At the end of what was a frustrating 2020 campaign for everyone involved, Davey Martinez said his plan was to take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and how the team is going to address their needs over the winter and in Spring Training next year as they find ways to rebound from their disappointing follow-up to 2019’s World Series win.
“I’m going to go home and take all of those positives back with me and build from that,” the manager said over the final weekend of the season. “And also see how we can get better for 2021.”
Martinez planned to have exit interviews with everyone on the club, so he could assess how they felt things went and share his own thoughts, but then it would be time to move on to a strategy for getting ready for a new season.
“I talked to some of the guys and I said, ‘Hey, let’s remember what we did in 2019,” Martinez explained at the end of the 60-game COVID campaign.
“Don’t worry about what we did in 2020. There’s no telling what would have happened in 162 games. Know that we’re going to come back stronger, better, we all learned from this, and we’re going to come back and compete and go 1-0 every day in 2021 and get back to the playoffs.”
The focus in Spring Training 2021, he said, would be a return to fundamentals, after they’d struggled defensively, and played some sloppy baseball at times during the 2020 season, after ST 1.0 ended after only a few weeks in mid-March and ST 2.0 lasted just three weeks during July when baseball decided to ramp back up for a truncated season.
“I want these guys not to dwell on this season, but yet to take it for what it’s worth, go home rest, and like I said, learn from it, and build from it, and then come back and be ready to go,” Martinez explained.
“But we need to be ready. My emphasis with these guys, I told them, ‘Hey, you have time to really get ready and get your body ready. When Spring Training rolls around we really need to be ready, physically ready, and mentally ready to tackle Spring Training and get ready for that first game of Opening Day.”
The skipper, who signed a multi-year extension at the end of September, said he wanted to get back to fundamentals they stressed and the work they did in his first two seasons in D.C.
“We’re going to pound on the defense as we did in 2019. We’re going to have our 27 outs drills,” he said.
“We’re going to do a lot more shifting drills, guys in different positions and learning how to position themselves during the shift, learning how to throw from shift.
“Talk a lot about not sitting back on baseballs. Being more aggressive, all those things.
“So, going into Spring Training, [Bench Coach Tim Bogar] and I will do a whole lot of talking this winter, and we’re going to devise a program individually for each player and really hone in on what they need to do to get better and them ready for 2021.”
“It’s more mindset,” shortstop Trea Turner told reporters, after a season in which he said he felt like he took a step forward offensively and took a step back on the defensive end.
“I feel like baseball in general is rhythm,” Turner said. “Pitching, base-stealing, and fielding, is just as much rhythm as hitting is. So it’s just getting in a good rhythm and making good decisions and putting yourself in good spots.
“And maybe a combination of the things ... but for me it’s more a mental — it’s more decision-making, because I know when a fungo is hit to me and I go and field it correctly, I know I can do it, I know my body is there, I know how to complete the play, but it’s just a matter of making good decisions.
“So, I think each year is different. Some years you’re going to get diving plays, this year I feel like I’ve had no divings plays, and sometimes you’re going to get balls hit at you really hard, sometimes you’re going to get slow rollers. Each year is different, you get different opportunities, but making sure that you’re making the right decisions is kind of how you attack all those scenarios and improve.”
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Turner, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, (a hopefully healthy) Stephen Strasburg, and more will return to form the core of the 2021 roster, but Martinez, and GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office in D.C. have a lot of work to do to build around the core.
“Of course we want to get better,” Martinez said.
“[Rizzo] and I are going to sit down this week and talk about a lot of different things and put our heads together and see what we want to do and which direction we want to do it in.
“Obviously you guys know that I strongly believe in pitching and defense. But without starting pitching it’s hard to win championships, we proved that in 2019, so Rizzo and I are going to have conversations, and we’ll go from there and put together a wish list of players we want to try acquire via trade or via free agency, and then we’ll go from there, but there’s always room to improve, as you know, every year is different, and we’re going to do the best we can to put a roster together so that we can compete in 2021 and win.”
“This is a team effort,” Rizzo said after the official announcement on Martinez’s extension.
“And just as I was the architect of the World Champions in 2019,” he continued, “I’m the president and general manager of the last place Nationals this year, so that stings, and we’re going to do everything we can not to have that happen again. We’re a winning organization, we’ve got a bunch of winners over here, and our goal is to win again. Win again next year in 2021, that’s our primary focus and with the leadership in place now, we can move on to roster construction and preparation for the 2021 season, and hopefully it will be closer to a normal regular, major league season, but if not we need to adapt and adjust and make sure that this type of finish doesn’t happen again.”