Looking back on an ultimately unsuccessful 2018 campaign, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said that one thing he wants to focus on in the second year of his 3-year/$2.8M deal in D.C. is trying to put opposing teams away when the Nationals jump out to an early lead next season.
“Last year we didn’t do that,” Martinez explained when he spoke with reporters at the Winter Meetings this past December. “We were scoring runs early and kind of let the other teams linger and the next thing you know we’re playing a tie ballgame. If we had a chance to put a team away, let’s do it early.”
Martinez’s squad was the presumptive favorite to win the division going in last Spring, but the Atlanta Braves kept the Nationals from winning a third straight NL East crown, and the Nats’ NL East rivals from Atlanta, the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished third in the division, and the rebuilt-ish New York Mets (if healthy) should make it a competitive race, while, as GM Mike Rizzo said this winter, the Miami Marlins always play the Nationals tough.
“We’ve respected those teams for years,” Rizzo said on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. “We don’t react to what the other teams in our division do, but we saw how they were building and what they were doing and a team like the Mets, who when they’re healthy they’re as good as anybody in the division, the Braves have improved, but this isn’t anything that has shocked us or surprised us. We’ve planned for it. And we’re trying to — this year like every other year, we’re trying to put a 90-ish-win type of team together and some years those 90-win teams turn into 96-97 wins and some turn into 80-82 wins. We’re confident with the roster we have. We think that we can compete in this division and we’ve won four out of the last seven division titles and we’re looking to regain the title this year.”
Looking ahead at what will be another competitive race in 2019, Martinez said his team will have to, of course, take it day-by-day, while also doing the little things right.
“It’s about competing every day, being ready to compete,” he said.
“Using information. Preparing every day. And compete. Don’t take anything lightly. Like I said, do the little things. We’ve got to do the little things consistently better.
“And if we can do that, the talent is there. We all see that. We all know that. We’ve just got to do little things.”
While there will be some next faces in the mix (like Patrick Corbin, Kurt Suzuki, Yan Gomez, Trevor Rosenthal, Aníbal Sánchez, and Brian Dozier) and some players that have moved on either via trade last season or free agency, Martinez said the clubhouse was a good one to be in last summer, and his communication with his team was one of the positives he took from his first season as a manager at any level of the game.
“I think our clubhouse is really, really good,” Martinez said.
“Really good. My door was never closed. My door was always open. They knew that. If I had to deliver a message it would typically be one-on-one. If I had to deliver it within the group, it wouldn’t be in the clubhouse; it would be outside. Kind of a loose atmosphere. I’m not big on meetings or slamming doors or things like that, it’s all about conversation.”
As for what he learned from his first run that he might be able to pass on to other first-time managers?
“It’s funny,” the one-time player, coach, and bench coach said, “I just talked to [new Texas Rangers’ manager] Chris Woodward, we’ve been friends for a long time, and he says, ‘What have you got?’ I said, ‘What have you got? You’ve been a coach. Go out there and teach.’ That’s what you do best, teach and you’ll be all right. You’ll be fine.’”
His overall advice for young managers though?
“For me it’s basically you have a process, stick to it,” Martinez said.
“The season kind of goes in waves. If you maintain what you want to do all year long, you come out of it okay. Being that we didn’t get to where we wanted to be last year, I saw some positive things. We had a lot of injuries. But without those injuries we would never have seen [Juan] Soto. And we would never saw [Wander] Suero or [Jimmy] Cordero and see what we have depth-wise. It pretty much put us in a position now where we know what we needed. We know what we have moving forward. And I think our future is bright.”