You have seen it before, countless times probably. A player gives four strong years to a team, including a round of postseason heroics that contribute heavily to a World Series win, before moving on and signing with another team as a free agent upon the completion of his tenure. That, of course, fills the vacated fan base with vitriol. So angered are they that they feel it necessary to show the player that he is not only unwelcome in his former stomping grounds, but that he is also unwelcome in his new home. They accomplish the latter by buying up every right-field seat for each meeting between the two teams so that they may tell the player personally. Methinks, however, that this scenario is more a case of not knowing what you have until it is gone – a phenomenon that seems to have most recently affected fans of the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.
Werth, who ended his run with the Phillies after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals in December 2010, has since incurred the wrath of those who would not have him back.
That wrath has never been more apparent than it was last night when the league’s classiest baseball fans went out of their way to show Werth how much he is missed. But in dealing with their grief over Werth’s departure, Phillies fans seem to have pigeonholed themselves into the second stage of the Kübler-Ross model – anger.
Would you not be angry if a star outfielder went on to post a .320/.405/.444 line for the bulk of his sophomore effort with a new team? And would you not be angry if that effort came during a season in which your favorite team, the player’s former team, took a record of 78-77 into the final seven-game stretch of the season after going 102-60 just one year earlier?
Surely you would. And surely you would express it in a manner similar to that which was expressed in the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 8-4 victory over the Phillies last night.
The boos came, as noted, in the top of the ninth inning after Werth, who stood in the on-deck circle awaiting what was likely to be his final at-bat of the game, fielded a foul ball and faked a toss to fans only to toss it into the Nationals’ dugout instead. Fortunately, Werth gave a post-game interview to explain his actions.
“So in the ninth when I got the ball, I was going to flip the ball,” Werth said. “There was a group of kids. Behind the kids there were these unruly middle-aged men that to me appeared to be snarling. It’s the ninth. Who knows? I kind of got the sense that maybe they were intoxicated. I was going to flip it to the kids, and then I thought, maybe I shouldn’t, because of the people right behind the innocent little children there.”
The booing continued through the length of his at-bat, amplifying when Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus threw up and way in to Werth. But Werth, who seemed to be controlling the crowd with his every whim, silenced the park with a two-run single up the middle to pad the team’s lead and sent fans shuffling toward the exits.
I must admit, their anger is somewhat justified. After all, it is a natural response for those who face impending doom, something Philadelphia seems to not be taking very well. But eventually, Phillies fans, you are going to have to move on.
You are going to have to move on from heartily cheering season-crippling injuries. You are going to have to move on from the right-field seats at Nationals Park. And eventually, you are going to have to move on from Jayson Werth.