When the Phillies first baseman torch was passed from slugger Jim Thome to slugging prospect Ryan Howard in 2006, it was an elegant exchange.
Thome understood that the Phillies gateway to greatness did not include him and Howard was set to be the star of the show. He respected the business side of it. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox, tipped his cap to Philadelphia, and began a brilliant run as designated hitter.
There was an understandable outpouring of grief from Phillies fans over losing Thome. But that was tempered with an excited eye on the future. Fans were not being asked to accept sour medicine and hope for the best. They were being given a gift and parting with another.
While the Phillies don't have the wealth of waiting talent in their farm system that they did when Howard made his debut, they have a few players that hold the keys to the future. One of them is Domonic Brown.
Brown, a toolsy oufielder that spent 2010 pounding the ball between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh, is competing for a job vacated by Jayson Werth. One of the players he's competing with is another exciting prospect, John Mayberry Jr., as well as veteran Ben Francisco. But it's Brown, the guy that Baseball America named top prospect in baseball in 2010, that is taking center stage.
While the relationship between the Phillies and Werth didn't end as amicably as Thome's with the Phillies, his words to Washining Post columnist Thomas Boswell are a bit surprising. http://t.co/agH0Fwp
Werth's time in Philadelphia was full of celebratory moments. But when the season ended, Werth and the Phillies had to make a decision. One that most were already certain of. The 32-year-old would not return to the Phillies. The Nationals offered Werth $126 million and that was curtains for his Phillies days. The Phils were never going to give him that kind of financial offering.
Werth doesn't have to like it, but Phillies fans don't have to care. There's a loss, yes, but there's also much to be enthusiastic about with Brown.
Brown's progress is one of the biggest stories out of spring training. When he struggles (as he did in the Dominican Winter League) fans take notice quickly. He matters. He matters so much that Werth's words shouldn't. And as Boswell points out, the Nats are looking for swagger and Werth may be trying to give it to them with a bit of media manipulation. He knew it'd get attention.
The flip side is that players feed off that kind of attention. If there's worry in the hearts of the fans and/or the team, a player wants to prove his value. Brown has plenty to prove, plenty to shoot for. That's fuel enough for him.
One of Brown's goals shouldn't have to be getting Phillies fans to forget about Werth. That should already be in the works.