Over ten seasons as Joe Maddon’s bench coach, first in Tampa Bay and then in Chicago, new Washington Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez learned all he could while waiting to get an opportunity to manage.
It probably helped that the GM who finally gave Martinez his first managerial gig knew Maddon well, having played for the current Cubs’ manager during his own playing days all the way back in 1982.
“We talked about that a lot,” Martinez told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin in an interview last week, when asked about Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball Ops Mike Rizzo’s history with Maddon.
“It helped. And it also helped that I was with Joe for so many years. Not only is he a great teacher, but Joe is a student of the game, and he’s always looking for an edge, and I was able to be with him and pick his brain about what’s next.
“We never feel like we know everything, and we want to continue to learn to try to find that edge to compete at the highest level every day.”
The biggest takeaway from his time with Maddon?
“I really believe that the biggest thing for me that I took from Joe is his positivity and the way he processes things, his preparation,” Martinez said.
“It was unbelievable. Over the years, everybody’s heard how we do some very different things, but it’s not things that we don’t think about, it’s not things that we just do on a whim. We base everything on information, and we process everything, and we prepare well for every game, and it’s fun.
“It keeps everybody engaged, it keeps everybody prepared, so those are the things that I really took, and learned, from Joe, as to take all the information and prepare yourself, process it, and put the best guys out there to win the game.”
Martinez has stressed since he was hired, that just having information isn’t enough, it’s more about how you apply what you know.
“I love information,” he said last week. “Information for me is great, but you still have to play the game on the field and know your players. Know which players could engage in all the information and which players it might hurt by getting so much information, and use it wisely.
“But having information, like I said, we talk about getting an edge, and the more information that we can get, myself, coaches, and present it to the players in the right format, the better we’re going to be, the more prepared we’re going to be.”
Part of that process, as Martinez said in his introductory press conference as manager of the Nationals earlier this month, is familiarizing himself with the players on the roster, as he explained when asked how a rookie skipper can go about getting to know his team and winning over a clubhouse.
“It’s building relationships,” Martinez suggested. “Communicating. Trust. Those are the three things that I kind of instill myself with. Let them know that I’m on their side. This is a partnership between all of us. They’ll know that right away.”
The learning process for the Nats’ new skipper began during his own playing days, as he observed some of the managers he played for at work and learned what he could.
“As you know I played for a lot of different managers,” he told the MLB Network Radio hosts, “and each one had their particulars.”
“I have to say, as I got older and really started understanding the game, the one guy that I really learned a lot from, and I was only there really for a year, cause I got hurt the next year, was Bobby Cox. I watched him manage games, and I watched him interact with players, and really just like you see him and you watch him, he was very engaged, and just to watch him on a daily basis helped me understand what the game was really about, and how to proceed forward, and how to — even as he won games, but he took everything in stride, you never saw him panic.
“For me, he processed everything, and he used all his players, all 25 players. I was a role player back then, but I ended up getting over 300 at bats, and he talked about that, about utilizing all 25 guys on your roster.”
“I’ve played for Bobby Cox, I played for Dusty [Baker],” Martinez said at one point in his introductory presser. “Those guys taught me that, ‘Hey, there’s always another day.’
“After 15-20 minutes — I did something in Tampa when we were there — and I told the guys, after 15-20 minutes after a loss, I want the music on. We’re going to forget about it, we’re not going to dwell on it anymore, we’ll move on, we’ve got another game tomorrow. And they loved it. They bought it. It was done.
“We ate together for the most part after the game, and it was over and we came back ready to play the next day. I think: positivity, a lot of energy, let them know that we care, even when they have a bad game, when they have a good game, let them know that we always care about them, and you’ll get the most out of each player.”
Martinez was asked last week, if he’d reached out to Baker, who he succeeded on the bench in the nation’s capital, to see what he could learn about the team he inherited, mostly intact, from the veteran manager.
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but I’m going to call him and just pick his brain a little bit,” Martinez said.
“But Dusty was another guy that — as a matter of fact, when I played for him it was his first year as manager, and he was awesome, he was great, players’ manager, loved to talk to him, always had conversations with him.”