When the Washington Nationals interviewed Dave Martinez back in 2013, before they went with another first-time skipper, Matt Williams, the then-Tampa Bay bench coach talked a lot about how he and Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon handled things together.
When he interviewed for the Nationals’ managerial opening this time around, GM Mike Rizzo said recently, Martinez talked more about how he would handle things if he were the manager in the nation’s capital.
"Four years ago," Rizzo told reporters after introducing Martinez to the D.C. press corps last month, "... a lot of it was about the process of 'Joe and myself, Joe and myself.' And this [time] was about how he does things and how he's going to do it and how he would do it moving forward."
“The conversation was more about me this time,” Martinez acknowledged when he spoke to MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin in an interview on Wednesday, “... and what I could bring to help the Nationals win.”
“Over the years, I prepared myself for the opportunity to manage under who I think is one of the best managers in the game with Joe. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I was able to go into this last interview and really, really focus on myself and what I can do to help the Washington Nationals win a championship.”
Martinez said he did, however, feel that the overall impression he made the first time he interviewed for the job played a role in him getting the gig when the Nationals started looking for a manager again.
“I left an impression when I left there after talking to Mike and the Lerner family the first time, and it stuck with them a little bit,” Martinez explained.
“And I’ve learned — it helped me grow over the the last four years, and I went in this time with a whole lot more confidence I think and I think that’s what really helped.”
It didn’t take long for the Nationals to make the decision to hire Martinez, giving him a three-year deal, with an option for a fourth season, just a couple weeks after deciding to move on from Dusty Baker.
It didn’t take the new manager long to put together his first staff either, with Chip Hale named the bench coach, Derek Lilliquist hired as the pitching coach, Kevin Long coming on as the hitting coach, Tim Bogar taking over as the first base coach, Bobby Henley returning as the third base coach, Joe Dillon signed as the assistant hitting coach, and Henry Blanco joining the crew as the bullpen coach.
Rizzo, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo this week, said that Martinez, “... interviewed and decided on all,” of the coaches that were hired, some of whom he’d already been familiar with and some everyone thought would complement the skipper.
“He wasn’t here to hire friends and buddies that he’s amassed over the years. He wanted to get the guys around him who would help him the best he can as a big league manager.”
Martinez sounded genuinely excited as he talked about the coaches who were hired with the MLB Network Radio hosts yesterday.
“I love high energy guys, guys that bring it every day,” he said. “And after talking to K-Long, and Chip, and even Derek, those were easy for me. Derek was in the National League for five years, who we competed against, and banged heads against, and just watching him from the other side of the field, I’d try to watch everybody, and I looked at him, he’s very well-prepared, really good with analytics, good with mechanics, and I thought he’d be a great fit with our veteran guys and some young guys that we’ve got coming up.
“Chip Hale is full of energy, and I love that, and the fact of having someone next to me who has managed will help me out tremendously, and we’ve had great conversations with him and I’m looking forward to working with him and making decisions with him by my side.”
Martinez said he was ready to apply what he’s learned from Maddon and some of the managers he played under during his 16-year career as well, including Braves’ skipper Bobby Cox and even the manager he’s succeeding on the bench in D.C.
He also said he was fine with the high expectations for the team he inherited, who are determined to get past the Division Series for the first time and bring a World Series to Washington.
“I don’t want to run away from them,” Martinez said of the expectations. “That’s what we’re all here for, that’s what it’s all about. My message is very clear: We need to finish the deal. On paper we’re good enough, no doubt about it. We have all the right players, pitching, bullpen, now we just need to finish the deal. For me, you embrace the target, you talk about it, let everybody know that it’s there, we’re going to go after it, we’re going to get after it, and then after that, how do we get there? For me, it’s to prepare everybody to compete every day at the highest level, and to stay engaged in each and every game.”