Washington Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo gave Davey Martinez a vote of confidence in a pregame interview with reporters before the season finale on Sunday, reiterating what he said previously about the work the Nats’ first-year skipper did in an ultimately disappointing 2018 campaign.
During the final homestand of the season, Rizzo said Martinez handled a tough situation well and would be back in D.C. in 2019.
“I haven’t considered any other scenario,” Rizzo told reporters in Nationals Park.
“I think Davey has done a great job in managing this team. I think that he’s managed them through a lot of trials and tribulations that a lot of first-year managers haven’t had to go through, and to have the team playing with the exuberance and energy level that they’re playing at this point I think is a testament to Davey and the staff and the way that they feel about him in the clubhouse.”
“Nothing’s changed,” Rizzo said on Sunday, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “We haven’t considered anything else.”
“We think he’s got a firm grasp on the clubhouse, and he’s doing a good job in the dugout. We think he’s getting better each and every day, each and every game. I really like the way the team has responded to him, and I think they’re playing extremely hard for him.”
Martinez talked about his own experience in his first year as a manager, following ten years as a bench coach with Joe Maddon in both Tampa Bay and Chicago, after his first season in Washington finished with the Nationals 82-80 following the loss to the Colorado Rockies in the 162nd game.
“Unfortunately we’re going home and not playing in October,” Martinez said.
“But I’ll reiterate I’m proud of the boys,” he added. “This could have went really bad a couple months ago, and they kept it together and they played hard.
“They played really hard the the last few months and it’s been fun. I enjoyed it. My first year as a manager is over, but I’m looking forward to my second.”
The Nationals won the NL East in 2012, ‘14, ‘16, and ‘17, and Martinez, with the Rays (‘08, ‘10, ‘11, and ‘13) and Cubs (‘15, ‘16, and ‘17), has seen plenty of postseason action, so going back home after the regular season finale, Martinez acknowledged, was a different experience.
“I’ve got mixed emotions right now, I really do,” he said. “I’m going to sit down this next week and kind of relax and think about things, but obviously I’ve been to the postseason many times, and I wanted to be there again, so I know we’ll be back, that’s for sure, and I’m already looking forward to Spring Training and starting to put my thoughts together for February 13th, when we get there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rizzo and his manager both said they liked the work his coaching staff did and the trust that was developed this season, and Martinez said he wanted them all back, but change at some level is inevitable, and the team he guided this season will be different than the one that’s in West Palm Beach, FL next Spring.
There were plenty of changes already this season, with a number of veterans dealt at both the waiver and non-waiver deadlines, and some free agents set to depart this winter.
“It’s always tough,” Martinez said.
“You build relationships with all these guys, and it’s tough when you don’t see them back and they move on, but it’s part of it. I’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s part of it, and hopefully the next group of guys we get are up for the challenge and then we move on.”
With a 15-12 month of September, the Nationals ended up over .500 for the seventh straight season, though it was their first winning month since May.
“We had some trying times,” Martinez said on Sunday, “but we made it through. The last two months have been incredible. They played really hard all year. I’ve said it before, they could have [given] up a while ago, and they didn’t. And I’m really proud of them.”