Drew or Scott Rolen. This is the franchise leader in single-postseason homeruns and career playoff homeruns. This was one of the key cogs to one of the Phillies’ two World Series titles in their 130 year history (that doesn’t count this season).
And I think if Werth’s critics are being realistic, they have a bit of a revisionist history.
From 2008-2010, perhaps the most successful three year run in team history, Werth slugged 87 homeruns and drove in over 250 runs. Similar outfielders like Matt Holiday and Jason Bay hit the free-agent market before Werth, getting very different deals. Bay, who clearly benefited from hitting in Fenway Park and playing on a very good team, settled for a four-year/$66 million deal. That same month, Holliday set the bar, by agreeing to a seven-year/$120 million with the Cardinals. I think it’s fair to say that at that time, most teams felt that Bay could see a steep decline in his numbers once he left Fenway, which he did. The Cardinals, on the other hand, gave out a deal that made Holliday higher-paid than Albert Pujols, but Holliday was still on the right side of thirty (barley), and had finished second in MVP voting in 2007.
Regardless of how you felt about the two deals, the Holliday deal seemed to set the market for All-Star outfielders, which Werth was, and one desperate team took that market a step further.
On December 6th, 2010, the Washington Nationals gave Werth, who was the reigning NL doubles leader, a seven-year/$126 million deal. At the time, the deal was a massive overpayment for the then 31 year-old. As MLB TV deals, and with that, contracts, have ballooned, the deal doesn’t look quite as bad as it once did. But as Werth has moved into a bigger park and less loaded lineup, it’s evident that deal wasn’t a smart move on the Nationals part. But that really doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that the Phillies low-balled Werth by offering him a four-year/$60 million deal, and the Nationals guaranteed Werth three more seasons and more than double the amount of money the Phillies did. There is a difference in taking a hometown discount and just being foolish. The Nationals didn’t offer a five-year deal for a similar amount of money, they blew the Phillies out of the water with their offer.
Looking back, the Phillies would have been better served locking Werth up long-term (not to the same deal the Nats did) than Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard, but that isn’t what they did. And that isn’t Werth’s fault. It also wasn’t Werth’s fault that the team ended up finding money that seemingly wasn’t there when they talked to Werth, a couple of weeks later when they brought Cliff Lee back. It’s a business. The Phillies didn’t want to overpay Werth, because they had they were set on trying to right the wrong of moving Lee. That isn’t Werth’s fault.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easy to go to Citizens Bank Park drunk this week–or any night at this point–and loudly boo Jayson Werth for ‘taking the money from a divisional rival’. But deep down we all know it wasn’t that cut and dry. And while a majority of the fanbase enjoys painting him in that negative light, I look at Werth as a World Series hero, and the guy who jumped up cheering after Chase Utley screamed “World Phu**ing Champions” at the 2008 World Series parade. I view him as one of the heroes who made watching players like Jose Santiago, Turk Wendell and David Bell as a child worth it. But that’s just me.