The Werth Hate Fest Continues

I’m of the school of thought that trolls are to be ignored and never taken head-on. When a troll shows up in the comments here, their posts are discarded as soon as they are seen. Usually, the gimmick is extinguished and the troll moves on to the next target. However, every now and then, a troll needs to be challenged — especially one with influence — as an example to the acolytes. That’s right, sometimes the Glenn Becks of this world need to be acknowledged and taken down systematically.

The troll who will be acknowledged here is Mandy Housenick of TheMorningCall.com‘s blog The Phillies Files. I have to assume it’s trolling because it’s not journalism. And her writing is clearly looking for a reaction of some sort. She has two posts in which she uses the tired anti-Werth talking points: one and two. I’m going to go through them FJM-style. If you read Saturday’s article, you are probably familiar with the arguments so this may be a rehashing for you. But I promise to throw in some snark to make it interesting.

Her words will be in bold and my responses will follow in regular typeface.

Now I’m just going to put it out there — the Phillies should trade Jayson Werth. I don’t care that they’ll get two first-round draft picks for him when he signs with some other team at the end of the season. He needs to go — now.

The guy isn’t producing, and quite frankly, players usually have their best years when they’re playing for a contract. They see dollar signs, and I can’t blame them for having some extra pick-me-up in their step. But Werth doesn’t have that, and that’s worrisome.

Werth’s .376 wOBA is six one-thousandths behind his wOBA the previous two years (.382). If you’re not familiar with wOBA, click here. Saying that Werth “isn’t producing” is flat out wrong. Even his isolated power of .222 is barely behind that of 2008 and ’09 (.225 and.238, respectively).

You could say that his defense has gotten worse. His -6.0 UZR/150 this year is well behind his 7.4 mark last year. But that would require putting faith in small samples of UZR data — not recommended.

In terms of statistical significance, you can’t say his power is down. You can’t say he’s walking less or striking out more. You can’t say he’s swinging at bad pitches or making less contact.

He has an .873 OPS. His OPS was .879 last year and .861 the year before. By any statistical measure you use, you cannot legitimately say that Werth is “not producing”. Sure, he’s slumped, but what hitter doesn’t slump?

If I’m someone running a sportsbook, I see that I would be able to make a lot of money off of people betting against Werth. Much more profitable than inducing a bet on football.

Remember how he got picked off yesterday? Shouldn’t happen.

He has been picked off once this year. Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins have also been picked off once this year. Last year, Rollins was picked off five times; Victorino four; Werth three; Pedro Feliz twice; and six other players once. If anything, the Phillies — and Werth — are getting picked off less in 2010 (but that may simply be explained by injuries).

It happens. And when it does happen, it isn’t necessarily the runner’s fault. Sometimes a pitcher has a good move; sometimes the pitcher even balks but the balk isn’t called by the umpires. When it’s the runner’s fault, all that can be done is to admit the mistake and move on. Werth made a mistake, but overall he’s a good runner. One pick-off is not representative of anything.

But what worries me more is the way he acts in the clubhouse, something the organization prides itself in. I read about what he did in Chicago….totally uncalled for.

On Friday night after Ryan Madson gave up a game-winning home run in the eighth, Madson answered reporters’ questions. My understanding is it wasn’t a long interview (everybody can’t be as professional and cordial as Brad Lidge), but Madson stood there and did his job when I’m sure it was the last thing he felt like doing.

The same can’t be said for Werth.

He walked by the crowd of reporters who had just spoken to Madson and said, “Nice interview, guys.”

Nice attitude, Jayson.

The right fielder, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (all looking), refused to answer questions.

Shocking.

He said something to the like of, “I don’t want to talk to you guys.”

The beat writers should never be the story. No journalist should ever be part of the story (unless it’s a story about journalists/journalism of course). If I was Werth, having been lambasted non-stop by the Philly fans and media, I wouldn’t want to talk to them either. Good for Jayson.

Werth, of course, is now getting the evil eye from the media because he didn’t make it easy for them to do their jobs. For the journalists — Housenick, Ryan Lawrence, etc. — to take this personally is totally irresponsible and immature.

If you’re a Phillies beat writer, do your job: get the facts, get whatever quotes you can, and write the story. Don’t inject personal opinion and conjecture into the narrative.

Not Werth. He can’t be bothered. It’s not the first time he’s been nasty to reporters or made unnecessary wise cracks.

Again, this isn’t relevant. And I would highly question the definition of “nasty” and “unnecessary”. In fact, who is the arbiter of what makes a “wise crack” unnecessary?

