Just before Game Two of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Washington Nationals inducted Jayson Werth into their Ring of Honor. We remember his D.C. legacy.
On Saturday night, Jayson Werth finally got his deserved induction into the Washington Nationals Ring of Honor. The outfielder is the first National to have the honor bestowed on them after a memorable seven-year stint in the nation’s capital.
Heading into the 2011 season, Werth penned a $126 million contract over the next seven years to bring this team out of the doldrums of major league baseball. The previous three seasons had the Nationals losing 59, 59 and 69 games before his arrival. Werth helped change all of that.
In his first season, he was one of the main attractions on an 80-81 team that finally showed some promise. Then in 2012, everything clicked as the Nats went on to become one of the most exciting teams in baseball. They finished the year 98-64 and went to the postseason for the first time in Nats history.
There are very few moments in Nationals history that come under “I remember exactly where I was when that happened” moments. Werth’s home run in game four in that series was one of those moments. It still makes hairs on the back of every fan’s necks stand up reliving that moment.
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Only two years into his Nats tenure, he had written himself into team folklore, forever. Despite this, you could always tell during his time with the Nats, and from his speech on Saturday night, that this wasn’t enough for the outfielder. He wanted to go all the way.
While they never did get there, he was always pushing his team to be better in every way possible, no matter how much success they had. The best example of how Werth desperately wanted everyone around him to be better, is his treasured friendship with Nats superstar Bryce Harper.
Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post spoke to both players at Spring Training in 2017 about their bromance. Harper said “I love him like a brother,” while adding “He’s family to me. I look up to him”. And Werth made sure to bring up Harper in his speech, and the way he addressed him sums the up perfectly. “Bryce, you’re an idiot”.
It’s fair to say that Bryce Harper would not be the player he is today were it not for Werth and his initial tough love approach. But several other former teammates, such as Danny Espinosa, Michael Taylor, and Trea Turner, echoed Harper’s sentiments during his induction ceremony. They cited Werth as a key reason for them becoming the players they became in their career helping show them the way forward.
But aside from directly influencing his teammates’ careers, another quote from Janes’ article stands out from Harper. He said, “If we have problems, we look to J. If something goes wrong, we look to J”. It just goes to emphasize the role that Werth took on as the clubhouse leader, a role that some argue has been missing this year in 2018 and partly to blame for the struggles.
Werth always had an aura about him, and while he never spoke outwardly often, when he did, he could command a room. Look no further than the way his forner teammates were hanging on every word in his speech. They miss him, dearly.
Yes, the stats weren’t spectacular throughout his Nationals career. He hit .263 with a .788 OPS and a 113 OPS+, indicating that he was essentially a relatively above average hitter. He is fifth in WAR among position players in Nats history, according to FanGraphs, and stands at ninth overall when you factor in pitchers.
Some fans will also have a bitter taste in their mouth over Werth’s last moments with the team. But, a few costly errors in playoff games should not taint his legacy with the Nats due to recency bias. Not even close.
Those who have watched the team for long enough are well aware of not only the results but the way the team played pre-Werth. And while he wasn’t the sole reason for their stark upturn in form and the feeling around the team, he was arguably the biggest influence in that transition. That’s why him being in the ring is important.
In the Washington Nationals’ young history, there are few true greats on and off the field. Jayson Werth is one of those greats, and fully deserves his spot in the Ring of Honor.