Davey Martinez had a bright blue, cloudless patch of sky behind his head, and what he said was enjoyably warm weather in Tennessee when he spoke with reporters in a Zoom call the Washington Nationals’ manager held on Friday afternoon. Martinez has a 350 acre farm the skipper is staying on while self-isolating during the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, but he is itching to get back to the nation’s capital to get the 2020 campaign started when it’s safe to do so.
While he’s waiting for word on when the defense of the Nationals’ World Series title begins, Martinez said he’s managing in the only way he can with players at their own homes now a full seven weeks after Spring Training ended abruptly, and the start of the new season was postponed.
“Obviously, we’re all in uncharted waters,” Martinez said, when asked what managing entails these days. “For me it’s just communicating, staying in communication with the front office, with players, with coaches, and just letting them know — basically talking about how their families are doing, how they’re doing — just keeping them in mind and making sure that they’re doing something to keep in shape and stay ready.
“The only thing that I can do right now is hope that everybody is safe and healthy and doing the things that they can do to prepare themselves to play again.”
Once Spring Training ended, and everyone eventually left West Palm Beach, FL, Martinez’s staff formulated a plan for how they could keep everyone sharp during their indeterminate layoff.
“When this pandemic started, we had a plan,” Martinez explained.
“[Pitching Coach] Paul Menhart put together a throwing program along with our training staff and our strength staff. Players were given kind of a basic strength and conditioning program to do.”
“With that being said,” the manager added, “everything is different because we don’t know what actually they have or what they can use. A lot of guys are doing different things to stay ready. I do know that the Peloton bike has been very popular. I know I have one myself and I get up every morning and I ride for 40 minutes, and I get my day started, so I know a lot of guys have gotten that.
“I know lot of pitchers have gone out and bought mounds and put them in their backyard and have been throwing.
“Guys are hitting in their backyard cages. [Kevin] Long stays in contact with them, sees how many swings they’re taking.
“We have a lot of guys that came to Spring Training that were sore for some reason, hurt a little bit and are using this time to really focus on rehabbing and getting ready and getting ready for the season.”
Martinez also acknowledged that once/if they do start the season, it will likely begin without any fans in the stands, which, will be weird, with rumored plans of games being staged all in one place or in teams’ respective home cities in empty parks.
“There’s no question about it. It’s going to be very weird. We’re so used to having fans in the stands,” Martinez said.
“I’ve been in professional baseball since 1983. This will be a first. This will be a first for me, really. Even in the minor leagues, we had fans.
“This is new territory for a lot of us, but it’s going to be part of it if we get started.
“The good thing is if it does happen, that we are playing baseball. It will be televised so fans get to see it on TV, but we’ve got to make the best of it. We’ve got to compete. 2020, I don’t think there will be any asterisk in anything.
“It is what it is, it’s a season, and we’re going to go out there and do our very best to win another championship.”
How, if at all, will playing in empty parks change his role as a manager if that’s how things are set up at the start?
“For me, you’re still managing a game,” the third-year skipper said. “Now, with that being said, it is going to be quiet, it’s going to be empty. I have to be very careful what I scream out nowadays, so I’ve got to make sure I catch myself, but like I said, the motivation is still there. We want to win every day, every game, and I think these players are professional enough to understand that. There are going to be changes. No question. But the bottom line, we’re there to compete, we’re there to win games, every day.
“I’ve said this before ... and I don’t get tired of saying it, we’re going to go 1-0 every day.”