A popular reaction to watching the Masters yesterday was an overwhelming feeling of sympathy for Rory McIlroy. I was rooting against him all weekend, so I had no such feelings when he hooked his drive on the tenth hole. By the time he approached the green and the comedy of errors got worse, I felt myself cave in a little bit. In a text message I said, “if he makes more than 7, I’ll feel bad for him.” By the time he was seven shots back most of my venom for the kid had faded away, but the end result was ultimately what I was hoping for so it would be hypocritical to say Rory won me over in defeat. He didn’t, by the way, I just had stopped actively rooting against him. Feeling sorry for an athlete because of their performance on the field always comes with a caveat. It’s not like feeling sorry for someone who lost their job, or faced any type of real hardship. It’s relative. For a world-famous, rich, professional athlete…that guy got the short end of the stick.
The more I look at Jayson Werth, the more I think he fits into that category. Werth reminds me of the kid whose parents rented out an entire amusement park for his birthday, but none of his friends showed up for the party. Werth took the 126 million in Washington, because honestly, who is turning down 126 million? But, he doesn’t seem happy about being there and while he rides all the roller coasters by himself the Phillies party carries on without him. The Phils will face Werth and Nationals for the first time this year starting on Tuesday. There was an article in today’s paper about what kind of response Werth is expecting from the Philly fans who invade Washington for every series.
While some of the article addresses the cheer vs. boo question, there are a lot of quotes from Werth that confirm suspicions he’d still love to be in Philadelphia. He says he can’t wait to see Charlie Manuel. He says that when he’s sixty years old he hopes to be attending alumni functions in Philadelphia. I guess as a member of a World Series winning team that is a reasonable expectation, but shouldn’t he be more focused on creating some reunion worthy results in Washington? If Werth plays out his contract in Washington and plays at a high level, he’ll be remembered as a National. Sure, he will have won a World Series in Philadelphia, but the bulk of his productive years will have come in Washington. If Werth ends up being remembered as a Phillie, that probably means his time in Washington was not a success.
The Nationals are still the Nationals (they’ve plodded to a 4-5 start), and I imagine that is a tough transition for Jayson Werth. He’s been winning for several years in a row now, and suddenly he’s dropped onto a team that spends the majority of its time in last place. There’s a different mentality, a different atmosphere and a lot more attention on Werth, who has gotten off to a pretty pedestrian start for someone making all of that money. The Nationals signed Werth to change the culture, change the perception of the team, and because they hoped he could approach being worth that contract. A slight overpay they could stomach, but if Werth really struggles, it’ll set the franchise back another step.
So, to be clear, I don’t feel sorry for Jayson Werth because he had to take 126 million to play for the Nationals. He’ll be ok, but you have to realize that the Phillies essentially discarded him. It’s something he’s having trouble coming to terms with. I think that’s pretty obvious. They could have signed him. They went with Lee instead. They told him that his contributions weren’t quite what he thought they were. Werth became easier to replace, so he was let go. Nothing personal, just business, but Werth seems to be taking it personally. And, I think I would take it personally as well. So, it is that point that I identify with and say I’m glad Werth has his 9-figure parachute, because the Phils basically told him, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
And, the Phillies better check their train closely when they leave Washington on Thursday, because they might have a stowaway.