My MASNsports.com colleague Pete Kerzel recently wrote a "What If?" asking, "What if ... the Nationals hadn't signed Jayson Werth?" Things like that are frequently interesting, and I'm sure some Nats' fans had already wondered the same question aloud with their friends.
Obviously, they did sign Werth, and his first season in Washington livery didn't go so well. There's still a segment of the fan base who believes that Werth was signed to be "the man," though club insiders knew he was signed to be the same type of complimentary player he'd been in Philadelphia. Never known as a guy who could carry a team, the Nationals placed no unrealistic hopes on him for 2011.
Without Ryan Zimmerman's bat in front of him in the lineup - or Adam LaRoche's, for that matter - from very early in the season, Werth's spot in the order migrated frequently. He volunteered to lead off, but that's not really his forte, and he didn't get the same kind of run-producing opportunities he got in Philadelphia. I think we'll look back in a few years and realize that 2011 was an aberration in Werth's career.
I was looking at Werth's final 2011 numbers and it struck me how similar they were to Don Lock's numbers in 1966, his final year in D.C. before he was traded to the Phillies for Darold Knowles. Lock, who'd come over from the Yankees in July 1962 in exchange for Dale Long, had been a major part of the Senators' offense almost from the day arrived. If you break down his numbers with the Senators, it comes down to him averaging 25 home runs and 71.5 RBIs every 162 games. Not great, but on those clubs, pretty impressive. What if Werth had managed those numbers in 2011? It may have translated into a couple of additional victories.
For his eight-year major league career, Lock earned less than $150,000, which is only a bit more than Werth will average per game on his current contract. That doesn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Lock was born too soon to reap the rewards that ballplayers enjoyed after free agency arrived.
I've known Lock for several years. He still makes his home in Kansas, and has gotten back to the D.C. area a few times over the years. He's always surprised that so many fans remember him, and hold him in high regard. I think he'd be flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Werth. Perhaps Jayson would feel the same about Lock, though he'd have to ask his grandfather, Dick Schofield, about him. Gramps played against Lock in 1967-68.