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Washington Nationals’ Davey Martinez on developing his own identity as a manager

From playing for Bobby Cox and Dusty Baker to coaching on Joe Maddon’s staff, and managing his own club, Davey Martinez has grown over a lifetime in baseball...

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SiriusXM Presents A Town Hall With Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez And Chuck Todd Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Davey Martinez was Joe Maddon’s bench coach for ten seasons between Tampa Bay and Chicago before he got his first opportunity to manage when Washington’s Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo took a chance on the skipper in late 2017.

Martinez came on as a manager after several trips to the postseason for the Nationals which ended in disappointment.

In his introductory press conference in D.C., Martinez talked about wanting to win a World Series for the nation’s capital.

He also discussed the influence Maddon had on his approach to the manager’s role.

“Joe and I have been pretty successful together,” he said. “I really believe — why change something that really works. I am very creative. We shared ideas together. I’ll bring a lot of those ideas here. It’s a whole different team, it’s a whole different perspective here, so there might be little changes based on our players, but for the most part we’re going to be prepared, stick to the process — that’s the biggest thing that I learned from Joe, it’s a long season and it’s all about preparation and sticking to the process.”

The Washington Nationals introduce Dave Martinez as their new manager. Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Martinez’s career as a coach, which began with an invite from Maddon to help out at Spring Training, followed a 16-year career in the majors, during which he’d played for a number of different, and impressive, managers, who helped him form his thoughts on how he’d handle his own team when he got an opportunity.


“The one thing that I’ve known and that I’ve learned from the best managers,” Martinez said, “... is to stay positive. I mean, that’s — for me, that’s the key. Not every day we’re going to be successful on the field. But we’ve got to figure out ways how to stay positive and move on to the next day.”

“I’ve played for Bobby Cox,” Martinez continued. “I played for Dusty [Baker]. Those guys taught me that, ‘Hey, there’s always another day.’ After 15-20 minutes — I did something in Tampa when we were there, and I told the guys, ‘After 15-20 minutes after a loss, I want the music on.’ We’re going to forget about it, we’re not going to dwell on it anymore, we’ll move on, we’ve got another game tomorrow. And they loved it. They bought it. It was done. We ate together for the most part after the game, and it was over and we came back ready to play the next day. I think: positivity, a lot of energy, let them know that we care, even when they have a bad game, when they have a good game, let them know that we always care about them, and you’ll get the most out of each player.”

Baker, for whom he played two seasons while both were in San Francisco with the Giants, helped shape Martinez’s thoughts on how to treat his players.

“I learned a lot from Dusty, playing and listening to him,” the Nats’ skipper told The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd and Britt Ghiroli in a recent piece about Baker’s managerial style.

“And now being a manager, I kind of learned, this is how I want to be, too. This is how I want to treat players.”

Things have changed significantly since his own playing days, and even from his days as the bench coach for the Rays and Cubs, and Martinez talked after his new, long-term, extension with the Nationals was announced late this past September, about how he’s adjusted to fit the times and adapt to the new reality in the majors.

“It has changed,” Martinez acknowledged.

“I’ve often said, you often deal with 28-30 different personalities every single day. You have to take each individual guy and find out what makes him tick, what makes him work, what motivates him the most, and get them to buy in before — I’ve had managers before where it was one way, one style, this is how you do it, or you don’t play for me.

Washington Nationals... Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

“That’s not the case anymore. There’s a lot of good players, a lot of good athletes, we’ve got to find out what motivates them and get them to buy in and get them to be a better teammate every single day. This a job where every day could be different with every player, I mean, some guys come in one day happy as can be, and the next day, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is going on?’ And you have to figure out what that is and talk about it and get them ready to play. Back when I played, those days, if you didn’t take batting practice or you didn’t take infield, you weren’t playing.

“That’s not the case anymore, there’s reasons why guys won’t take batting practice. There’s reasons why guys, if we are going to do outfield work, why he can’t be out there, and you got to understand those reasons.

“Communication is the key and I’ve always said that. 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.”


Martinez got to the World Series with Maddon and Rays (2008), won it with the Cubs (2016), and then, in his second year with the Nationals (2019) won one on his own, in what was just his second year as a manager at any level of the game. And the Nats won it in a season that started with the club 12 games under .500 after 50 games.

Jim Hickey, a veteran of fifteen seasons as a major league pitching coach, who filled that role in Tampa Bay while Martinez was with the Rays, and is now coming on as the Nationals’ pitching coach, told reporters earlier this month that he has seen tremendous growth from the manager since they first started working together.

“I believe 2008 was our first year together with Tampa Bay,” Hickey said, “and just watching him go from almost a guest in Spring Training to a really, really good bench coach to winning the World Series in Chicago and to winning it on his own, especially after the start to that season, holding that together, I think that’s probably the most impressive thing that I’ve seen him do as far as being in the manager’s seat anyway.”

Martinez’s playing days, and coaching career, Hickey said, prepared the manager for what he’s doing now.

“I think that experiencing some of the lows that he did as a player and as a coach with the Rays, and then some of the really high highs and then of course him being in Chicago at that particular moment in 2016, had to really — you talk about confidence, that had to really change the way that he probably looked at the game and even thought about himself, and then to turn around and go to Washington and have the success that he’s had already, it’s really something. He’s covered pretty much every stop in the spectrum.”

Martinez said the key for him has been taking his experience, what he’s learned from other managers in both of his careers in baseball, and developing his own identity as a manager over his first three seasons in D.C.

“I worked for Joe Maddon for many, many years,” Martinez said. “He taught me a lot about the game and about managing and about dealing with people. And with that being said, I took what I learned from him and I took what I learned from other managers, and I created an identity for myself on what I wanted to do and what I wanted to [be perceived] as being as a manager.

“It’s not an easy job, as we all know, but I love — like I’m passionate about what I do, and I love coming to the ballpark, and for me, this is my home here, and every time I step on the field, I feel that’s my happy place, regardless of what happens. And I’m ready to do it again every single day.”