If a salesman doesn’t sell as many cars as he’s supposed to, his commission goes in the toilet. If I drastically misquote someone, I could be sued, the paper could be sued, I could get fired and lose all future credibility.

That ship has sailed.

If a prosecutor doesn’t present the facts clearly in court, a criminal could go free, and that same lawyer will have to answer reporters’ questions. If a waitress does poorly, she’ll get the lunch shift instead of the Saturday night dinner shift.

And if Werth (or Ryan Howard or Chase Utley) goes into a slump… what?

If Werth (or Howard or Utley) refuses to talk to the reporters… what?

I fail to see the analogy.

Yes, there are times when players choose not to talk to us. Chase Utley rarely talks to us, and when he does, he’s full of cliches. But when he has to, he does, and he doesn’t belittle us.

Jimmy Rollins turns us down, too, but he’s never rude. He just says something like, “Not tonight, guys. Maybe tomorrow.”

Said another way, “I hate Jayson Werth and it’s entirely irrational.”

Housenick tried to link Werth’s alleged lack of production (proven patently false) to his attitude but swung and missed on that attempt.

What this amounts to is character assassination:

Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person’s reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and can be a form of ad hominem argument.

As a journalist, Housenick should be well-versed in the lingo above. She and her anti-Werth compatriots in the media should be well aware that what they are doing cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered legitimate journalism. It’s garbage fit for a garbage website like TMZ. Gossip being presented as fact has no place in the world of journalism. Personal vendettas have no place in the world of journalism.

Moving onto her second entry…

Many of you just aren’t getting it.

Like you didn’t get the idea to do some cursory background research on Werth’s statistics before claiming that “the guy isn’t producing”? Like you didn’t get the idea to forget everything you learned in your college journalism classes?

I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.

In the previous article, Housenick used two arguments to support a trade of Werth:

1. “The guy isn’t producing” which was proven false.
2. “[Werth] can’t be bothered. It’s not the first time he’s been nasty to reporters or made unnecessary wise cracks.”

If I missed another argument, let me know. But yeah, Mandy definitely did argue that “the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media”.

I’m saying that his problems go way beyond the way he is with us. He said the F-word to that fan the other day

Athletes use foul language? My word! Someone should back-trace it and report him to the cyber police!

If you ask any legitimate journalist what they hear in sports locker rooms on a daily basis, they will tell you that the F-word is about as common as the word “the” and “Broseph”. (Maybe not that last one.)

Secondly, I’ve seen and heard Howard use the F-word about a hundred times on TV after he strikes out. Let’s ship him out!

Thirdly, is there no “heat of the moment” clause for this kind of criticism? The fan clearly interfered with Werth’s ability to catch a baseball. I’d have been upset, too. In fact, Philly fans in general despise it when fans get in the way as my Twitter feed was full of “stupid fans” tweets during one of the day games against the Cincinnati Reds (the exact date escapes me at the moment).

Again, this is just another dumb excuse to publicly roast Werth.

he hardly looks like he cares out on the field

Prove it. Saying what a player “looks like” is absolutely meaningless. I think Jimmy Rollins looks like he didn’t like the movie The Blind Side. I think Raul Ibanez is both an atheist and a communist. I think Greg Dobbs looks like he voted for Ralph Nader.

Can I prove any of that? No. Therefore, it would be poor judgment on my part to publicize those statements with the authority that they are indeed infallible statements.

and believe me, many other things go on, that as reporters, we can’t talk about.

So don’t talk about it.

Werth’s play isn’t up to par, at bat or in the field.

At bat: false.

In the field: Subject to unreliability of defensive data.

And, his body language reads like he wants to be anywhere but Philadelphia.

Bad journalist! *smacks with newspaper* Bad! Think about what you’ve done!

Jimmy Rollins (and many others) would never say the F-word to a fan. He knows better than that.

Ignoring the stupidity of the argument… this. Or this.

The Phillies always talk about good clubhouse chemistry and respect and playing hard. They get those things from guys such as Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Chooch, etc. Their attitude with each other, with the fans and with us all factors into the success of the team. They treat each other with respect and us and their fans. The same can’t be said for Werth.

Read the above paragraph again. Housenick led off her column with, “I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.” Read that above paragraph again.

“I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.”

Many Phillies fans loved Aaron Rowand because he played so hard and treated fans, his teammates and the media like he’d treat his brother or father or sister. He was a great guy and it was impossible not to respect his tireless work ethic.

