With plenty of time to think about how he would run things when he was a major league manager, and experience from his time helping Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago, did Washington Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez come up with a game plan for his first Spring Training?
Martinez was asked that question during his introductory press conference in the nation’s capital last November.
“I was in Tampa, came to Chicago, we implemented a system where I thought, for me, in this day and age, it’s more about quality than quantity,” Martinez explained.
“We implemented a system where we get a lot done in a short amount of time, and we get guys to get rest and also be able to do the things like more fitness stuff, more workouts, and incorporate that in there, because the ultimate goal is to make sure everybody leaves Spring Training healthy and ready to go.
“But we don’t want to burn anybody out either. It’s a long season, you know, so you’ll see some different things.”
After ten seasons as Maddon’s bench coach with the Rays and Cubs (and a World Series in Chicago in 2016), Martinez is now in charge of the Nationals, a team with big expectations following their fourth postseason appearance in the last six seasons and fourth loss in the NLDS over that stretch last October, when Chicago beat Washington.
Martinez isn’t worried about, or running away from, those expectations, however.
“I don’t want to run away from them,” he explained in an MLB Network Radio interview in mid-November.
“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.”
“I put a lot of time in to get to this point,” Martinez said at another point in that interview, “... and the opportunity to be with the Washington Nationals — I’ve inherited a very good ballclub. It’s going to be exciting.”
Once he was hired by the Nationals, Martinez put together his coaching staff as GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office added players to the roster.
Chip Hale joined the Nationals as the new bench coach.
Derek Lilliquist lost his gig in St. Louis, then signed on as the new pitching coach in Washington.
Kevin Long interviewed for the Nats’ managerial opening, then signed on as the hitting coach.
Tim Bogar is replacing Davey Lopes as the new first base coach. Bobby Henley returns as third base coach. Joe Dillon is now the assistant hitting coach in D.C. Henry Blanco is the Nationals’ bullpen coach.
Martinez said he’ll let them all do their jobs while overseeing everything.
“I'm very hands on. One thing I won't do is micromanage my coaching staff; they're going to coach,” he told reporters at the Winter Meetings.
“Like I said, I picked a really good coaching staff, they have been around the game a long time. They have all played the game, so I think that I'm going to let them just do their job, but I'm going to communicate with the players on a daily basis. You're going to see me walking around the field a lot, behind the batting cages. For me personally it helps me and I love to be engaged with them and find out what's going on, and whether it's baseball related or not, but I want to know and I want that particular player to be the best every day.”
Martinez talked at WinterFest about the roster as it stood at that point, telling reporters he saw some room for improvement.
“We’re definitely looking to improve our bench,” he said. “We’ve got some pretty good guys right now in [Brian] Goodwin and [Wilmer] Difo for sure, but we’re always going to look and try to get better, that’s Rizzo and the front office’s job, but looking forward right now, what we have is pretty good, and I’m excited about the guys that are here, and we’ll see what transpires from now to Spring Training.”
Since then, Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office signed Matt Adams to back up at first base, brought Brandon Kintzler back in the bullpen, re-signed Howie Kendrick, and added veteran catcher Miguel Montero to the mix behind the plate to compete with top backstop prospect Pedro Severino for the backup job behind Matt Wieters, barring any further additions to the catching corps.
This morning, Martinez, his staff, and the Nats’ pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Florida for the official start of Spring Training.
It’s another new era for the Nationals, who’ve enjoyed plenty of regular season success over the last few years, with more overall wins than 28 other major league teams since 2012, behind only LA’s Dodgers over that period.
Will Martinez lead the Nationals back to the postseason and past the NLDS? Will there be NLCS action in D.C. for the first time in 2018?
There will be an All-Star Game in Washington for the first time since 1969.
Will there be World Series baseball in Washington, D.C. in 2018, for the first time since 1933?
The Nats’ fourth full-time manager since 2012 will try to get the Nationals there.