Davey Johnson managed 407 games in the nation’s capital between 2011-13. Manny Acta, (remember him?) managed 410 between 2007-2009. Davey Martinez passed Johnson on the list of the longest-tenured managers for the Washington Nationals since 2005 earlier this week, and in Thursday’s series finale with the Atlanta Braves, the fourth-year skipper passed Acta.
Martinez is now longest-tendured skipper in the seventeen seasons since MLB baseball returned to Washington in ‘05.
The fact that they’ve had eight managers since ‘05 is another story, but Martinez, who got a multi-year deal in 2020, after leading the club to the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924 in 2019, has lasted longer than anyone else now.
Martinez, who’s busy trying to get his team on track after a slow start to the 2021 campaign, didn’t realize he’d reached this milestone until he was told by Trea Turner.
“I didn’t know about this milestone until Trea said something to me this morning,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Thursday afternoon. “He gave me a hug and I thought he was in a lovable mood, and I said, ‘What was that for?’ And he said, ‘No, you’re the longest-tenured manager in the history of the Nationals.’ So I said, ‘Oh, thanks, you know what, keep playing the way you’re playing so I can be here a whole lot longer.’
“But yeah, it’s been a blessing. We’ve done a lot, we’ve done a lot here, and hopefully we’ll win a few more championships, especially one this year.”
Martinez played 16 seasons in the majors, then transitioned to coaching on a part-time basis before becoming Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa Bay and then Chicago. He was hired by the Nationals in November of 2017.
Heading into play on Thursday, Martinez was 213-197 overall on the bench with the Nationals over his four seasons (with a 12-5 record in postseason play). His record fell to 213-198 with a 3-2 loss.
His favorite memory of his debut as the manager in D.C. back in 2018?
“Taking out the lineup card,” Martinez said. “As a manager I’ll always remember that day. I mean, that was a special day for me.
“And once again, I want to thank the Nationals for giving me the opportunity, [GM Mike] Rizzo, for bringing me here, and the Lerner family. It’s been fun.”
Max Scherzer, who had Matt Williams (2015) and Dusty Baker (2016-2017) as his manager for the first three seasons of his 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals, talked on Thursday about what he’s seen from Martinez over their four years together, and what’s impressed him.
“Just the way he’s grown from obviously his first year to where he’s at now,” Scherzer said.
“And just the confidence he has, and how he just understands different situations and how to apply his baseball knowledge and experience through his travels, being with the Rays and the Cubs and his playing career. Just being able to tap that knowledge and how to manage a team. It’s not so much the Xs and Os of baseball, we all kind of know those, it’s how you manage guys and how you push buttons and how you keep guys motivated and keep guys in [one] direction. So, where he’s at today, he’s really been one of my favorite managers that I’ve had. I’ve been blessed to play for some great managers in my past, but he definitely has the command of the clubhouse, and he’s earned that respect.”
Both Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester worked with Martinez when he was the bench coach with the Cubs, and they’ve joined him and the Nationals signing free agent deals over the winter.
“Congratulations to Davey first off,” Schwarber said when asked about the milestone for the manager. “I told him that in the dugout today, what a really cool accomplishment, and hopefully he’s here much, much longer. But it’s really cool for me, being a young guy in Chicago, a rookie, and having him as my bench coach to now being able to play under him, and I mean, the guy’s been the same guy since I was in Chicago.
“He was under Joe in Tampa and things like that and I think he came into his own really well, he’s got his own style, it’s not like he’s replicating Joe Maddon, which that’s not a bad thing, but I think it’s great that he’s himself. He’s the guy who’s going to make sure you’re not getting too high, you’re not getting too down, and we’re going to go out there every day and like he says, ‘Go 1-0 every day.’ That’s what we want to do.”
Lester said when he signed and again on Thursday that Martinez’s presence was at least part of the motivation for signing on in D.C.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously he helped make that decision for me a lot easier,” the 37-year-old starter said. “I think he’s done a great job of kind of deferring being a manager.
“I think — let’s see the right way to say this — you know some guys when they get the job for the first time they try to do everything themselves, and I think he does a good job of deflecting and allowing guys to do their jobs. And I think that makes him a good manager.
“I think if you get your thumbprint on a little bit too much it can be overwhelming as a manager. So he lets the guys play, just from the little bit I’ve seen so far, he lets the guys play, he lets the coaches coach, and obviously he’s got to sit up here and take the responsibility for it. But I’ve known him a long time, played against him a long time, respect the hell out of him and I’m happy for him that he’s been here this long.”
“I’ll be honest with you, this is the first I’m hearing of it,” Josh Harrison said. He signed on in Washington last summer, and returned after impressing Martinez and the Nationals’ brass in the 60-game 2020 season.
“That’s exciting. One thing in this game is you want to do it as long as you can, and I think that’s testament to the guy that he is, also as a manager.
“I love playing for Davey, man, he’s a great guy. Wish we could have got the win on a special day for him, but we’ve got plenty more chances and we’ll make the season memorable, I’ll take that.”