Seeing the two of them together, you’d swear they were separated at birth–Jayson Werth and pro wrestler Edge. In fact, Werth seemed to like the physical comparisons at one time. Edge was a shaggy, hip guy, with a fan-friendly acrobatic style that excited the naive pro wrestling masses. At one time, you could almost say the same thing about Werth in his tenure with the Phillies when it came to capturing the imagination of Phils’ fans. The lady-killer with the Clint Eastwood beard and matching squint was making diving catches, coming through with clutch hits, being an All-Star. He was the right-handed club the Phillies heavily relied on in their left-leaning lineup. A real fan favorite who had some Philly in him–majestically showing what he could do once given the chance.
But something happened since then and now. Both “characters,” you could say, have made drastic changes. The Edge became a skittish, snappy, bug-eyed heel, uncaring about fan support. He’s belligerent, arrogant, snooty to outreaching fans and an overall bore. But that’s just a pretend character in an elaborate male soap opera. Guess what? We have the real thing here. Jayson Werth has personified “Edge.” He not only resembles the character, he’s acting like him.
On the field, his play has diminished considerably in his contract year–squandering this vital time when he’s supposed to be showing all new prospective employers how good he is. Instead, he’s succumbed to the pressure of playing up to the 2009 All-Star standards he set for himself and settled into a “wrestling character” that happens to play right field for your baseball team. He’s snapped at fans (see father reaching for foul ball to protect his son) and not apologized for it; he’s snapped at the pack of beat guys covering the team, seemingly not willing to look at himself in the mirror at his own troubles, and transferring whatever frustration he’s endured onto them.
Werth got testy with Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel after Manuel was asked if Werth’s looming contract uncertainty may be affecting his play. Manuel rightfully suggested it could be. Werth hasn’t proved otherwise. He’s hitting a robust .222 through the first 15 games of July and is hovering around the Mendoza-line for the last month. His last homer came almost a month ago, on June 23rd against Cleveland. His batting average has dipped steadily from hitting .292 through June to hitting .280 in late-July.
Werth hasn’t done himself any favors either. The more he presses, the more he seems to shrink. Pressure? He cowers at the mere mention of the word. Walking around his locker in the Phillies’ clubhouse, I’m told, is like walking on egg shells. He’s looking for any excuse to flip out on someone at any time. Phils’ beat man Ryan Lawrence retold an interesting story Tuesday morning on Angelo Cataldi’s show about a recent Werth incident, when the right fielder sarcastically blurted out “nice interview” to the gathered media–after they were talking to another player.
Maybe the paranoid switch has gone off in Werth’s head. Who knows?
From the outside looking in at this train wreck, it seems Jayson Werth has become Edge, blaming everyone but himself for his recent descent and not willing to accept any accountability. Like getting picked off of first base, like taking too many pitches and getting caught looking at one too many called third strikes, like acting worse than a pro wrestling heel by snapping out on a father who was reaching up to catch a foul ball to protect his son.
One time Jayson Werth was a fan favorite. Now he’s become a circus act. He already has the smarmy image down pat. All that’s missing are the wrestling tights.