On a Saturday night when the Washington Nationals really needed a win it was right fielder Jayson Werth who supplied the dramatics. The Nationals overcame a 4-0 deficit and the pitching of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ Cliff Lee for a come from behind 8-5 victory.
It was Werth’s two run homer that put the Nationals ahead 6-4, earning him a curtain call from the crowd of 30,000 at Nationals Park. It also happened to be the 34-year-old outfielder’s 1,000th hit in the major leagues. Werth was the July National League Player of the Month, and continues to be the most consistent offensive player.
For Werth, Washington is finally feeling like home. He is three years into a seven-year, $126 million deal that at the time was considered a big mistake. However, the Nationals accomplished two things by signing the former Phillies star.
First, they established themselves as players in the free agent market and secondly, and possibly most importantly, they established a good relationship with Werth’s agent Scott Boras. The combination of Werth and Boras has been a good one for Washington.
Werth has been very valuable both on the field and in the clubhouse where he has been a mentor to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Meanwhile, the Lermer Family, who own the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo, has worked very closely with one of baseball’s most important agents.
After a bad season in 2011, Werth turned things around in 2012. After being out of the lineup all or parts of 81 games with a broken wrist, Werth helped the Nationals win the National League East crown and to a MLB best 98 wins. Now in 2013, he has been one of the best players on the team.
He has also established himself as a blue collar guy who Nationals fans have learned to love. His teammates love him and he has become just what Rizzo said he would be when the signed him, “A piece of a much larger puzzle.”
That puzzle is where Boras comes into this story. First came the star of the 2009 draft, the super arm from San Diego State. Boras wanted to make him the highest paid number one draft choice in history. The hard-nosed super agent had built a very close bond with Ted and Mark Lerner, the key members of the Nationals ownership group.
The bond was so close that for the first time ever, Boras allowed the Lerner’s to meet with Strasburg before he was signed. They flew to San Diego and had dinner with the Strasburg family. The Lerner’s paid Strasburg the record amount of $15.1 million.
A year later it was Boras and the Lerner’s again making history, this time with “The LeBron James of Baseball,” Bryce Harper, who at the age of 16 was hitting 500 plus f00t home runs. This time it was then “special assistant to the Nationals,” Davey Johnson (before he was manager) who spent time with Harper and his family prior to the draft.
The Nationals once again met Boras’s high demands for Harper and Nationals and agreed to a $9.9 million, five-year contract; the highest amount ever paid to a non pitcher in the draft.
So the signing of Jayson Werth and the relationship with Boras has established the Nationals as one of the top destinations in baseball. The Lerner family, to their credit along with GM Rizzo, has stuck to a plan of growing their own players and adding the super star free agent as needed.
There were a number of other things that helped the Nationals get to where they are today which is a stable and well run franchise that is built to win now and well into the future.