Author Topic: For what it's Werth  (Read 494 times)

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Offline EasyAce

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For what it's Werth
« on: August 08, 2018, 02:56:26 PM »
By Yours Truly

Jayson Werth (left) with Bryce Harper
in the Nationals dugout; Werth says he
fired Scott Boras as his agent after he
learned Boras may have kept teams
who offered Werth deals last winter
from knowing he was even available.

Much talk around the Nationals this season revolves around a clubhouse in search of a no-questions-asked leader. Some of that suggests the clubhouse leadership is what Thomas Boswell described, "Max Scherzer and To Be Determined." The team's longtime heart and soul called it a career in June.

And it turns out that Jayson Werth wasn't as ready to go quietly into that good gray night as advertised.

The problem was, Werth's agent, Scott Boras, for whatever reasons, wasn't ready to let the rest of the Show know Werth was ready to go anywhere---so long as it wasn't the Mets.

When his once-controversial deal with the Nats expired after the team's ignominious Game Five division series collapse last fall, Werth didn't want to disappear just yet. He had miles enough in the game, and he did his customary off-season stay-in-shape work.

But he knew the Nationals were about to be logjammed enough with young outfield talent that they no longer had room for him. Numerous current Nats have told anyone who'd listen that they miss Werth in the clubhouse.

And he finally dumped Boras and hit the hustings on his own, signing a minor-league deal with the Mariners during spring training, only to get a rude interruption as his season went on: what started as a mere hamstring tweak turned into a full pull when he might have been on the threshold of a Seattle call-up.

In Philadelphia to commemorate the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship in which he played a key part, Werth was invited to chat on Philadelphia's WIP radio. And he had revelations to offer, among them:

* He got offers from several teams after the Nats exited last postseason so spectacularly, but Boras advised him to hurry up and wait, all the way through spring training if need be, as he did with numerous other clients, including J.D. Martinez (now with the Red Sox), Jake Arrieta (now with the Phillies), Eric Hosmer (now with the Padres), and Mike Moustakas (who re-signed with the Royals but went to the Brewers before the non-waiver trade deadline).

* He learned the hard way that teams hadn't heard from Boras, and came to think he wasn't even going to be available. He learned that after finally dumping Boras as his agent and started calling teams as spring training approached.

"Spring training came and went," Werth told WIP's Howard Eskin, "and about halfway through spring training, I felt like I had been working all winter. I was ready to play. So I took matters into my own hands . . . and I tried to get a job."

Without going into detail, Werth flatly declared he didn't and wouldn't have called the Mets. "I wouldn't play for them," the fifteen-year veteran said. Which might be easy to understand. Aside from divisional rivalry considerations, which didn't trouble him when he signed with the Nats as a free agent after his Philadelphia tenure, Werth probably had enough look at the Mets' disarray to know that even he wouldn't be able to help re-configure it.

At Triple-A for the Mariners, Werth said, he began playing well and even anticipated a call-up to the Show when he suffered the hamstring tweak. He asked for two more weeks to get it fixed, he continued, and was in Nashville for a series when what was a tweak became a full-blown pull.

"Once I got home," he said, "I didn't feel like going back. I didn't feel like starting over in Triple-A. I felt good about it. I had closure. I got it going again. The last few weeks there I was playing pretty well. So I kind of proved to myself I could still play, and once I got home I said, let's call it."

He made his retirement official on 27 June. It wasn't the kind of closure Werth would have preferred, but at least nobody had to tear his uniform off his back. But he would have preferred not to have been a pawn in a Scott Boras game that ended up keeping him and several solid players unemployed until the end of spring training or close enough to it.

Martinez now wreaks havoc in Red Sox silks, a big reason why the Olde Towne Team threatens to turn the American League East into a runaway. Arrieta may not be the pitcher he was in his Cy Young Award season, but his steadiness helps a youthful Phillies pitching staff keep the rest of the NL East on guard from the unlikely top. Moustakas had a respectable return to the Royals, enough that the Brewers decided he could help big for an NL Central or wild card push.

Werth was probably also less than thrilled that former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. turned up as the Mets' first base coach. Ask Werth what happened to that 2008 Phillies team and he'll tell you flatly that Amaro himself was to blame for its failure to capture another Series berth at minimum after 2009 (when they lost to the Yankees).

Werth said Amaro dealing Cliff Lee to the Mariners was the unnecessary beginning of the end even if the GM did subsequently deal for Roy Halladay. As Werth saw it, Amaro hit the panic button when Lee asked for what Werth called a "marginal" salary hike.

"There's no reason we shouldn't have had Cliff and Roy Halladay in 2010," he said. "We should've had another reunion for the 2010 team. With Cliff, we walk away with it. That's where the whole thing ran astray---Cliff was ready to sign and I was ready to sign. Ruben was handed a World Series team and in a short period of time, that team had been dismantled."

Essentially, Werth was saying he signed with the Nats because he didn't want to be around when the Phillies suffered the complete collapse to come. And while his Nats deal ran a lot of temperatures up the scale, Werth proved himself worth every dollar no matter what he did on the field (and it was plenty enough) because he became the Nats' undisputed heart and soul as the team transitioned from league joke to league powerhouse.

Injuries often sapped his productivity, but Werth turned the Nats clubhouse into his family. He was often the first one to lead the party when the team triumphed big; he was often the first one to make sure nobody got himself too far down when the team came up short.

