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The Ex Men

If it seems like one-time Phillies Jayson Werth and Hunter Pence hit the team brutally hard, it's only because they do. But there's another former Phil from the glory years who put them both to shame.

Mitchell Leff

Twice in the last two weeks, former Phillies right fielders have returned to Citizens Bank Park to inflict painful losses on the home team. Wednesday night, it was Hunter Pence, whose three-run double in the ninth inning broke a scoreless tie en route to a 3-1 Giants win. Right before the all-star break, Jayson Werth ravaged the Phillies yet again, clubbing a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Nationals a lead they’d never relinquish en route to a two-hit, two-run, four-RBI day against the team for whom he emerged as a star.

This is a painful subject, at least for me, because Werth is one of my all-time favorite Phillies and a symbol of the great years, and Pence is a player I couldn’t stand before he donned the red pinstripes and whose passage through the organization did huge damage both coming and going. But just as there’s always a certain frisson when you see an ex, it’s usually notable when former Phils return to face the team.

I looked at a bunch of high-profile Phillies who passed through the organization during the glory years. Most have done about as well or a bit better against the team as overall: Michael Bourn posted a .305/.365/.390 line against the franchise that drafted and developed him, and Pat Burrell put up a pretty much perfect-for-him .227/.320/.682 triple-slash, which included three homers, when he faced the Phils over his final couple seasons in the big leagues.  But Werth, Pence and a third ex-Phillie, noted below, stand out.

It’s no secret that hard feelings linger between Werth and Philadelphia, as the Citizens Bank Park fans remind him with every at-bat. (By the way, folks: CUT THAT SHIT OUT. HE SEEMS TO THRIVE ON IT.) Personally I love the guy—his is the only Phillies jersey I’ve ever purchased, in a bout of drunken enthusiasm right after the 2009 NLCS clincher against the Dodgers—and I don’t really see how Werth gave offense by taking a free agent offer from the Nationals more than twice as good as the Phillies’ best, in that winter of 2010-11. But it is what it is, and it always gives the industry-standard… sorry, I meant industrial-waste quality, Washington announcers the prompt to wallow in anti-Philly clichés.

Still, you might share my surprise that Werth’s lifetime numbers against the Phils aren’t unduly dominant. Even after his big weekend before the break, his career totals are .292/.377./486, with 11 homers in 252 plate appearances. The trend line, however, is up. In 110 plate appearances since the start of 2013, Werth is 31 for 92 with a double, six homers, 24 RBI and 14 walks against the Phillies, for a triple-slash of .337/.409/.533.

As for Pence, he’s flayed the Phils bloody since reaching the majors in 2007, both before and after the year he spent on the team. In 157 plate appearances, Pence’s career line against the Phils is .350/.395/.699, with 14 homers and 30 RBI, including .412/.444/.765 going into today’s season series finale. The only other (now-former) NL team Pence has similarly beasted against is… the Astros, whom he’s ripped for a .362/.388/.632 line, albeit in only 34 plate appearances. Evidently the guy holds a grudge.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ex-Phillie from the good years who tormented the team most of all--a guy whom casual fans might not even remember on the team.

Pat Gillick signed Rod Barajas before the 2007 season as a hedge against Carlos Ruiz not being ready for full-time starter duties following a not-bad, not-great rookie year. Barajas disappointed on both sides of the ball, and between Ruiz’s solid play and the emergence of Chris Coste he was an afterthought by the time the Phils made their mad September charge to overtake the Mets and claim their first of five straight NL East titles.

Barajas moved on after the season, but he wasn’t done with the Phillies by a long shot. Over the next three seasons, he put up a composite .237/.277/.418 line… but against the Phillies, he went 19 for 42 with 4 doubles, 8 home runs, 19 RBI and—somehow most insulting, if you know anything about Barajas—3 walks. That’s a triple-slash of .452/.489/1.119.

It took the Four Aces staff of 2011 to bring Barajas to heel. In that magical season, the staff held him to one hit in 16 at-bats (though he did draw another walk). He fared little better in 2012, going 1 for 7 with a double. No longer able to sustain his career by beating up a former employer, Barajas retired after 2012. For his career, Barajas hit his most home runs against the Phillies despite having had more plate appearances against 19 other teams.

So the next time Werth or Pence adds the injury of a big hit against the Phillies to the insult of his overall success since leaving the team, be thankful that at least it’s not the Wrath of Rod, returned.