We talked to Jayson Werth in December after he signed a contract, and in March at spring training, and over the weekend in New York City. But, hell, it's April, and if you get bored of this you are more than welcome to cruise on over to the latest episode of That's Baseball.
Away we go. . .
(When Phillies signed Jim Thome a year before moving into Citizens Bank Park, it sent a message that the organization was ready to take the next step. Do you see your signing sending a similar message for the Nationals?)
“I wasn’t around then, so I don’t know if that’s what was going on. But, yes, that’s kind of the plan. The Lerners are very interested in getting this organization going in the right direction. They want to win. I think they call it Phase II of their ownership. Originally it was build the farm system, kind of ground up. Now this year they added me and (Adam) LaRoche and some veteran guys – Matt Stairs, Alex Cora – to kind of get this thing going a little bit. So, yeah, I guess it would be kind of similar.”
(Roy Oswalt said before he faced the Astros for the first time that he didn’t think it would be a big deal. Then he faced them and said it was a lot more different than he expected it to be. Do you have any expectations what you think this is going to be like?)
"I don’t. The last time I saw all these guys was after the last game we played last year. So I haven’t seen some of them since then. There’s still a lot of feelings there. We really accomplished a lot together. When you go to war with guys, most of them for four straight years, you create some everlasting bonds, I think you could call it. So it will be interesting to see some of them for the first time. I really haven’t gotten a chance (because the tarp has been on the field) to see all of them yet. Maybe in those pregame sprints or their first at bats or something like that.
“It’s going to be weird I’m sure. But I’ll have to get used to it.”
(You’ve talked a lot about wanting to help turn things around here. Other than winning, which you can’t completely control, what can you do personally to help change the culture?)
“Anything I can do to help, but winning’s the big thing. To change the culture of an organization that hasn’t won, you’re going to have to win. I think I mentioned it the other day. When I came to Philly in ’07, we’d play the Mets (at home) and it would be like 50-50 Mets fans, Phillies fans. Then over the course of three, four years now there’s no more Mets fans.
“But that takes winning and to change the culture here I think that’s what it’s going to take more than anything else. It’s going to take 25 guys going in the same direction and winning ballgames.”
(Anybody over there you were particularly happy to see?)
“Everybody. I finally got to see Charlie (Manuel) just in passing. It was good to see Charlie. I’ve been through a lot with Charlie. I went from being not one of Charlie’s guys to one of Charlie’s guys. (Laughing) And a lot had to happen in between there. Shane (Victorino) and Michael Bourn got hurt on the same day in ’07. I was on the DL. I think it was one day before the trade deadline. They called me up on August 1 off the DL and I played that whole August and hit like four-something and we ended up winning the division. Then he didn’t play me against the lefty against Colorado in the divisional series. I still tell him about that.
"But you know, then starting in the platoon the next year and having to really convince him to play me against righties. And being his guy in ’09 and 2010. We’ve been through a lot. So it was good to see Charlie of course. One of the things he told me throughout the season last year. It was a story of Jim Thome. He was with (Cleveland) and he wanted to stay there and play there and Charlie told him, ‘If you give up the big deal to stay, I’ll never speak to you again.’ That’s one of his life’s lessons for me. There were a few of those. I learned a lot about life, love and baseball from Charlie Manuel. There were a lot of good times there.”
(He said he’d be hollering at you from the dugout.)
“I’m sure. When we’d play against Manny Ramirez, him and Charlie k new each other for a long time. And he was always yelling at Manny. So I’ll take that as a compliment.”
(What’s it been like hitting second again, even though now you’re back to third with the injury to Ryan Zimmerman?)
“No big deal. It’s more of an organizational thing. We’ve got a lot of young talent here with not a lot of experience. To put those kids at the top of the order right off the bat? It was just something I think everybody felt better about putting one up there and one at the bottom and seeing what made sense as we go. It’s essentially taking 3-4-5 and moving it up to 2-3-4. But, you know, (second baseman Danny) Espinosa has been swinging the bat really well and he’s really coming along as a player and maturing at a pretty quick rate. So with him and (shortstop Ian) Desmond at the top of the order, you can move me down to 3, 4 or 5, whatever (manager Jim Riggleman) wants to do. At the beginning of the season, to start things off, I think it was the right thing to do.”