Davey Martinez watched the Washington Nationals for years from the other side of the field, and as recently as last season, in his role as the bench coach in Chicago, he had a front row seat to watch the Nats and Cubs compete in the NLDS, so he knew what the team had in it before he was hired as the Nationals’ manager.
“Being on the other side for years and now being here, they’re not quitters,” he said Tuesday afternoon, after the non-waiver trade deadline passed without much changing as the front office in the nation’s capital decided to stick with the underachieving team they have in an attempt to make an improbable run at a third straight division title.
The message Martinez took from the relative inactivity at the deadline, at least outside of acquiring reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals (back in mid-June) and trading Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs? No one is giving up on the 2018 campaign.
“That’s what the message is, we’re not going to quit and they’re not,” the first-year skipper said Tuesday, referring to his team and the front office in the nation’s capital, respectively.
“So it’s good for us, good for the clubhouse. I think the boys are excited because we’re still here.”
“The trade deadline forced us to take a hard look at the roster and contemplate whether to keep the team we have for the remainder of the season or make significant changes,” Mark D. Lerner, the Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals wrote in a letter to fans explaining the decision-making at the deadline.
“At the end of the day, my family and Mike Rizzo decided that we just couldn’t give up on this team. We couldn’t look ourselves in the mirror knowing that we had simply thrown in the towel on a team full of talent and heart.”
“We had several discussions with teams about a whole litany of our players,” Rizzo said, in the immediate aftermath of the deadline. “Bryce [Harper] was one of them. Several teams had more than passing interest. We did our due diligence on Bryce and five or six other of our players, and couldn’t come up with a deal that made sense for us for the 2018 season and beyond.”
“What we were looking for was controllable assets,” the GM explained further in his weekly interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, the morning after the deadline passed.
“We didn’t feel the need for a rental player,” Rizzo said, “[or to] spend the player capital on a rental player because of the roster we have and the injured players coming back, so what we were in the market for was more of a controllable asset and a controllable player that we could keep on the team beyond — for 2018 to help us here, but beyond that also, and we didn’t find a match that would allow us to do that.”
As Rizzo said when he told the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes that Harper wasn’t going anywhere, he believes in this team in spite of their struggles (and the 5.0-game deficit as they started play on Thursday).
“We’re chasing two extremely talented young teams that play hard and play with their hair on fire like most young teams do, and good for them,” he said, “but we’re the champs.
“We’ve got the crown on our head, we’re two-time division champs, back-to-back, and until someone takes that away from us we’re going to hold on to it for dear life.”
“When I took this job, I’ve said it from the beginning, it takes all of us to win championships,” Martinez said before the start of the four-game set with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
“And they’ve proven that, they showed that, and they showed that to the team too, with not getting rid of everybody, keeping everybody together. We’ve got an unbelievable chance to do something special here, and they believe in us, and I believe in them up there.
“And I appreciate the fact they’re behind us and behind me, I really do, it means a lot to me.”
Washington’s 10-4 win on Thursday was the third straight after the deadline, and the Nats’ sixth in the last eight games.
Unfortunately, both the Phillies (60-48) and Braves (58-47) won as well, so the Nationals are still 5.0 games back in the division. Rizzo was asked on Wednesday if it was frustrating to be playing well and not making up ground.
“I worry about how we play,” he said. “You can’t control what the other teams are doing unless you’re playing against them. We’ve got a lot of games left against the teams we’re chasing, which is fortunate for us, so we’ll concentrate on those guys at that time. We’ve got to concentrate on ourselves, and like I said, if we play up to our capabilities, that’s all we can worry about and that’s all we can control and if we play like we’re supposed to play, I’ll take my chances.”