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The Year We Stopped Booing Jayson Werth

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The point’s been made

Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day
A reminder that there is, in fact, a face beneath the beard
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

If there’s one thing I know about Philly fans, it’s that they love being advised on how they should root. There’s nothing a Phillies, Eagles, Flyers or Sixers fan loves to hear more than advice on how to do what they do. THAT SAID...

::Deep Goddamn Breath::

...it’s time to stop booing Jayson Werth. Holy sweet fancy Moses Malone is this one thing that needs to end.

Werth signed with the Nationals in early December 2010 - that’s more than six years ago, now - after just four years in Philadelphia. He now has in excess of 1,000 more plate appearances as a member of the Nationals than he does (did) with the Phillies. His constitution is now, and may forever be, more National than anything else.

All that said, he is something of a folk hero in these parts, albeit a maligned one; he’s probably best described as a frenemy, and this relationship status is most certainly best labeled “complicated.”

To reset the scene, let’s go back to that 2010 season and briefly reflect on the state of things. The Phillies had just been bumped from the NLCS by the eventual champion Giants, denied their shot at three straight World Series appearances. Werth played the entire season as the starting right fielder, going for 27 homers and a team-leading 46 doubles, 82 walks and .921 OPS. He was, by a couple measures, the team’s best offensive player that year. He was also due to test the free agent market.

The Phillies were beginning to age, but by no means was their competitive window closing just yet. They had money to spend, but they also had Domonic Brown, a near-consensus top-10 prospect in all of baseball. The time seemed ripe for a seamless transition, the tough-but-understandable departure of Werth making way for the positional heir. It all made a lot of sense, even in a vacuum.

To make things easier, the Nationals came along and offered Werth a whole ton of money for a lot of years and, well, we all knew the Phillies were never going to make that kind of offer. Werth was to the Nationals what Jon Lester would become to the Cubs (at least, in design): The splash free agent signing heralding a turn of the page from mediocrity to legitimacy.

And then, this article happened, and within it, Jayson Werth is quoted as saying “I hate the Phillies, too,” to Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo.

It’s a verbal death sentence. Philly fans don’t forget that; in fact, this six-and-a-half-year-old quote is the biggest reason for this article existing in the first place. The second-biggest is a far more charged byte delivered after Werth broke his wrist in in 2012, laced with intent to deny the Phillies a shot at another championship. Phillies fans instigated it that time, of course, as a few heckled Werth as he left the field with taunts of “you deserve it.”

So that’s the history lesson. We come back to the present, having been reminded of all this, and re-state the thesis: Knock it the hell off. Jayson Werth’s story is everything this city loves; a comeback from the brink and ascent to the pinnacle, all with a gruffness and an edge that many people in Philadelphia certainly saw a bit of in themselves at some point, usually gets you cast in indelible Broad St. Bronze.

In fact, it’s worth mentioning that just last year, and in spite of all the past invective, Werth spoke fondly of Philadelphia and his time with the Phillies. As he told PhillyVoice:

“I don’t care about how people react to me here...I love playing in Philadelphia. I always did.”

...

“My greatest baseball memories happened right here...I had the greatest time playing on those teams. Nobody can take that from me.”

No matter how loud my words try to wail at the brick wall, there will still be a considerable handful of fans who, at Friday’s home opener, give Werth a glottal what-for. Everyone can’t be stopped. But the fact of the matter is that, now that this much time has passed and Werth enters his walk year turning 38 in May, Beardo deserves our appreciation.

It isn’t too late to set things right, to properly recognize a guy who played a major role in bring this city its most recent championship. Keep in mind: Most of Werth’s digs and barbs were brought on by the actions of Phillies fans. And it’s clear that he harbors no worse than indifference for Phillies fans in spite of that; something a marvel unto itself.

The onus is not on Werth to apologize for anything he’s said or done in defense of his playing style or personality. The burden falls on us as smart sports fans to pay homage to a champion. Bury the hatchet, swallow your pride and pay respects to the special, skilled ballplayer that helped deliver a World Series title. Enough is enough.