Say what you will about the value of trite aphorisms and motivational acronyms, but first-year Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez is a genuinely positive man, who, in attempting to lead the Nats back to the postseason in his first year on the bench is doing what he can to keep everyone going during a rough first month of the 2018 campaign as the defending, back-to-back NL East champions have struggled out of the gate.
When Martinez was asked earlier this season what he’d learned about his team during the time spent together in Spring Training, he offered up a motivational acronym he thought summed up his team.
“For me,” Martinez said, “... from what I’ve learned from them, and we talked about this often in Spring Training, I came up with one word that best describes our team, and it was ‘Habit,’ and what it means is ‘Heart, Attitude, Belief, Integrity, Trust.’”
As the losses and injuries have piled up early this season, Martinez is preaching patience, telling reporters earlier this month that as a player he tended to start slow, and he stressed that it’s not about April numbers.
“You don’t want to look up my April [stats], they were awful,” he joked.
“You hear it all the time, it’s a marathon, you know,” he added.
“Some guys are generally slow starters, I know that. These guys have been around a long time, they know what they need to do, so I don’t panic. These guys are going to hit.
“I know they’re going to hit, so for us, like I said the other day, it’s about making sure you take your walks, take what they give you, and keep playing the complete game.
“Just because you don’t hit don’t mean you can’t help us by [playing] defense, by running the bases, do something else, a walk or whatever. But do something to help us win every day.”
When you’re not winning games, however, it gets harder to avoid pressing.
Martinez was asked about finding the balance between a patient approach and a sense of urgency in the clubhouse and dugout as they wait for things to start going their way.
“I say it every day,” he told reporters, “twenty-seven outs. For right now, I really believe you give good teams 28-29 outs, bad things are going to happen. As far as the hitting, we’ve got really good hitters, and I know that, and we’re going to hit, and if our pitching continues to give us a chance to win, we’re going to start winning these games, I know we are, so I’m not worried about it.”
Martinez stressed continuing to pull for each other, working towards the same goal, and sticking with what they know works for them when he spoke to his team after Saturday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was the Nationals’ second straight loss to start their homestand and their eighth loss in one-run games in the first month-plus.
“I told them all, ‘Hey, you guys are playing with heart. I love it. And you guys are pulling for each other, and this thing will change, just let’s believe in ourselves and keep going, keep fighting, that’s all I ask you guys to do. Keep fighting, keep believing.’”
Before the Nationals avoided a sweep at the hands of the visiting D-backs with a 3-1 win in Sunday’s series finale, Martinez talked again about picking each other up and working with each other to accomplish a goal.
“It all boils down to — as a player — I mean, in this game there are so many ups and downs, and you could beat yourself up every day if you’re not careful,” Martinez said.
“And I always used to tell myself, it’s not what you do in the beginning, it’s how you really end up, and don’t play for the numbers, but just play to help your team win and be positive every day, and by you being positive it carries over to your teammates. So I’ve always had that as a player and brought it as a coach. I’ve always told the guys — if you can do one thing a day to help your team win, you’ve had a successful day, so just concentrate on that.”