The way the Nationals finished a disappointing 2013 season — a 38-29 record in the second half, one of the best in baseball, and an 18-win September — has reinforced Jayson Werth’s confidence in his team. He has spent much of the winter trying to understand what happened in the miserable first half, “a perfect storm of events that led us to being too far back coming down the stretch,” he said. But Werth, one of the team’s leaders, always felt the Nationals would make a push for the postseason. And it’s that run over the final two months of the season that Werth believes is what the Nationals are truly capable of.
“It just took us a little too long to get there,” Werth said at NatsFest on Saturday. “But all in all, you look at the way we played coming down the stretch, if we get in the postseason, which we only missed by a couple games even though as bad as we played in the first half, but if we get in, I think we’re the best team in baseball at the time and I think it was ours to lose.”
Werth said there’s an obvious lesson to learn from last season.
“The mentality going into the season might not have been in the right spot,” he said. “But coming through what we went through the year before and the age of some of the guys and the inexperience, I think this year we’re further along and down the road from all that so hopefully we can get started good and put all that stuff behind us and have the season I think we’re capable of having. …
“I can’t speak for everyone. I think everyone is pretty much aware of what happened and where we went wrong. I think it’s an easy fix. We’ve got the guys to do it. We’ve got the right guys. We’ve improved our club. I think it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Since Matt Williams was introduced as the Nationals’ new manager, Werth has spent some time with him. Not long after Williams’ introductory news conference in November, the manager stopped by Werth’s house in the D.C. area. Werth said Williams was in the neighborhood and Werth invited him over.
“We’re just getting to know each other,” Werth said. “Just talking about the team a little bit and expectations. Just normal talk. We didn’t sign any treaties or anything.”
But based on the few interactions between the two, Werth has been impressed.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt, with all his playing experience, the type of guy he is, his overall baseball IQ,” he said. “I think he’s gonna do a good job. Just the talks that I’ve had with him, which haven’t been that many, have been really good. I think he’s coming from a good place. At the end of the day, you want to play for a guy who every day you come to the park you want to be able to go to war for and feel good about it. And Matt’s like that.”
Following the season, Werth rested for a few months before starting workouts on Dec. 1. He starts baseball activities around this time of the year before ramping up even further in spring training. At this time last year, Werth was still building strength in his surgically repaired wrist and wasn’t sure how it would feel for an entire season. It wasn’t a problem in ’13; Werth hit 25 home runs and had one of his finest seasons by posting a .931 OPS.
“It’s good,” Werth said. “… I don’t have any issues now and I don’t foresee any problems. And I’m kinda hoping we’re past it.”