Inside the Phillies: Former Phillie Jayson Werth savors first division title with Nationals

Jayson Werth expressed his gratitude toward Phillies manager Charlie Manuel when Washington clinched the NL East on Monday night.
Jayson Werth expressed his gratitude toward Phillies manager Charlie Manuel when Washington clinched the NL East on Monday night. (BILL BOYCE / AP)
Posted: October 04, 2012

WASHINGTON - The Washington Nationals were in the midst of their peculiar dugout celebration Monday night when Jayson Werth made eye contact with the opposing manager.

So much was racing through Werth's mind at that moment.

The Phillies team he left after the 2010 season, the team that had dominated the National League East for half a decade and won a World Series in 2008, was forced to watch Werth and the once-lowly Nationals celebrate a division title after the Atlanta Braves' loss in Pittsburgh.

As the game continued, the Nationals hugged and hollered during the bottom of the ninth inning of a game the Phillies won, 2-0.

"It definitely was interesting," Werth said Tuesday afternoon inside a home clubhouse that still reeked from the champagne-and-beer celebration the night before. "It was kind of a surreal moment, especially when I look over there and saw Charlie [Manuel]. I was hit with a thousand thoughts and a thousand emotions in a real short period of time."

Werth, in his second season with the Nationals, acknowledged Manuel with a respectful nod that was returned by the Phillies' manager.

"I was standing over by the steps and looking at the hitter and Charlie was directly in my vision," Werth said. "I just kind of nodded at him and he nodded back. I was basically just saying, 'Thank you.' I was very excited about what was going on, but it also made me realize kind of how I got here. Charlie Manuel was a very big part of that. He definitely had a part in the player I am today. He gave me my real first opportunity. I'll never forget that. As far as people go in the world, he's at the top of the list for me."

Manuel did not particularly enjoy bearing witness to the rise of the young Nationals this season, and all things considered, he'd rather the title of National League East champion still be in Philadelphia. But bonds between player and manager are much more difficult to break than the ones between player and fans.

"He was looking at me and I just looked back over to wish him luck," Manuel said. "Just the fact he played with us, that is still there as far as how you see someone. I'm proud of him because he has become a good player. When he was with us, I used to tell him how good a player he was. Jayson was having a tough time in his career and when he first came to us, he really hadn't settled in on knowing how good of a player he could be."

Werth became a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Phillies and in four seasons batted .282 with 95 home runs, 300 RBIs, a .380 on-base percentage, and an .885 OPS.

As much as Manuel admired Werth and vice versa, the parting between the rightfielder and the Phillies became inevitable when the Nationals offered him a seven-year, $126 million contract. The Nationals had gone 69-93 the year before and finished last for the fifth time in six seasons since moving to Washington from Montreal.

The perception was that only the money mattered to Werth because the Nationals had been so bad for so long.

"Of course, I definitely heard those types of comments," Werth said. "The funny part is that the time and effort that was spent in my free agency to really find the right place for me was a lot of hard work. You just don't go home in the offseason and do nothing. It was nights and hours."

He settled upon the Nationals and felt good about it because of the way the team was presented by general manager Mike Rizzo and Werth's agent, Scott Boras.

"The talent was very evident," Werth said. "When I made the choice, I knew I was going to a place where I could potentially win. Maybe not right away, but in the long term I felt good about it."

Werth's initial time line saw the Nationals challenging for a wild card this season and a division title next year. After watching the team finish strong in 2011, he showed up at spring training convinced that something special was happening.

Werth's second season with the Nationals turned into a strange one, and the Phillies always seemed to be around for the major events. He broke his wrist diving for a line drive May 6 and missed nearly three months. He returned Aug. 2 with the Phillies in town.

And Monday night, with the Phillies in the visiting dugout, Werth took part in his fifth champagne celebration, but his first with the Nationals, a young team that has arrived ahead of schedule.

"I saw Jimmy [Rollins] on the way in" Tuesday, Werth said. "He pulled up in the cab when I got here and we were talking about it a little bit and even he said, 'There's nothing like that first one.' I think there are only two other guys with postseason experience on this team, so that's why it was so crazy and so out of hand. It was everyone's first time, and the first time is the best time."


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or on Twitter @brookob.

 

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