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Now’s the time to welcome Jayson Werth back to Philadelphia

werth2.jpgWhen Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals visited Citizens Bank Park last May, Werth was asked if he thought he would be invited to (and cheered at) the Phillies 10-year anniversary celebration of their 2008 World Series title. Werth responded to the collective media, which included MASN’s Dan Kolko, by saying that he would probably have a game on the day of the celebration.

The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro reported in February that the Phillies plan to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the World Series title prior to their game against the Miami Marlins on Aug. 5. Barring a complete change of course, Werth won’t have a game that day, because he told Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports Wednesday that he’s retiring from professional baseball.

The invitation will no doubt be extended to Werth to attend the event. Will Werth accept the invitation? He did tap his cap to Phillies fans in what turned out to be the final at-bat at Citizens Bank Park last September. He told Ed Condran of Philly Voice in June of 2016 that he didn’t care whether he was booed or cheered when he returned to Philadelphia, he still loved playing at Citizens Bank Park. So the guess here is that Werth, who was in his second season with the Phillies in 2008, will gladly join his teammates this August.

What will the reaction from Phillies fans be? Well, that’s unclear.

In the seven years that he played for the division-rival Washington Nationals, Werth heard various levels of boos every time he returned to Citizens Bank Park. Make no mistake, he didn’t exactly hear cheers any time he returned in 2011, the first season he spent with the Nationals. But the boos got significantly louder in 2012.

On Sunday, May 6, 2012, Hunter Pence and the Phillies defeated Werth’s Nationals 9-3 on Sunday Night Baseball. Werth, batting cleanup that night, exited the game in the sixth inning after breaking his wrist. Some Phillies fans that had made their way down to Nationals Park – more affectionately referred to as “Citizens Bank Park South” back then – taunted Werth as he exited the game in favor of Xavier Nady.

Understandably angry, Werth sent what was probably a regrettable e-mail (although he doesn’t seem like someone who second guesses himself much) to Adam Kilgore, who was covering the Nationals for The Washington Post at the time:

“After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again,” Werth wrote.

Werth admitted in 2016 that he knew that the majority of Phillies fans didn’t support taunting him after he suffered a broken wrist. Still, even through the 2017 season, he heard a smattering of boos from increasingly smaller crowds when he returned to Philadelphia. It’s fair to assume that many of those fans didn’t read that quote – or any of the subsequent stories where Werth talked about how much he enjoyed his four seasons in Philadelphia.

There were some upset that Werth signed with a division rival when he became a free-agent after the 2010 season. Although that crowd was never able to explain exactly what it is that they would have done differently than Werth if they were put in his shoes. The Phillies, per’s Jon Morosi, were one of the teams that remained interested in Werth until he chose to sign with the Nationals, though there was no indication that they approached the seven-year/$126 million deal he ultimately left in favor of. Less than a month later, the Phillies elected to sign Cliff Lee to a lucrative five-year/$120 million free-agent contract. So the Phillies possessed the financial wherewithal to match (or at least come close enough) to the Nationals offer for Werth, and they chose to allocate their resources elsewhere. That’s fine, but it’s hard to be mad at Werth then.

It seems little time is spent remembering what Werth did in his four years with the Phillies. Between 2007 and 2010, Werth hit 95 homeruns and posted an 18.1 fWAR. Despite playing for a franchise that has employed Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, Werth became the franchise’s all-time leader in postseason home runs. He was a key member of the 2008 World Series team, one of just two Phillies teams since the the event began in 1903 that produced a title.

Werth no longer plays for a divisional rival. It’s been over half a decade since he angrily talked about preventing Philadelphia from enjoying another parade. In the minds of many, hate for Werth never made much sense, but it really doesn’t make sense in 2018. And the guess here is that if Ruben Amaro Jr. was given a fairly warm reception on 1993 alumni weekend, Werth will hear cheers if he participates in the team’s celebration of their 2008 World Series title later this summer. Perhaps they’ll even allow him to wear his signature long sleeves, while they play Lil’ Wayne’s “Right Above It,” just for old time’s sake.

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