Bryce Harper had to be helped off the field last night after ripping apart his hamstring. Poor guy.
Let's keep going… Today in Washington Post lunacy: Is Jayson Werth the new Jim Thome?
Only if you consider The Cleveland Show to be the new Good Times.
Dave Sheninininin draws parallels between the Nats signing Werth and the Phillies signing Thome in 2003:
“If there was one thing that got us started, it was when Jim Thome came,” Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr., at the time an assistant to then-GM Ed Wade, said recently. “I think that legitimized what we were trying to do here.”
In December 2002, the Phillies had to overpay to get Thome, who was 32 at the time — back then, six years and $85 million was considered an exorbitant amount — but that’s what a losing franchise had to do to change its course. Before the Thome signing, Phillies fans were grumbling that ownership was too stingy with its checkbook. Such talk pretty much ceased that winter.
“This validates us,” then-Phillies manager Larry Bowa said at the time.
“In Jim’s case, we could go beyond the economic norm because of the residual effect,” Wade said then. “He creates a buzz.”
Now does it sound familiar?
For the modern-day Nationals, the Thome parallel, of course, is Jayson Werth. Last winter, the Nationals could see a young core taking shape in Washington — with Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse, Drew Storen and Jordan Zimmermann having already arrived, and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on their way (or, in Strasburg’s case, on their way back). But they were finding it impossible to coax major free agents to join the fold. They changed that with one bold stroke, blowing away the field to sign Werth, at a price — seven years, $126 million — that shook the entire industry.
A few knee-jerk reactions here: 1) Never quote Ed Wade (we're selling t-shirts!) 2) Thome is a Hall of Famer, Werth is a one-time All-Star. 3) Thome was a proven leader, beloved figured, and all around good guy (Tolly'd) who taught Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins how to win and lead. Werth, on the other hand, strolled into the Nats' clubhouse like that new female Spanish teacher at an all boys high school. You know who I'm talking about- the one who tries and fails miserably to earn the respect of her students and eventually has to call in the principle to set the kids straight about farting and performing spontaneous commando rolls in the middle of class.* Every school has one of those. Not every team has a Jim Thome.
*True story. I'll never forget the day Ms. – redacted – started spraying us with air freshener.
Reader Mark points out the Nats do have one advantage over the 2003 Phillies: they already have their new stadium. Of course, I'd argue that, in 2003, the Phillies had fans, an already-in-the-Majors core of young stars, fans, respectable records in the prior years, and fans. Even though attendance numbers at the Vet from 2000-2002 were similar to what the Nats currently see (between 1.6-1.8 million a year), the Phillies had yet to benefit from that new stadium. When CBP opened, their attendance shot up big time- 3.2, 2.6, and 2.7 million fans in 2004-2006, respectively. And it's fairly resonable to assume the Phillies had a much larger group to pull from, having been around for a hundred years.
Consequently, money from fans has allowed the Phillies to sustain their success by signing guys like Lidge, Lee, Halladay, and Howard.
Shenininvowel's comparison is not completely crazy, however. The Nats do have a bright future (I just got sick a little), and signing Werth at least showed their fans they want to win… or that they're completely incompetent. One or the other.
Harper video via Deadspin, thanks to Mark, Shawn, and others for sending