Washington announced that Dave Martinez was hired as the new manager in the nation’s capital in a press release this morning, and the Nationals will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to introduce him as the Nats’ seventh full-time skipper since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.
So now that we know who will succeed Dusty Baker on the Nationals’ bench, we’ve got a couple questions... and we’re having a hard time analyzing the choice since we don’t have any history of Martinez as a manager to turn to. So yeah, we’ve got questions...
Martinez embraces analytics, apparently?:
Chicago Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon has been singing Dave Martinez’s praises for several years now, telling reporters that his bench coach is, “... definitely ready to manage,” in 2015.
“He understands all the numbers that are out there,” Maddon said that October. “He understands people and tough conversations. He's really good at tough conversations. He's very straight up, straightforward, and up front.”
In today’s press release, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo echoed those sentiments, explaining that the decision to go with Martinez was based on the fact that the Nats saw Martinez as, “... someone who is progressive, someone who can connect with and communicate well with our players, and someone who embraces the analytical side of the game.”
So what will that mean? Will it mean batting the pitcher eighth like his mentor has in the past? Will he embrace the idea of batting your best hitter second in the lineup? Is he going to be big on shifts and mixing up defensive alignments? Roster construction? Will he have long launch angle and exit velocity conversations with Daniel Murphy? How exactly does he “embrace the analytical side of the game” as Rizzo put it.
Coaching staff: Who, if anyone, returns? Who are his coaching choices?
In addition to announcing that Dusty Baker would not return to the nation’s capital after two seasons, two division titles and two NLDS losses, the Nationals announced earlier this month that, “... contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired.”
Rizzo, in a conference call on the decision to move on from Baker, said that the new manager, when he was announced, would, obviously, “... have a great impact and great input on who we hire,” though, as always, it would, “... be a group/team decision for the betterment of the organization.”
Pitching coach Mike Maddux, who signed a two-year deal in Washington shortly after Baker was hired in 2015/16, already left to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Will Rick Schu, Bob Henley, or Dan Firova be back or will Martinez bring in coaches that he wants as part of his first staff?
And what about Davey Lopes, who played a big part in the Nationals’ running game over the last few seasons, and was talked about by just about everyone involved with the Nats as one of the best first base coaches in the game. He’s also 72 years old now, not that his age seemed to limit him at all the last two seasons, so will he potentially return or will Martinez and Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office start fresh with a whole new staff?
So, first-time manager again, Nationals? Don’t you remember...
Coming off an NLDS appearance in 2012, and a disappointing follow-up under Davey Johnson in 2013, the Nationals turned to Matt Williams, giving the former big league slugger his first managerial gig (outside of a short stint managing a team in the Arizona Fall League).
Williams led the Nationals back to the Postseason in 2014, but things went all pear-shaped in 2015, and somewhere along the way he lost the clubhouse, and he was out after the Nats failed to repeat as NL East champs in his second season on the bench.
Rizzo, after hiring Williams, who he knew well from their time together in Arizona, said that he liked that the fact that Williams was, “... a fierce competitor with a progressive view of the game."
“We just felt that Matt’s message,” Rizzo told reporters that winter, as quoted by the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, “... the way he communicates the message and his demeanor and character was kind of the difference-maker for me and a guy that we feel is going to take the organization and take us to the next level.”
This all sounds so familiar somehow.
We’re also sure it will work out better this time...
Transition period for Nationals/That third year is the trick:
Though the Nationals didn’t announce the dollar value of Martinez’s contract when they named him the manager, they did confirm that he got a three-year deal that includes an option for a fourth season. Of course, none of the Nationals’ managers (since 2005) have lasted three full seasons on the bench in the nation’s capital.
Will Martinez end that trend as well and provide some stability for a franchise that’s had seven full-time managers in their 13 seasons in D.C. It might be difficult, mainly because there could be some serious turnover in the next few seasons with Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and even GM Mike Rizzo under contract through just 2018 at this point. Jayson Werth just finished up his 7-year/$126M deal. Some members of the 2017 bench might end up elsewhere. Things are going to be different this year, and in the next two years there could be significant changes.
Will Martinez establish himself with the next generation of Nationals now and grow up with them over the next few seasons?
World Series or Bust? No pressure, Mr. Martinez:
In announcing that Dusty Baker would not come back for a third season in D.C., Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that after winning four division titles in six seasons, and losing all four NLDS matchups, winning the NL East wasn’t enough anymore.
“Our expectations have grown to the fact that winning a lot of regular season games and winning divisions are not enough,” Rizzo explained. So... what if the Martinez-led Nationals fall short of a world championship in 2018?