Okay? Rowand is completely unrelated; a red herring. And he has a .681 OPS and a -2.0 UZR/150. I’m not sure what Housenick was going for, but rest assured that it was another swing and miss.

Believe it or not, that was how she closed her column. I guess she was really adhering to that inverted pyramid or something…

. . .

If there’s one takeaway to any journalists or any wannabe journalists reading this, it’s: don’t make yourself or your feelings part of the story. You are irrelevant to the story; you are merely reporting facts and fashioning them into an anecdote. If you call yourself a journalist, you should adhere to those guidelines. If you want to go off on tangents, then you need to discard the journalist moniker and you cannot be trusted as a provider of factual information.

That is not to say that journalists can’t provide analysis; they absolutely can. David Murphy of the High Cheese blog for the Philadelphia Daily News, Matt Gelb of the Phillies Zone blog for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com‘s The Zo Zone do a fantastic job of sticking to the facts and leaving the personal issues at the door.

The downfall of the newspaper industry has led to a transition to online material for many content distributors. While it is true that most bloggers do not have to adhere to journalistic standards, journalists still have to adhere to those guidelines. That’s why Crashburn Alley couldn’t get a press credential before partnering with ESPN (and why I will have to adhere to journalistic standards when utilizing it) and that’s why Housenick can get a press credential with a snap of her fingers. A journalist running a blog is still a journalist.

What Housenick has written on her blog recently cannot in any way, shape or form be considered journalism. It is simply trolling and I don’t even think she did it for the pageviews, sadly.

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70 comments

  1. Stick Sidinya

    July 23, 2010 09:37 AM

    I actually prefer a blog to have some opinion mixed in. This blog pretends that it doesn’t do that, when in fact it’s full of opinion. Even this piece is an example of that.

    I understand that you’re saying Werth isn’t having as terrible a year as some people are saying, but he’s certainly not having as good a year as last year. And THAT PLAYER is the player the fans want, not Werth this year. It’s just becoming more obvious that he’s not, and probably never really was, actually that player.

    I realize that the other guys on the team aren’t really hitting either, but they aren’t the ones in this particular situation: free agent after the season, possibly commanding a big contract, and having the potential to reign in some nice prospects/pitching help.

  2. Bill Baer

    July 23, 2010 10:48 AM

    Werth’s .376 wOBA is six one-thousandths behind his wOBA the previous two years (.382). If you’re not familiar with wOBA, click here. Saying that Werth “isn’t producing” is flat out wrong. Even his isolated power of .222 is barely behind that of 2008 and ’09 (.225 and.238, respectively).

    You could say that his defense has gotten worse. His -6.0 UZR/150 this year is well behind his 7.4 mark last year. But that would require putting faith in small samples of UZR data — not recommended.

    In terms of statistical significance, you can’t say his power is down. You can’t say he’s walking less or striking out more. You can’t say he’s swinging at bad pitches or making less contact.

    He has an .873 OPS. His OPS was .879 last year and .861 the year before. By any statistical measure you use, you cannot legitimately say that Werth is “not producing”. Sure, he’s slumped, but what hitter doesn’t slump?

    (Note: The numbers have slightly changed since this was written, of course.)

    How many ways can I say it? His stats this year compared to last year are all extremely similar, so much so that any differences can simply be attributed to statistical variance.

  3. Childhood Phan

    July 23, 2010 05:22 PM

    @David: I can assure you though I’m from the midwest (don’t live there now) I am in no way related to Jayson Werth. I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone who knows or has met Jayson Werth.

    Wait – I know a co-worker (oddly a Met fan) who saw him in a restaurant, eating a cheeseburger & fries before a game. He said he was tall & nice. Shrug, that’s it. But for the record, I don’t even own a ‘Werth’ jersey.

    Sorry if I sounded overly vehement but after defending Phila fans against the same kinds of things that other fans do in every park in this country (but they don’t get reported b/c its more fun when it’s Phila) I didn’t enjoy my Yankees & Mets fans friends showing me tons of internet stuff from Phila all against Werth (esp when I’d already seen it). They laughed,”Yeah, thought you loved Werth. Now he’s all wrong. Now you guys can’t waaaait to trade him? Niiice. You’ll be sorry.”

    Of course the Yankees fans are the worst. Please they’re repellent – outright proof there is no higher power (and Steinbrenner’s down there now signing the devil’s option). How else could the Phillies be suffering like this and ARoid hit his 599th last night? There is nothing at all right about it.

