To boo, or not to boo, that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the park to cheer
A player who left for such outrageous fortune
Or to vent lungs against a former hero
To boo, or perchance to applaud—ay, there's the rub
Will there be rousing cheers for a former fan favorite (if one of many here) who contributed greatly to the success of the 2007-10 Philadelphia Phillies?
Will Philly fans boo a player who left for huge money ($126 million over seven years) offered by a division rival?
Will the South Philly faithful have a dilemma of Shakespearean proportions (Hamlet, to be exact) and end up sitting on their hands while ruminating over it?
Not knowing what to do, will fans play it safe and break into another chorus of U-S-A, U-S-A?
Taking off my journalist's hat for a moment—and this is at least a form of journalism, right?—I am now wearing my red cap with the oversized P while pondering what I would do at the ballpark as a longtime Philly fan.
Do I cheer a fine player who enabled my team to make the postseason in each of his four years in red pinstripes? Of course—those four years included two World Series appearances and one championship.
Do I do my part to preserve this town's fine tradition of venting displeasure by booing a player who left my team to grab more money elsewhere?
THE CASE FOR BOOING JAYSON WERTH
I've been known to occasionally jeer an opponent or two, but I don't consider myself a major boo-bird. There are players that do arouse such primal compulsions; is JW is one of them?
Let me re-frame the question:
Do fans boo a guy who left for a bigger paycheck, as many of us would have done in similar circumstances?
Simply put, Jayson Werth had every right to take the bigger payday, and fans have every right to boo him for not choosing team loyalty over his own financial aspirations.
It would be easy to say that I would have taken less cash to play for a rabid fanbase and with a team considered to be the National League front runners again. It would also be easy to say that I would have taken the most money. I may have done either.
Of course, Werth went with the cash, and one of the consequences of doing so is (potentially) being subject to a chorus of boos from fans who used to cheer his every move. That is fair, in a sense.
While the bearded right fielder was certainly a popular player here, he was never the most warm-and-fuzzy guy with the media or the fans. Well, his face may have looked warm and fuzzy, but...
Some may recall his allegedly throwing an F-bomb at a fan (who was in the stands with his young son) who did not move out of Werth's way when he reached into the stands for a foul ball. It certainly was not a Hallmark moment—and one wonders what Jayson might have spewed to the fan if he truly pulled a Steve Bartman—but should there still be any negative carryover from one moment of boorishness?
As a Phillie, Werth never went out of his way to endear himself to the fans, and perhaps that was a part of his rakish charm. He seemed to be even surlier last year with the added pressure of playing for a huge payday (somewhere).
One wished he had given the fans and media more than he did, but it is also hard to find fault with how hard or how well he played.
Since leaving town, he has not lobbed any explosive grenades or flowery bouquets at the team or its fans. Hmmm...
THE CASE FOR CHEERING JAYSON WERTH
Let us get the negatives out of the way.
In 2010, Werth struggled mightily batting with runners in scoring position (RISP). He hit just .186 and plummeted to an unsightly .139 with RISP and two outs.
Despite those struggles, he was still able to bat .296 (second on the team) with 27 homers (second), 85 RBI (second) and 106 runs (tied for fourth in the NL).
At his best, Werth gave Philly fans most of the elements of a five-tool player who could do everything well. Indeed, he was probably the best pure jock on the team, if not quite as productive as Ryan Howard or Chase Utley.
Werth never became an everyday player until his age-29 season in 2008, which culminated in a major parade on Broad Street.
It would be a distortion to say that he was the major reason for the championship; it would also be an understatement to say that he was a minor contributor.
Only Werth can say whether he would have been happier staying in Philly for big money or playing in the nation's capital for enormous coin. Perhaps even he is not sure if he made the right choice.
It would be nice to see Jayson find a way to literally or figuratively tip his cap to the Philly fans who supported him during the four best years (by far) of his baseball career. They, and the franchise, enabled him to have a choice between playing for the best team (on paper) or the most money.
Werth made his choice, and Philly fans can make theirs tonight.
To boo, or not to boo—that is the question.
Cole Hamels is scheduled to face Werth (who will man the No. 3 hole with the absence of franchise third baseman Ryan Zimmerman) and the pesky Nats this evening.
Since April 2, 2008, Hamels is 5-0 with a 3.04 ERA in eight starts versus the division rival.
Opposing Hamels is the ageless, 36-year-old veteran Livan Hernandez (3-2, 3.23), who seems to be in his forties.
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, as well as writing, speaking and interview requests, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him via his Bleacher Report homepage.