Davey Martinez went home on Saturday night, after signing an extension (reportedly for three years), and beating the New York Mets in both ends of a doubleheader, when it hit him.
There was just one more game left to play in the 2020 campaign. It’s been an odd year for everyone in baseball, with new rules, a different playoff structure, and piped-in crowd noise with no fans in the stands for the entire season, which was conducted during an ongoing pandemic, and for Martinez’s 2019 World Series champs, it was a disappointing follow-up.
“Unfortunately we didn’t make the playoffs, even though it was a strange year,” Martinez told reporters in a pregame Zoom call before Game 60 of 60.
Martinez, of course, always stresses the positives, and he said he wanted to do that after an odd, taxing season for the entire organization.
“I thought about a lot of the good things that I saw,” the recently-turned 56-year-old skipper said.
“A lot of positive things that I saw with some of our younger guys, and some of our guys that have actually kind of grown this year.
“Watching [Erick] Fedde do what he did. Seeing [Kyle] Finnegan do what he did. Watching [Tanner] Rainey do what he did. Seeing Luis García get a chance to play.
“So I’m going to go home and take all of those positives back with me and build from that. And also see how we can get better for 2021.”
Before moving on to the 2021 campaign, he said, he was just happy that the club made it through the season relatively healthy, at least in terms of COVID-19, though they had their share of injuries. But now that it’s over, Martinez said, the club turns to the offseason and what they need to do to get back to the postseason.
“I haven’t really — of course we want to get better,” the third-year skipper said. “[GM Mike 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.”
One particular area of focus over the winter and especially when they get to Spring Training is going to be shoring up the defensive end of things, since the manager wasn’t particularly happy with what he saw from his club in the field in this 60-game campaign.
“We’re going to pound on the defense as we did in 2019. We’re going to have our 27 outs drills,” he explained.
“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 the 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 get them ready for 2021.”
In the end, Martinez said, they just all need to take what they can from this season and then move past it and prepare for what they’re hoping will be a full 162-game schedule next year.
“I talked to some of the guys and I said, ‘Hey, let’s remember what we did in 2019. 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.
“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.
“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 on Opening Day.”
Once the 2020 season officially ended, with a 15-5 win over the Mets, he acknowledged that when the Nationals do return for the start of the 2021 campaign, the roster could be significantly different.
“There’s definitely gong to be some different pieces,” Martinez said. “But I look at our core group, and what our core group has done in the past and what they can do in the future. Like I said, we’ve still got some really good pitching. Our bullpen shaped up this year. We got some young players that you saw with some opportunity they played really well.
“With all those things, I really believe this winter, Mike and I will sit down, we’re going to assess what our necessities are, what we need and we’re going to build this team to win again in 2021.”