Sometime in the middle of Wednesday night’s game, Jayson Werth began to think. He is in the final moments of a seven-year, $126 million contract that carried him to Washington, but it was Philadelphia that made him. He is 38, the survivor of various injuries, and without an employer for 2018. He wants to play next season.
“Nothing is guaranteed in this game,” Werth said.
That is what made him think Wednesday. In 2011, he christened his mega contract at Citizens Bank Park by tipping his helmet before his first at-bat as a visitor. Boos, all of a sudden, morphed to a standing ovation.
The fans here have booed him ever since.
So he had an idea. He struck out in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 7-5 Phillies win, and figured he would bat once more. He did. As he stepped to the batter’s box in the ninth inning, Werth removed his helmet and saluted the sparse crowd that remained as the game neared four hours long.
“I felt like maybe this could be my last at-bat in this park,” Werth said. “I had a lot of good times in this town, this stadium, regardless of what it sounds like. I feel like my career, I was made as a Phillie. I was just paying my respects, just in case.”
Werth struck out on four pitches. These last September games are a chance for Werth to prove he belongs in Washington’s postseason lineup; his at-bats could go to Howie Kendrick, who joined the Nationals earlier this season when the Phillies traded him. Werth has hit .224 with a .703 OPS in 67 games.
His nostalgia for Citizens Bank Park was heightened earlier in the day. He fielded an interview request to reminisce about the 2008 championship season for the upcoming 10-year anniversary. Werth is an introspective man, but this pushed him to a different place.
He talked for 20 minutes about the 2008 Phillies.
“It was really the first time I thought about it in a long time,” Werth said. “They asked me some tough questions, really. It kind of brought up some old emotions. Really, things I haven’t thought about or talked about maybe ever.”
The twilight of his career is unwritten. Werth could capture another championship this fall with Washington. He could return to the Nationals as a part-time player in 2018. He could find a better offer elsewhere. Maybe he’s a bench player and veteran presence on a young, rebuilding team that could use his guidance. Maybe he retires.
On Wednesday, for a second, he savored the ballpark that once brought him so much joy.
“You never know in this game,” Werth said.