  4. Chris

    July 23, 2010 05:57 PM

    Should Werth’s .297 wOBA so far in July be a cause for concern or just a slump that can be written off due to small sample size? I think most of the problem for people is the fact that he had a tremendous April and while he was still very good in May and June, it was not up to the same par, and with a struggling Victorino and Ibanez and an injured Rollins, Werth’s drop off seemed more dramatic than it actually was. Now that Rollins is back and Utley is out, the only person really producing right now is Howard. Additionally, he is probably the most “trade-able” of the players we have and with Moyer out, we may need to fill out our rotation from the trade market. Finally, most fans think it’s Dominic Brown’s time to move to the big leagues and that it couldn’t hurt at this point in the season. All of these things together are, in my opinion, what make people think a Werth trade make sense. Personally though, I agree with you that Werth should not be traded because he is a very solid hitter and I’d rather fix our bullpen and wait for Happ to come back than rely on Brown to save our hitting. At this point I’m just hoping we can hang in there until Utley comes back because he clearly is the most valuable player on our team if somehow nobody saw it before.

  5. sherri

    July 24, 2010 08:43 PM

    I totally agree with everything you said. Jayson Werth is one of the best all around players in the game, and he deserves to be treated as such. People need to cut him some slack; every hitter goes into slumps, and every baseball player gets frustrated and uses foul language. This journalist is downright pitiful with her sorry attempts at trying to rid Philadelphia of Werth because he’s “mean to the media”.

  6. Bob

    July 26, 2010 08:31 PM

    Extensive (and curious) character assassination of fellow (female) traveler, especially when the Miss is onto something here. As Mr. Werth was largely considered a bit of a lucky find, that is, he really could do no wrong as he came from out of nowhere and was cheap as can be…then, he showed he was a good athlete and ball player..and the basis of how we judge a player came into view. Sadly, Mr. Werth has not lived up to this increased expectation. My enduring image of Mr. Werth is when he yelled at that kid and his dad who had the audacity to catch a ball that was hurtling toward his or his son’s head. The look on that kid (and his Dad’s) face was some of the worst publicity the Phils has had since taser-gate. Obviously they were huge Phillies and baseball fans, wanted to feel good about catching a foul ball, and then forced to feel like Steve Bartman by one of their heroes, who happens to be a spindly, hairy, prima donna, with a little girl’s speaking voice. Ok, I hate Jason Werth too, despite his middling statistical prowess noted here.

  7. Colin

    July 27, 2010 12:12 AM

    This was gold. Straight gold.

    Thank you for troll-stomping, about time somebody reminded her that professional journalism typically maintains a degree of separation from one’s emotions.

    If you were a pokemon, you just leveled up.

  8. Childhood Phan

    July 27, 2010 12:00 PM

    Bob: Green-Dad & the foul ball – people buy those seats to catch foul balls. Of course his son’s safety was in his head but catching the ball was too. Btw: extra innings; 2 outs; w/a RF-er who’d been singled out by fans & writers re: his perf (or lack thereof)when the whole team was bad & in 3rd place, & a win of any kind was nec.

    We’ve no choice but to believe he was a Phillies fan (excep the GRN shirt). He should’ve known to get out of the way & let the Tall Large Beard, moving at mach 4 try to catch the ball. Worried about his son? Do what my parents did: they threw their own bodies over me. In my exper that’s what concerned parents do. Btw, nice catch.

    The boy didn’t understand the crowd booing Dad catching the ball. I don’t think he heard Werth (as if a kid that age never heard an expletive, pls). I don’t think Werth saw the kid. As it happened that ball wasn’t the game, but nobody knew that.

    I learned: if your team-move & let them try to catch. If the other team-get in the way.

    Hey, the whole ‘incident’ took 30 secs but to small minds it’s lasted longer. A fender-bender, they happen in baseball. Neither adult had a nano sec to think, let alone figure on ramifications. Werth has 2 small kids. He’d likely take back the expletive, but I’m sure he’d ask Grn-Dad to move or buy diff seats too.

    As far as wanting MORE of Werth, wow. More than being arguably one of the few solid 4-5 tool players in the game? More than 36 HRs, 99 RBIs, 20 SBs? More than being clutch through the playoffs, more than 1 less HR than Utley in the ’09 WS? More than covering Howard’s back? More than taking all the heat from the writers & fans for doing his job? More than being Utley’s best bud on the team? What in the name of all-that’s-holy are you talking about–”MORE”?

    His voice?! That’s a joke right. His voice sounds normal. You want girly, ck out Hamels. Then we’ll talk.

    Uh, Bob, are you Housenick?

