WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth has done a lot of reflecting lately, taking a moment to consider all he accomplished in a Nationals uniform. Neither when he started his career in 1997, nor during his first meeting with the Nats as a free agent in 2011, could he have ever expected
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth has done a lot of reflecting lately, taking a moment to consider all he accomplished in a Nationals uniform. Neither when he started his career in 1997, nor during his first meeting with the Nats as a free agent in 2011, could he have ever expected to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park. But on Saturday night, his name and No. 28 were unveiled just below the third deck in foul territory on the first-base side.
There are many reasons the Nationals emerged as one of the most successful regular-season teams in MLB since the start of 2012, second only to the Dodgers for most regular-season wins during that span, but Werth's arrival played a major role. He is credited with changing the culture, with teaching the Nats how to win and providing a host of memorable moments along the way.
Those moments played on a highlight reel at Nationals Park -- from the walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series to the memorable quotes and one-liners he uttered through the years endearing himself to a crowd who cheered his every move on Saturday night. One man sitting behind home plate wore a T-shirt with a photo of Werth's Game of Thrones style costume during a themed road trip last season. He left an imprint on his former teammates as well, as a video tribute played featuring Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, Brad Lidge, Danny Espinosa and Chase Utley.
The Nationals presented him with three gifts -- a ring presented by Ted and Mark Lerner, the team's principal and managing principal owners, respectively; a photo from the celebration after his walk-off home run to win Game 4, signed by all of his 2012 teammates presented by general manager Mike Rizzo; and a rocking chair, decked out in camouflage, presented by Zimmerman on behalf of his teammates.
"This is a huge honor and step in a direction that I wasn't expecting," Werth said. "I feel like I'll always have ties to the Nationals and I wouldn't want it any other way. This is my home."
In the 2011 offseason, Werth signed the biggest contract in Nationals history, a seven-year, $126 million deal with a team coming off three consecutive last-place finishes in the NL East. Werth recalls being ridiculed at the time for the decision, but he said he saw the beginning of something special then. Washington went on to win four division titles in Werth's seven seasons.
Injuries and age limited Werth's effectiveness on the field at times during his tenure, but he still finished with a career .788 OPS in D.C., and an 8.8 Wins Above Replacement during his seven-year tenure. However, those around the organization credit him most with transforming the culture.
"I think, when you look back on it, four divisions in seven years, coming from where the franchise was when I signed here, I think it's a pretty good accomplishment," Werth said. "When I signed here, my goal was to win and win a lot. We won a lot of regular-season games. We never got past the first round, but we gave ourselves a chance, we were there."
Still, Werth never envisioned a moment like this, especially not this soon. He had aspirations to continue his career, but after a hamstring injury he sustained playing in the Minors for the Mariners this year, Werth took it as a sign his time was done.
He was not sure what was next. Werth was enjoying retirement for now, getting to spend time with his family and especially his son, Jackson, who caught Werth's ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the doubleheader with the Cubs on Saturday night. But he left the door open to potentially remaining in the Nationals organization for years to come.
"This is where we choose to live," he said. "We chose Washington for all the right reasons. Like I said, this is home. So, we're part of the community. Whether I'm [with the Nats] in some capacity that is an actual job or coming in to hang out every once in a while is fine by me."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.