Jayson Werth

Could this year's Phillies starting 8 be better than the 2008 Phillies lineup?

Could this year's Phillies starting 8 be better than the 2008 Phillies lineup?

The 2008 Phillies will forever have a place in the heart of every Phillies fan, for one obvious reason: they won it all. A big reason they were able to win the World Series is the strength of their offense. Led by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, the 2008 Phillies led the National League with 214 home runs, and finished second in the NL with a .438 team slugging percentage.

But the Phillies' offseason shopping spree netted them three starting position players who all made the All-Star Game last season, the first time that has happened in MLB history. It also gave them perhaps the most dangerous lineup in the game today.

With Bryce Harper now in the fold, I raise the question: how does the 2019 starting 8 stack up offensively with that of the 2008 World Series champs? Let's take it position-by-position.

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz vs. J.T. Realmuto
Make no mistake: we all love Chooch. But as much as we value him and his place in the Phillies' golden run, he was not strong offensively, especially in 2008, when he hit just .219 in 117 games. Ruiz managed four homers and 31 RBI on the season, numbers I expect Realmuto to eclipse by about May 15. Verdict: 2019

First Base: Ryan Howard vs. Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins has a lot of potential, especially with the protection that will be around him in this lineup, but Ryan Howard in his prime was a force of nature. Fourty-eight homers, 146 RBI. Just an absolute monster out of the cleanup spot. Verdict: 2008

Second Base: Chase Utley vs. Cesar Hernandez
This one is also not close. Utley hit 33 homers and had his fourth straight 100-RBI season in 2008. Hernandez is a good player, and a nice on-base guy at the top of the lineup, but you can't argue this one. Verdict: 2008

Third base: Pedro Feliz vs. Maikel Franco
The only reason Feliz didn't hit eighth in the 2008 Phillies lineup is because Carlos Ruiz was also playing that day. Meanwhile, Franco quietly has been productive. Three straight seasons with at least 22 homers, and he also led the Phillies in batting average last season (not a huge feat, but .270 is a good average) Verdict: 2019 

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins vs. Jean Segura
Fairly even matchup here. Both Rollins and Segura have pop, and a lot of speed. I'll give the nod to J-Roll here, because he has more of both. And Jimmy could always bring it when the red light was on. Verdict: 2008 

Left field: Pat Burrell vs. Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen is a former NL MVP and a five-time All-Star, but I'm giving the edge to The Bat here. Thirty-three homers, 86 RBI, 102 walks, and an OPS that was just a few ticks behind Howard's for the season (.875, compared to .881 for Howard). This was Burrell's last good season, and he was an underrated force in the middle of the lineup. Verdict: 2008 

Center field: Shane Victorino vs. Odubel Herrera
The image of Victorino leaping on top of the pile following the final out in the World Series is indelible. But this one is closer to me than you may think. I feel like these two players are similar. Streaky hitters, good speed-power combo, even down to the occasional mental errors on the field. I'm hopeful Herrera shakes off last year's second half and gives the team more of what we saw in early 2018. Verdict: Push

Right field: Jayson Werth vs. Bryce Harper 
We are through the looking glass here. A player who left the Phillies to head south to D.C. against the new addition, who did the opposite this week. I don't think this is a close race. While Werth was a significant cog in the 2008 machine, Harper gives you so much more offensively that it's not a fair fight. Verdict: 2019 

Based on the individual matchups, I'm giving a slight edge to the 2008 team. I will say that the fac it's close enough to argue will make for a fun spring and summer, with the hopes for many more to come.

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Jayson Werth hits home run in rare appearance in amateur wooden bat league

Jayson Werth hits home run in rare appearance in amateur wooden bat league

Jayson Werth was in town last weekend when the 2008 world champion Phillies team was honored at Citizens Bank Park. It reminded fans of that glorious run and perhaps gave Werth the itch to get back on the baseball diamond.

Maybe just not a professional diamond.

The Washington Post has a fun story today about Werth suiting up and playing in a regular old men's wooden bat league down in the Washington, D.C. area last month. It all started with a friendship Werth developed with Matt Mika who was injured in the shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball practice in June 2017. The two have kept in touch since and after Werth walked away from his career as a major-league ballplayer this June, he was looking to get some game action in to prepare for the Bluegrass World Series in Lousiville, Kentucky, in August where former MLB stars get together and play.

So Werth reached out to his friend about joining one of his games. Who is going to turn down a chance to see the "Bearded One" take on amateur pitching?

