Great Moments In Fandom (Part 1, Phillies Fans)

In case you don’t remember: until recently, Werth played for the Phillies.  More precisely, Werth played extremely well for the Phillies.  In 2008, Werth produced a slash line of .273/.363/.498, for an OPS better than all but two full-time Yankees that year (A-Rod and Jason Giambi). In 2009, Werth’s slashline was .268/.373/.506.  In the 2008 and 2009 World Series, Werth put up numbers of .351/.500/.676 – really good numbers (small sample size notwithstanding).  Last year was Werth’s best: he produced a .296/.388/.532 slash line and was 8th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Werth became a free agent after the end of the 2010 season, and this winter he signed a 7 year $126 million contract to play for the Nationals.  Evidently, this decision upset a number of Phillies fans.

So a large group of these fans travelled south yesterday to Washington D.C. to boo Werth.  Many of these fans purchased tickets in right field at Nationals Park, all the better to boo right fielder Werth.  One Philadelphia radio station held a promotion in which it gave away front-row seats in right field for the express purpose of booing Werth.

Why, exactly, are Phillies fans so upset with Werth? The best answer I can come up with is: there is no reason.

Phillies fans cannot legitimately be upset over players moving from team to team in free agency, because you see, Werth joined the Phillies as a free agent. If not for free agency, Werth never would have played for the Phillies.  He’d still be an L.A. Dodger.

Phillies fans cannot be too upset that Werth did not come back to Philadelphia in 2011. It’s not clear that the Phillies wanted him back.  Werth didn’t think the team wanted him to return.  Philly fan sites recommended against resigning Werth.  Last winter the Phillies offered Werth a three year deal worth $45 million – something like 1/3 the money Werth eventually received from the Nationals. Reportedly, no one in the Phillies organization thought that Werth might accept the Phillies’ offer.

So, if no one expected Werth to remain a Philly, few people wanted him to remain a Philly and the team made a half-hearted effort to retain Werth, why should Philly fans be upset that Werth went elsewhere?

It’s not like Werth spurned the Phils to join a division rival (the way that, say, Johnny Damon left the Red Sox to join the Yankees).  The Phils finished 28 games ahead of the Nationals in 2010.  The Phils finished 34 games ahead of the Nationals in 2009. The Phils finished 32.5 games ahead of the Nationals in 2008.

It’s not like the Phillies are poorer than the Nationals.  The Phillies sport the biggest player payroll of any team in the National League.  During the last three years, the Phils signed Roy Halladay to a 3 year $60 million deal, Cliff Lee to a five year $120 million deal (plus options) and Ryan Howard to an eight year $179 million extension. It’s not as if the Phillies lack money, they simply decided to spend it on players other than Werth.

It’s not like the Phillies are hurting without Werth. The Phillies are grooming super-prospect Domonic Brown to replace Werth.  Brown was injured in spring training, but in the meantime substitute Ben Francisco is doing just fine. The Phillies are picked by nearly everyone to make it to the 2011 post-season.

So again, I ask why these Phillies fans travelled the 137 miles from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to boo Werth. I cannot find a rational reason to explain this behavior. I can only conclude that these particular fans figured it would be fun to come down to D.C., drown out the cheers of the local faithful, create a negative atmosphere, try to ruin the evening for anyone attending the game to root for the home team, and generally do what they could do to reinforce the common stereotype of Philadelphia sports fans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I personally know a number of Philadelphia sports fans who are both passionate and classy.  It was a small minority of Philly fans who attended last night’s game in D.C. I hope that when Werth returns with the Nationals to play in Philadelphia, we’ll see a turnout of true Philly fans, fans who will use the opportunity to express their appreciation for Werth’s contribution to the Phillies during the previous decade.

But since this has yet to happen, I’m pleased to give my first Great Moments In Fandom award to the (hopefully) unrepresentative minority of Philly fans who booed Werth in D.C. last night.

I can think of no better group of fans to inaugurate this award: fans who went out of their way to express their displeasure at the departure of a player they didn’t seem to want and do not appear to need.  These fans combined boorish behavior with a complete lack of understanding of why Werth was playing for D.C. in the first place.  We can also marvel at the hypocrisy of fans who celebrate the big money signings of guys like Lee and Howard, but cry when other teams use the same tactics to lure players away from the Phils.

Oh.  Another reason why I’m so happy to bestow my first fandom award to these Phillies fans.  Last night Werth went two for three, with a double, home run and two runs scored, leading the Nationals to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

Isn’t it wonderful when karma is a bitch?

