The Philadelphia Phillies and Jayson Werth were once very close. However, Phillies fans like myself considered Werth dead to us when he signed with the Washington Nationals in late 2010. In fact, we tended to laugh at Werth for taking a huge contract to play on a pathetic team, whereas Philadelphia still seemed World Series bound.
But two years later, Werth is the one laughing at us, as the Nationals head for the postseason and the Phillies head for their first playoff-free October in five years. He kept cackling on Sept. 26, as his two-run single in the ninth gave the Nationals breathing room en route to an 8-4 win in Philadelphia.
Washington now has a magic number of four to clinch its first NL East title and end Philadelphia's five-year run. It is also in a dogfight for home field advantage throughout the entire postseason, even without Stephen Strasburg available. No one could have seen the Nationals doing this so soon when Werth first came on board.
These good times seemed less likely when Werth was a big disappointment in his first year at Washington. Even now, injuries and slumps have helped make his 2012 season a rough one, as the Nationals rely more on Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and other batters. Werth, on the other hand, has played just 75 games and has often been an afterthought, despite his large contract.
Yet when he has played, Werth has improved his average to .304 with 31 RBIs. And all his year of playoff baseball will be a big help for a Nationals team approaching its first October. His younger teammates will look to him for guidance, and he will certainly be extra hungry to get a second ring for a new team.
At the least, Werth will be playing in the postseason again, unlike the Phillies. While Philadelphia reached the 2011 playoffs without him, now Werth is returning without them and hopes to go even further. And now that Washington has become a winning team faster than expected, Werth may have a few more shots at another World Series while Philadelphia begins rebuilding.
The right fielder used to be beloved while with the Phillies, yet now he is regularly booed at Citizens Bank Park. However, those boos carry a tinge of jealousy, since he seemed to have bailed out of Philadelphia just in time. Now he is contributing and getting RBIs for a World Series favorite, while the Phillies already miss the days when they were expected to reach the Fall Classic.
If Werth gets a second ring faster than his former teammates do, it will make a cruel amount of sense. A bunch of ex-Philadelphia Flyers got to host the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings this summer, and now another ex-Philadelphia favorite may reap the championship benefits of leaving town as well.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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