No second-guessing for Werth after hard year
Outfielder confident Nationals -- and his bat -- are on right path
WASHINGTON -- When October comes around, outfielder Jayson Werth will not be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2006, when he was a member of the Dodgers and missed the entire season due to injury.
For four consecutive seasons after that, Werth was an integral part of a Phillies team that won four division titles, two pennants and one World Series title.
This season, Werth is not a member of the Phillies, a team that exited the weekend four wins from setting a single-season club record and with a very good chance to win its second World Series championship in four years.
Before the season, Werth signed a seven-year, $127 million contract with the Nationals, a team that has a 72-79 record and finds itself in a third-place tie with the Mets.
One wonders if he regrets heading south to Washington. The answers is no. Werth believes the Nationals are on the rise. He points out that the team has played tough against teams over .500 this season, currently carrying a 26-32 record.
Werth also acknowledges that the Phillies will be the team to beat in the National League East for quite some time.
"I really feel things have changed [with the Nationals]," Werth said. "We made progress and have taken the steps. We have gone in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. We are a young talented team. We are maybe a piece of the puzzle here or there away from turning the corner. ... No regrets. No disappointment. I think everything can be looked at in a positive way.
"I'm happy for those guys in [Philadelphia]. They deserve it. They work hard, if not harder than anybody. They have a very professional veteran team. They know how to win. They have a manager that fits that team and city perfectly. They are at the pinnacle of their careers. Not only this year, they are going to be tough for years to come. The NL East championship goes through Philadelphia for the time being."
In order for them to pressure the Phillies next year, the Nationals need Werth to be more productive. Entering Tuesday's game against the Phillies, Werth has hit .230 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs. That's actually decent, considering he was hitting just .215 at the All-Star break.
|"We made progress and have taken the steps. We have gone in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. We are a young talented team. We are maybe a piece of the puzzle here or there away from turning the corner."|
|-- Jayson Werth|
Manager Davey Johnson believes Werth took on too many roles during the first half, including trying to be a leader for young players. Johnson feels it didn't help that Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche were out for a lengthy period of time because of injuries.
"I think there are a lot of reasons," Johnson said. "I think [Werth] took a lot of responsibility for a young ballclub. Adam LaRoche was out; Ryan Zimmerman was out. He was basically the only veteran in the lineup.
"I think he had to wear too many hats and not worry about No. 1. I think he is getting over that. I think he is more comfortable, and the supporting cast is starting to perform better. So I think everything is getting more normal."
Werth respectfully disagrees with Johnson's assessment, saying he had a tough time finding his swing. It didn't help that his videos were sent to him late in Spring Training and -- not the fault of his new teammates, as he puts it -- he didn't have anybody on the team that knew when he was at his best in the batter's box. As a member of the Phillies, Werth always had at least two teammates who could help pinpoint problems with his swing.
"If you look at my season, I had three or four different stances because I wasn't comfortable," Werth said. "Comfort in the box was the biggest issue. I couldn't get comfortable. My swing wasn't good. I didn't have my videos from last year until almost April -- until the end of Spring Training. Spring Training wasn't sound. Things were a little off. I just kind of marked that up to the situation. I was trying to figure out how to deal with it.
"Since then, I have regained my composure, my style of play and my level of comfort, and played like the player I can be. I have a very unique swing, a very unique swing path. It's my own. There are not too many guys that swing like that."
For the first time since the 2006 offseason, Werth can work from scratch on his swing once the regular season is over. He hopes to again be the productive hitter he was with the Phillies.
"I'm actually looking forward to this winter," Werth said. "When you play in the postseason every year, not only do you miss a month of the offseason, you are playing another month. I will have so much time to prepare and get ready for next season."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.