  9. Western Dave

    July 28, 2010 09:45 PM

    Just to be clear the difference between Werth’s f-bomb and Utley’s was Werth’s non-apology apology afterwords. That incident gives us some incident into Werth’s character and suggests that if he’s that self-centered around issues involving 10 year-olds, he’s probably self-centered the rest of the time. Given the typically cozy relationship between sportswriters and athletes, it takes a lot of self-centeredness and unprofessional behavior to have a sportswriter unleash the kind of invective that the original author did. Somehow Werth got a slide for challenging Charly’s analysis of his hitting problems (can you imagine what would have happened to Rollins in a similar situation?) Am I speculating? Yes. But my speculations are grounded on a professional lifetime built on close textual readings, first person anthropological investigation, and oral history interviewing.

    Whenever Werth leaves, we will no doubt a) miss his fine ballplaying skills and b) discover how much his teammates/coaching staff will be glad to see the door hit him on the way out. These are not mutually contradictory facts.

  10. Bill Baer

    July 29, 2010 01:09 AM

    I can’t believe that, in 2010, people are complaining about the use of the “f-bomb”. It’s beyond immature; it’s babyish.

  11. Western Dave

    August 02, 2010 09:48 PM

    Don’t have kids Bill, or are you simply crude? Werth’s failure to aplogize speaks poorly on him as a person. It’s irrelevant really, which words he used to curse out the dad catching a ball in the stands – not on the field but in the stands – and then not apologizing for his actions. It speaks poorly on him as a person and the failure of his teammates to rally around him on this shows he probably acts the same way around them.

  12. David

    August 03, 2010 01:44 AM

    Journalism that shouldn’t have made it out of high school (let alone college) with a passing grade aside, the whole anti-Werth thing doesn’t make a lot of sense, unless it’s simply a matter of unfulfilled unrealistic expectations. The great start could be a big part of that, but maybe it’s simply impatience. If one looks now, the easy, visible BA/OBP/SLG numbers are all better than they were the last two years – helped by the fact that, since July 19th, he’s been hitting to the tune of .429/.533/.714!

  13. CH Phan

    August 03, 2010 01:51 PM

    I must’ve missed the teammates rallying around Shane’s complaints to the media about the fans ragging on their losses. Guess the team doesn’t like Shane. Must’ve missed the team rallying around Rollins when he was benched last season. Didn’t hear a peep from any of them. Guess none of them like JRoll. Didn’t see teammates rally around Utley when he dropped the f-bomb at the WS parade and was chastised for it. Guess they don’t like him either. Wow, there seems to be more teammate jealousy than at a cheerleader camp. Makes one wonder how they’ve managed to win 3 NLDS, 2 NLCS & gone to the WS twice. They must be better actors than DiCaprio with all the laughing and buddying around we see them do on & off the field. But I guess you know better than everyone b/c you’ve made “speculations built on a professional lifetime of close textual readings, first person anthropological investigation, and oral history interviewing.”

  14. Bill Baer

    August 03, 2010 06:09 PM

    @ Western Dave

    Werth’s failure to aplogize speaks poorly on him as a person.

    No, it speaks to not subscribing to the same set of subjective moral standards as you and others.

  15. David

    August 03, 2010 10:49 PM

    Er…perhaps it might be a stronger argument, at least given this blog, that a few instances of behavior by Werth that came off poorly to some people is too small of a sample size to be properly indicative of his character. :P

  16. denny

    September 06, 2010 01:02 PM

    I agree with the general tenor of this argument – with the exception of the baserunning issue. You can’t call the guy a good baserunner, historically. Maybe he only got picked off once this year, but the manner in which it happened was preposterous – unheard of. In the ’08 WS – thus, in the space of 5 games – he got doubled off of first on a line drive to right field (huh?) and picked off of second by the pitcher. Bottom line – these aren’t examples of a guy getting thrown out trying to grab an extra base; they seem to reflect sort of a “mental check-out” on Werth’s part. In big games, and at big times.

    Folks can, obviously, think what they want; but those three instances and the moniker “good baserunner” don’t jibe.

  17. falcon2

    November 23, 2010 06:46 AM

    i thought mandy had a some good points, werth don’t want to play in philly, good then don’t let the door hit u in the ass on your way out, it was very obvious watching him in spring training his mind not focused on the game, inasmuch as, hitting i have never seen anyone swing at some god awful pitches and his avg. w/ducks on the pond is below .200, appearance statment wise i think he may give b.o.plenty a run for the money, take a bath, i say good riddance a star he is not.

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