And he became a personal mentor to Bryce Harper from almost the split second Harper made the Nats to stay. Harper to this day credits Werth with showing him how to be a major leaguer and with being unafraid to call him out without looking to try choking him to death when he made a mistake.

But that was Werth in disbelief after Game Five of that division series last October. His disbelief came only in part from losing what turned into Addison Russell's two run double off the left field wall. It looked at first as though Werth misjudged the ball, but it turned out he lost the ball in the stadium lights---for maybe the tenth time in his fifteen-year career.

"I just keep thinking of different stuff that was happening that was off the wall," Werth reflected last fall when it was over. "I'll probably go watch the whole game back, relive it, torture myself. It felt like it didn't matter what happened, I felt like we were going to win. That was the feeling across the team and across the board. It's crazy to think that we didn't win that game."

They had a 4-1 lead when manager Dusty Baker brought in Game Three hero Scherzer to pitch the fifth. What happened next may have come from deleted Marx Brothers scenes. When an infield hit and a single up the pipe led to Werth losing Russell's drive in the lights. When Scherzer put Jason Heyward aboard to pitch instead to Javier Baez, who's making himself a nifty Most Valuable Player Award candidate this year.

And, when Nats catcher Matt Wieters let strike three shoot right past him, retrieved the ball, and threw to first to complete the strikeout despite plate umpire Jerry Layne maybe missing an interference call on Baez when his follow-through bumped Wieters on the helmet. Wieters' throw sailed past first base into right field, letting Russell score the sixth Cub run, before pinch hitter Tommy LaStella reached on . . . catcher's interference.

Then Scherzer uncharacteristically plunked Jon Jay to send home the seventh Cub run. Even closing the deficit to 8-6, Cubs---Werth himself scored one of the runs, on Cub reliever Mike Montgomery's wild pitch---wasn't enough to re-jump the momentum.

That one stung even worse than blowing an early 6-0 lead in Game Five of the 2012 NLDS, when they tried to hold or pad that lead by trying to hit six-run homers every plate appearance or strike out three hitters for the price of one on every pitch. (Werth himself got them to that Game Five in the first place, when he ended Game Four leading off the bottom of the ninth in a one-all tie with a full count home run.)

His major league career ended not with a bang, not even with a whimper, but in a comedy of errors. He deserved better. Even if he has no use for what he dismisses as the super nerds in the front office who know the numbers but don't know the game, as he sees it.

"Whey come down to talk about stuff like [defensive shifts], should I just bunt it over there? They're like, 'No, don't do that. We don't want you to do that. We want you to hit a homer.' It's just not baseball to me," Werth said. "We're creating something that's not fun to watch. It's boring. You're turning players into robots. You've taken the human element out of the game."

Nats GM Mike Rizzo says there'll be a place for Werth in the team's organisation when Werth decides the time is right. Here's hoping he does, and soon. Brains and soul are a combination harder to find than you might think. Werth knows it well enough to have fired his uber-agent as an example. It's a shame that that happened almost too late to give his playing career a little extra life.
@Polly Ticks
@Cyber Liberty

Offline Polly Ticks

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Re: For what it's Werth
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 08:58:01 PM »
I was surprised to see Werth in the Bluegrass World Series last week.  I hadn't realized he'd "retired".  This explains a lot.
Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too. -Yogi Berra

Offline Jazzhead

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Re: For what it's Werth
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 10:09:40 PM »
The Phils phans this past weekend cheered Werth loudly when he returned as an alumni of the 2008 World Champions.   He came on the field wearing the same big red Hulk fist he brought to the 2008 victory parade.  And later he was the triggerman when the Phanatic rode out to fire hot dogs at the crowd.

"He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way"

   - Duke Ellington, upon hearing of the death of Louis Armstrong

"Not forever.  Just for now"

    - Jay Farrar

Offline Night Hides Not

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Re: For what it's Werth
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2018, 08:23:41 PM »
Jayson was spot on with his comments. Baseball is being ruined by the emphasis on relief pitchers and swinging for the fences.

Why pay $30 million a year for an ace starter, if he's not going beyond the 6th inning?

Here's one game we'll never, ever see again...a game where both starting pitchers pitched complete games, and the game ended in the bottom of the 16th with a solo home run...the only run of the game.

July 2, 1963, Warren Spahn against Juan Marichal.
You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

1 John 3:18: Let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Offline EasyAce

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Re: For what it's Werth
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 10:41:34 PM »
Jayson was spot on with his comments. Baseball is being ruined by the emphasis on relief pitchers and swinging for the fences.
His issue isn't with relief pitchers, really, it's with both the over-use of defensive shifts (he didn't like it when the Nats themselves used them) and the apparent disinclination to teach young hitters all-around hitting, including beating those shifts, instead of teaching them to work on their (ahem) launch angles and reaching for the fences. I mean, can anyone tell me why some hitter facing a shift doesn't just wait for something he can hit the other way and hit it there? You might pick up an extra base hitting that way. Or just stick it to the shifting team and drop a bunt down on the unoccupied side and get yourself a quick base hit. Make it impossible for the other guys to think about shifting. A power hitter's going to get his long balls regardless, but even a power hitter used to know how to go with pitches, make contact, and who knew what could happen on good contact?

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