Werth had some funny things to say about the first non-professional field he's played on in over two decades.

“The outfield’s kind of uneven, the infield’s not really level and the batter’s box, it felt like a two-foot hole where your back foot stands. The lights aren’t real bright," he said.

And his quote to the Post about the pitching is pretty hilarious. 

“The velocity of the opposing pitchers wasn’t what I’m used to,” Werth, who drew a walk his first time up, said with a laugh. “It took me a minute.”

But Werth didn't go all Embiid-Dunking-On-a-Rando on them. He had some misses. He finished 1 for 4 with a home run and a walk.

And like Embiid playing at a local playground with randos, Werth made both teams' and spectators' days simply by being a good sport.

I always thought the dislike for Werth in Philly after he left the Phillies to play on an incredibly lucrative contract in Washington was misguided. All he ever did in Philly was win a championship and be a fun guy to root for.

Last we heard from Werth, he was telling us about how he's already spoken to Bryce Harper about what playing ball in Philly is like. If Bryce doesn't end up playing for the Phillies when he hits free agency, maybe Werth can always come back and join a Philly area wooden bat league?

Anyway, he can still put good wood on the ball as demonstrated in the below home run swing.

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It's time to change the narrative about Philly sports fans

It's time to change the narrative about Philly sports fans

Old narratives often die hard in network television. Especially when it comes to sports broadcasting. 

Game in New York, you’re almost guaranteed to see an aerial shot of the Statue of Liberty or Times Square. Redskins play on a Thursday night, Lincoln Memorial. Chicago, Lake Michigan scenic shot. Philadelphia, cheesesteaks being fried on the grill at Pat’s and Geno’s or the Rocky statue. You can almost book it.

What you can also bank on is a producer in New York or L.A. (usually not from Philadelphia) pre-producing a package that week leading into a nationally televised game in which snowballs being thrown at Santa Claus or something of that ilk is referenced. If it’s not done in the package, the subject is injected or introduced to the lead broadcasters in the production meetings leading up to said game. The old Philadelphia-fans-are-knuckle-dragging-cretins angle. 

It’s tired. It’s lazy. It’s predictable. And it’s gone on for years. It’s the easiest way to push the buttons of a Philadelphia sports fan. But there may be an end in sight to the false narrative.

Take the last couple of years for example. Let’s go back to the 2017 NFL draft, held at the Ben Franklin Parkway. It was a game-changer for the league. The outdoor setting was perfect, the weather could not have been better, but it was the fans that stood out. They came out in droves. They lustily cheered on anything the Eagles did. They had fun with the commissioner, booing him upon first sight — and Roger Goodell played along beautifully. They jeered Drew Pearson, who attempted to give them the business. Brian Westbrook responded in kind the next day. Philly fans showed the world what passion was those three days. The NFL noticed. So did virtually every national broadcaster.  

Fast-forward to last season with the Eagles and the absolute domination by the fans at road games. This was nothing new but it was taken to a different level in 2017. Exhibit A, the Chargers' game in L.A. was an absolute takeover; it was an Eagles home game. Other cities do not travel that way. 

Then on to the Super Bowl championship parade. Broad Street and the Parkway covered in a sea of green with a jolly green giant dressed in a Mummers suit speaking for all those misrepresented fans who didn’t have that platform. It was epic. 

To the baseball team over the course of the last month. Chase Utley returned to a three-day love-fest. And this past weekend, a stirring, heart-wrenching speech from Brandy Halladay, the wife of the late Roy Halladay, about how this city has embraced her and her family through their most trying time. The weekend was capped off by nothing but cheers for prodigal son, Jayson Werth. Instances like Werth’s introduction — if it was anything but warm — would have been chum for the national narrative that Philadelphia fans are the worst.  

Lastly was Brian Dawkins' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not surprisingly, his devotees showed up in droves, outnumbering any other group. Dawkins closed his speech acknowledging and thanking them. It was a perfect ending to an emotionally draining oration. Oh, by the way, 40,000 people showed up for a practice Sunday evening at the Linc.

Who knows if any of the above evidence will end the false perception put forth by the Michael Wilbons, Colin Cowherds and Skip Baylesses of the world. Not to mention those network suits. 

Perhaps it was Union supporters, Sons of Ben, echoed by esteemed philosopher and poet, Jason Kelce, who put it best:

“We’re from Philly, f------ Philly, no one likes us, we don’t care.”

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