“I mean, that kind of speaks for itself,” Werth said. “I don’t think I have to say anything.”
Even as he spent three months healing from a broken wrist, Werth’s second season in Washington has delivered everything he hoped. He feels relaxed in the clubhouse and in the Virginia suburbs, where his family and two dogs live year-round. He is “much more comfortable in his own skin,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. Werth returned sooner than expected from his wrist injury. He has made last season’s offensive struggles appear to be a blip.
Most important, the Nationals have won. The seven-year, $126 million contract Werth signed was of course a primary motivation to join Washington. But he also vowed he had come here because of his utmost confidence in management and ownership to produce a winner. Less than two years in, even after their current four-game skid, the Nationals have the best record in the major leagues.
“I didn’t know how fast it would take place,” Werth said Saturday, standing behind the batting cage about an hour before first pitch at Citizens Bank Park. “But after last season, we played so well in September and under Davey [Johnson] and everything, I wasn’t really sure how this year was going to go. I know originally, I thought Year 3 was going to be our year, you know, with [Stephen Strasburg] on the limit this year and everything. It’s not that surprising that it was this year, with the group of guys we’ve got, the talent. The direction the organization was inevitably going anyways, it’s not a surprise.”
Werth dashed away from his conversation, hopping across a green tarp and into the dirt inside the batting cage. The place he used to call home rose around him, blue seats and maroon and gray facades. His Nationals teammates milled outside the cage. The crack of a line drive off his black bat echoed throughout the place. A deep drive banged off the right-center field wall.
Werth ambled back out of the batting cage. His bird’s-nest beard and sleek sunglasses concealed his face. He restarted his thought.
“Again, it was kind of inevitable, whether it was this year or next,” Werth said. “I think Davey was a big help to that. I don’t see us in this position if [Jim] Riggleman is our manager. You got to have somebody at the top that’s brash, and that’s not afraid.”
Werth sprinted back into the cage. He sprayed more line drives, then walked back out, the thrill of this season still on his mind.