When the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their 2008 World Series title on Sunday, Jayson Werth, the organization’s all-time leader in postseason home runs, will be on hand. It will mark the first time since Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS that Werth is in Philadelphia as a representative of the Phillies. It certainly won’t be the first time Werth has been back to Citizens Bank Park since Oct. 23, 2010, but it may be the first time he receives a positive reception since then.
For the seven years that Werth spent with the divisional-rival Washington Nationals, he heard various volumes of booing when he returned to the place that he won a World Series title in. As he prepares to come back to Philadelphia, Werth told MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki that he has no ill-will towards Phillies fans:
“No animosity on my side,” Werth said. “I get it. You leave the team, you go to a division rival. But I enjoyed those games. That’s why I always loved playing in Philadelphia because of the atmosphere and the fans. They’re unlike any other fans in sports. I remember stretching with Pat Burrell in Spring Training of ’07. I always remembered that he said, ‘If we can pull this off, this would be the best place to win.’ And that proved to be true.”
On Sunday, May 6, 2012, the Phillies defeated Werth and the 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.
Even prior to that, Werth had been booed when he returned to Citizens Bank Park as a member of the Washington Nationals. It isn’t uncommon for former players to be booed when they sign with a division rival. However, it’s also not common to win championships in Philadelphia. Werth was on one of two teams in Phillies history that won a World Series title.
Of course, after Werth’s email was made public, the boos got louder at Citizens Bank Park. Werth admitted in 2016 that he knew that the majority of Phillies fans didn’t support taunting him after he suffered a broken wrist. But between that and some revisionist history, Werth continued to hear boos when he returned to Philadelphia for the rest of his career, even if the boos weren’t as loud in 2017 as they were in 2012.
Some said that it was par for the course for Werth to be booed after leaving the Phillies at the back-half of the greatest run in franchise history to sign with another team in the National League East. However, Zolecki noted in his piece that the Phillies offered Werth “around $65 million” to stay in Philadelphia after the 2010 season. That presumably would have been a four-year deal, with him making an average of $16.25 million per season. The offer he left to accept was a seven-year/$126 million deal, that paid him $18 million annually. The two offers weren’t really close.
Others claim to have soured on Werth after he cursed at a father blocking a ball from hitting his son in the stands in July of 2010. We don’t need to relitigate that issue, it wasn’t a good situation all around. The father was clearly blocking his young son from potentially being hit by a foul ball. The ball was also clearly in the stands, so he technically had a right to try to catch it. However, it was a ball that Werth had a chance to catch, so it makes sense that he was frustrated. He shouldn’t have cursed at the fan.
In any event, fans didn’t stop cheering Werth after that. When he came to the plate with his baggy sleeves and Lil Wayne’s “Right Above It” blaring on the speaker system at Citizens Bank Park, he heard cheers the rest of that season. Had he re-signed with the Phillies, no one would have suggested years later that they were conflicted in rooting for Werth because of the unfortunate incident.
Regardless of what transpired late in Werth’s tenure or after he left the team, he hit 95 home runs in four seasons with the team and helped to win a World Series. If Ruben Amaro Jr. – much less popular and much less important as a player – heard light cheers when he returned to Philadelphia for the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team earlier this year, Werth figures to hear cheers this Sunday. Even if the cheers aren’t loud, it will be an improvement over the reception he’s received the last seven years.
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