33 thoughts on “Great Moments In Fandom (Part 1, Phillies Fans)

  1. We watched him give us a fist pump with his homers, nod his head when we cheered him on the field, and he made sure the fans knew when something wonderful was happening and made us respect it by motioning us to stand for them. Can't wait to wear my Werth jersey and welcome him back to Philly with full-on appreciation for what he helped the Phillies do these last few seasons.

  2. they probably booed because its an away baseball game. how bout you revisit this when then nationals play on the road in Philadelphia?

  3. You're right. Booing an ex-player is way worse than beating a pregnant woman (Angels Fans).

  4. I would have cited the Dodger "fans" involved in the savage battery on opening day, for the inaugural award. Perhaps, the response should include stadium public address announcements, early in the game, welcoming out-of-town guests/fans, and late in the game, encouraging everyone to help each other to arrive home safely.

  5. Perfect idea– I plan on getting completely loaded up and bashing some skulls, but a well placed PA announcement will curb my aggression.

  6. I always thought White Sox fans were the worst. They had two incidents within one season where fans attacked someone on the filed in Chicago. If I remember correctly one was a first base umpire, the other Kansas City first base coach Tom Gamboa.

  7. Speaking of Phillies, I think Cliff Lee’s wife might have something to say about poor fansmanship.

  8. Seriously spinner? That is going to resolve the issue of violence at baseball games?

    To begin with, this is overly reactionary. It is like putting a moratorium on deep water drilling because one well bursts, or suspending construction of all nuclear plants in the US because of what is happening in Japan.

    Is there REALLY a large problem with violence at baseball games? Do you know who commits felonious acts? Felons… as long as you have these people at games, these events will happen. A point often discussed on this site is sample size– there are 50k people at a game, you are going to get SOME criminal element.

    The only way for this to happen is to charge $150 for upper deck seats……..At least if you change the demographic you will lower the occurrence of these types of actions. Which is impractical of course. You can not allow people into the game with a BAC over x amount, or stop selling beer (with its 99.999999% profit margin), which is even MORE impractical.

    Hate to say it, but it is what it is………

  9. Phillies fans boo Worth because he's not on their team. You have to be pretty dense not to understand that. Whether his leaving is justifiable isn't the point, and, frankly, you know that.

    How did we get to the point where fans expressing their likes and dislikes of baseball teams and players is boorish behavior? People who just like to see a well played game, or who root for the best players no matter the team, are a very tiny minority of baseball fans. If you take away fans' rooting for their favorite teams and players, baseball would wither and die.

    And booing is not boorish behavior. It's a perfectly acceptable, harmless way to express yourself and have fun as a fan. Jason Werth is going to get paid $126 million because there are fans who care enough to boo people running around with sticks trying to hit balls.

    Mocking fans for booing is pure arrogance, and less understandable than booing players. Fans have an emotional investment in their teams. That's human. You having an emotional investment in not allowing fans to have fun rooting against players on other teams is just pathetic.

    You succeed in taking booing away from fans, and there won't be any baseball left.

  10. Well, if you're gonna be all nice about it, then forget the whole thing.

    Actually, I was regretting the tone of the comments I made. And I agree with you that taunting other fans is bad behavior, and really is boorish, as well as foolish and possible dangerous. Probably there's lots of middle ground here that we'd both be happy to share.

    I personally have gone to root for visiting teams, and I don't boo, basically because it's rude, and I'm a wimp.

    But I'm been prickly for the last couple of decades because everything is framed in terms of teams and players, and no one ever sticks up for fans. I resent almost everything that starts with "Fans shouldn't ….". Unless you're talking violence or threatening, I'd like everyone to get off the fans' giant collective generous irrational emotional bad-behavior-tolerating ass.

    Two specific points:

    1) A free agent who comes to my team gets cheers. A free agent who goes elsewhere gets booed. Hypocritical or not, it's understandable, and benefits the sport overall.

    2) If I actually sold tickets on a bus to go to Atlanta to boo Omar Infante, you'd buy one. And don't pretend otherwise.

  11. P.S. As far as being older goes, I've been around, too. Since I've been rooting for the Yankees, they've made more than 150,000 outs. And I've paid for every one emotionally.

  12. Great post, Larry, and an even better job of responding to the comments in an open-minded, respectful and often humorous way. Nice job by Professor Longnose and spinner of adding to the commentary.

  13. By the way: as an L.A. resident, here's what I have to say to Kobe Bryant: