There has been plenty of talk during Davey Martinez’s time as the manager in Washington, D.C., about the importance of the culture and clubhouse chemistry in the nation’s capital, and the role it played in the Nationals’ success over the years, and particularly during their postseason run in 2019.
According to Martinez, who signed a long-term extension a few weeks back, it’s something he hears about from prospective players who want to join the organization and be a part of what the organization has built.
“It’s what we believe in here,” Martinez said. “You don’t buy into — I hear a lot of times I want to play for you guys. I [say], ‘You don’t play for me, you play for the Washington Nationals. You play for your teammates in that clubhouse, that’s what you play for.’ When they start believing in that and believing in each other, that’s where you get that chemistry and that culture from.”
The Nationals’ brass does stress the importance of the chemistry and culture when they talk about targets or talk to players they plan to acquire or sign.
“We instill that in them when we get here,” Martinez said. “During the winter time when we sign a free agent or whatever, that’s some of the stuff that I look for. I listen to what comes out of their mouth and what they’re saying, and then we make an assessment if they fit in or if they don’t fit in. That’s what we do.
“We have a pretty good core of guys in there that understand what we want them to do.”
The message, important as it is to the front office and the manager, is best delivered by the players in the clubhouse, so that is, as Martinez mentioned, part of what they’re looking for when they consider players and how they’d fit in.
Ideally, the culture and chemistry comes from those players and not from on high in the manager or GM’s office.
“They understand what I’m trying to get them to do and I don’t have to go in there — if I have to go in there and ruffle feathers, then things might be a little too late, and those guys know that, so when something is going on, they handle that clubhouse,” Martinez said.
“If I go in, if they can’t handle it, then I get involved and I bring those guys in my office, and sometimes they don’t like the conversation we have then. But it works. And they understand that, so for the most part, [GM] Mike [Rizzo] allows me to do what I do, and because we’re here together all the time, he’s in my office all the time, we have these communications, and when I need something he’s there for me, and he backs me up 100%, and that’s something I love. You don’t often get that, but Mike and I’s relationship here has been unbelievable. I couldn’t do the things that I do without him by my side.”
Rizzo was extended last month as well, so there will be continuity at the top and throughout the organization.
“It allows us to give a consistent message to show that you’ll know the person that is going to be in charge of your career as a player,” Rizzo said of locking Martinez up long-term.
“And I think that the partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar,” he added, “... our aspirations are similar and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar.”
“I think it’s a good match. We couldn’t hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse and I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”
“Communication is the key and I’ve always said that,” Martinez said in the press conference announcing his extension. “Communication is the key with players, front office, everybody. We’re all on the same board, we’re all on the same page here, every single day.”
The next step, after a frustrating season on and off the field for the Nationals? Rizzo and his manager will try to reboot the roster, making additions or subtractions where necessary to build a team that can get back to the postseason after the defense of the World Series title ended with the club in last place in the division a year after winning it all.
How will they judge what players on the Nationals’ roster and around the league were able to accomplish in the 60-game COVID campaign?
And what role will sentiment play when it comes to the players that were part of the World Series roster and the culture that’s been developed over the last few seasons?
“I think that you look at each person individually and separately, and I think that I wouldn’t put a whole lot of weight into if they were with us in 2019 or not,” Rizzo said.
“To me, 2021 is a different season, the players have responded differently. What type of injuries do they have, what’s the long-term prognosis of those injuries, and that type of thing. What does the system look like at that particular position to take over a veteran player, so I think that we take all that into account when we create rosters, and I think we’ll do the same this year. We’ll find out medically how they are, what’s the prognosis for them to get back to reach their capable abilities in 2021, and kind of make assessments based on those lines.”
Will the circumstances of the 2020 campaign play into the assessments the Nationals make when they consider potential additions or subtractions?
“That will go into the decision making process for sure,” he said.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the teams that are in the playoffs, the team that will eventually be the world champion this season, because we were all in the same boat.
“Certain teams handled it better than others. Certain teams thrived under these conditions.
“I don’t want it to sound like any excuse that the 60-game season affected us any more dramatically than any other team. Our record is our record. There’s a lot of reasons for that, often times those reasons sound like excuses, so we won’t make them but we’ll hit the offseason running, believe it, and we’ll put all our energy and talent that we have in this organization into putting together a championship-caliber club in 2021.”