Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this winter that after winning it all in the World Series this past October, his club knows what it takes now, and the experience from it will help them when it comes to avoiding a letdown in 2020.
“We’re going to prepare for Spring Training like we have every other year,” Rizzo explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, in December.
“We’re not going to be complacent because we played an extra month of baseball. We’re not going to make any adjustments for preparations for our pitchers. We’re beginning right now our offseason preparation for Spring Training, and we’re not going to veer off of what we’ve done in the past.”
A month later, Rizzo reiterated his stance, noting that he thought the returning players and new additions to the roster would reinvigorate the team.
“I think that being through it before helps,” Rizzo said. “I also think that we’ve made enough changes and tweaked the roster enough that there’s new blood, and there’s guys that are hungry to win and that type of thing, and I think those are the guys that drive the others. We’ve done some things cognizant of not being complacent, we’ve switched some roles with coaching staff. We wanted to keep the same coaching staff, and we switched roles to get a little energy and get synergy back in that part of our roster, and with the addition of some of these new players I think it will also keep it fresh for us and still have that veteran presence but still have that tweaked and different perspective.”
Manager Davey Martinez has been through it before, working as the bench coach in the Windy City when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 then struggled through the start of the 2017 campaign, going 43-45 in the first half, before catching fire and going 49-25 after the All-Star Break.
“Going through all these playoffs and the World Series like we did, ‘16 and now, I learned a lot about what to do,” Martinez said at the Winter Meetings.
“How to come out of that and what we need to do. We need to set a precedent early. We’ve got to come out ready to play. We’re not going to sneak up on any team. A lot of teams are getting better. We’ve got to be prepared and be ready to play from day one.”
Stephen Strasburg, whose postseason work culminated in a World Series MVP award, said this winter that the expected letdown is something that motivates him to do it again.
“I think it’s funny,” Strasburg said after testing the market and eventually signing a 7-year/$245M free agent contract in December.
“You go win the World Series and everybody starts to write you off for next year, so I think that’s pouring gas on the fire for me and I think for a lot of other guys, so it’s really there’s no stopping us now. We’re going to go into next season like we did last year, and that was, ‘Finish the Fight,’ and, ‘Stay in the Fight.’ All those things we kind of held onto during the season, those are things that we can control and those are things that we expect out of ourselves and the guy next to us.”
Strasburg’s rotation mate, Aníbal Sánchez, made it to the World Series and lost earlier in his career, before winning it all last season, but he said this winter he knows how to prepare for all that comes with going that deep into the postseason and then ramping back up following a shorter offseason.
“It’s about how you prepare for Spring Training,” the veteran starter said. “I think you need to keep working and you need to prepare your body to get ready for Spring Training and do everything normal as soon as your body is ready.”
Max Scherzer, who has been to the postseason seven times now, and to the World Series twice, said he was 100% healthy after dealing with a series of injuries late last season and ready to get back at it.
“I’ve been in the playoffs before,” the 35-year-old starter said.
“I’ve been in the World Series before, and I know how to take care of myself, more so than ever now, and I feel good about going into 2020 and pitching well.”
No one is taking anything lightly, knowing that it is difficult to recover from a long postseason run and do it all again.
“That World Series hangover, it’s real,” Martinez told Chuck Todd during a Sirius/XM Radio Town Hall last month, but the third-year manager said he wants his club to remember the work it took to get the job done last October.
“What I’ve gathered the last few months is — I want these guys to understand what they did, how they did it, and focus on that. Focus on that, don’t let that go away. Because a lot of times they say, ‘It’s 2020, we’ve got to start over.’ Great, we understand that, but let’s not forget what it felt like. What it feels like to win. Everybody always talks about losing. ‘Oh well, we didn’t win this year, we’ve got to start again [in 2020].’ You want to forget that, but the positive stuff, and this is something that I want to make sure that they understand: We are good. And okay, the season is over, we got a vacation, but think about all the good things we did and focus on that.”