With a San Francisco Giants’ win early this morning on the East Coast, the Washington Nationals have officially been eliminated from postseason contention, and for the 20th straight year there won’t be a repeat champion in Major League Baseball.
The Nats have been eliminated, so 2020 will be the 20th consecutive MLB season without a repeat champion.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) September 24, 2020
Of the 20 defending champs since 2001:
11 missed playoffs
2 lost in DS
5 lost in CS
2 lost in WS (‘01 NYY, ‘09 PHI)
“As you know it’s difficult, not too many teams have done it,” Davey Martinez told reporters of trying to win back-to-back titles, a few hours before his club was mathematically eliminated from the postseason chase.
“With that being said, it was definitely a challenge with everything going on this year,” the manager added.
Martinez, in 2019, led the Nationals to the first World Series championship by a D.C.-based team since 1924, but the 2020 club fell short, rocked by injuries, at-times sloppy play, some disappointing production, uneven pitching, and occasional bad luck, but the third-year skipper, who’s expected to return for a fourth season on the bench (though his contract status for 2021 is as yet unresolved), maintained optimism when talking last night about what the future holds.
“What I do like is our potential for 2021,” Martinez said, after talking before last night’s game about what a healthy rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin might accomplish next season, “and I’ll say it again, we got our starting pitching, those horses our coming back.
“Our bullpen, I like [how] the back end of our bullpen has shaped up, and those guys will be fresh and ready to go.
“We got some really young talent, we’ve got some other young talent that hopefully we’ll see in Spring Training. That will help us in 2021. I’m really excited about the future of this organization and where we’re headed.
“I do believe in my heart that next year we’ll compete again for a division title and get in those playoffs. As you know, once you’re in those playoffs, anything can happen. But I really believe that in the future, as early as next year we’ll be back battling again for a playoff spot.”
Seven different Nationals debuted in 2017, with Luis García, at second, and Kyle Finnegan, in the pen, able to make significant contributions, while Dakota Bacus, Seth Romero, Wil Crowe, Ben Braymer, and Yadiel Hernandez all pitched in.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Martinez said of all the young talent that came up and contributed. “There’s been some bumps and bruises. It’s a learning curve, but I’m proud of each and every one of these guys. They go out every day and they give me everything they’ve got and that’s all you can ask, but they’re learning. I explain to these guys, it never comes easy sometimes. Sometimes you’ve got to work at it.
“Some of these guys have never failed ever in their careers, whether from little league all the way through college, through the minor leagues, then all of a sudden they come up here and there’s a little bump in the road, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good players.
“I tell them stick with it. I don’t quit on you guys, you guys should know that by now, you’re going to get opportunities to play, and man, they go out there and they do the best they can, and they’re learning, they’re learning a lot about themselves, so I’m proud of each and every one of those guys.”
With opt-outs, injuries, a compressed 60-game schedule, COVID-19 testing and safety protocols, empty stadiums, and pumped-in crowd noise, it was a taxing two-month experience that made Martinez appreciate the status quo of the previous decades of baseball in his career as a player, a coach, and now a manager.
“What I learned is how much I appreciate 162 games I can tell you that,” Martinez sort-of joked. “It’s been trying.
“There’s a lot of things that you can go back and for me, just talk about how the season all played out. I won’t assess everything till I’m able to sit down at the end of the season and just kind of take a deep breath, because it’s been a non-stop, on-the-go, every day, grind.
“With all these little injuries and nagging injuries and guys playing through stuff, and making different lineups and trying to put the best product on the field that we can every day, it’s been tough. The one thing that I can honestly say is — and all the coaches and all the guys always say — ‘It’s unbelievable how calm that you can be throughout this whole deal. We never see you panic, we never see you —’
“And I said, that’s because you never see me in my office sometimes, but it’s just about being present. I told myself this year, just be present every second of the day and just take it for what it is and try to have the most fun you possibly can, and cheer the boys on. Like I said, they’ve gone through some things this year that they’re not normally going through, especially missing their families, playing away from their families, having no fans, all the different traveling, all the doubleheaders, I mean, a lot went on through this year, and I told them I said, hey, this doesn’t deter who we are, what we are, I said, we learn from it and we move on and we come back stronger than ever.”