In spite of all the losses, when it came to the end of the 2022 campaign, manager Davey Martinez told reporters before the series finale he would have liked more time with his 55-107 team.
Down the stretch, the club got a look at some of the next-gen Nationals, and the fifth-year skipper in D.C. said he would’ve have liked to have seen a bit more.
“We got younger,” he said, summing up his thoughts on the latest developments for the rebooting ballclub this season on the final day of the regular season, “… and we only had a couple of these guys for a short period of time, it would have been fun to continue to play, it really would have, and get these guys more exposure. But it is the last day, so I’m going to sit back and reflect on this season and really hone in on what we need to do to get better, and get a jumpstart for Spring Training.”
Martinez did acknowledge he thought his ballclub could use a break after dropping 107 of 162 games on the season.
“I think our kids need a break, I really do,” he explained. “They played really hard, they really did, they competed, and we looked back, I was just talking to the coaches today, this morning, I sat down with them and thanked them for everything they have done, but they talked about how much we hung in there with a lot of really good teams, and beat some really good teams, and I think that’s only a sign of things to come that we can start winning more series next year, but we got to work. We got to be ready to do that.”
“It’s nice to see some of our young players perform at this level,” GM Mike Rizzo said in own season-ending scrum with reporters this past week. “I think that, again, we’re looking at some of the core components of what our next title team will look like, and I think that the results are encouraging.”
While Washington’s ballclub seemingly has a long way to go to be competitive again, the GM in D.C. said he thought their organization took big steps in the reboot they kicked off at the trade deadline in 2021.
This year’s big deadline deal which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego for five of the Padres’ top prospects and a veteran bat (Luke Voit), was a big step in the process according to Rizzo.
“I think that the most significant step that we made this season was at the trade deadline getting the players that we had to get in return for Juan Soto,” he said of bringing CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, and Jarlin Susana into the fold. “I think that was the biggest step that we made. I thought it was a courageous move by ownership to allow us to do a Soto deal if we got the deal that we needed to get, and I think it was very important to the organization to do that deal, and to get the players that we needed to get to trade such a special player in Juan, and to get the players we did, I think we’re very fortunate to get what we got.”
One obvious area for improvement is the Nationals’ play within their division, after they finished 17-59 against their NL East rivals this season, with a 38-48 against other opponents around the league.
“We got go play better, we’ve got to play clean baseball,” Martinez said when asked about closing the gap in the division before the season finale. “I think it all starts with starting pitching, as I always say. The teams in our division, their starting pitching is really, really good. I mean, so we got to beat them up a little bit. We always talk about trying to score first, but we got to get better at that, and try to knock those guys out of the game early and then go from there.”
The manager returned to the topic following the season-ending loss to the New York Mets, telling the reporters in Citi Field the process of getting competitive in the division again is now underway.
“We definitely got to start here now. And I look back, and a lot of games — other than these last few — we played in our division, we were right there, we competed, but we got to get back and we got to finish some of those games, and get to our bullpen and get those guys honed down. This division is good, I’ve always said this division is going to be tough. In order to compete, we need some pieces, and we’re going to give an opportunity to our younger players, and what I saw from our younger players — that they’re not afraid and they’re going to go out and compete.”
How will the Lerner family’s continued efforts in terms of potentially selling the franchise impact the organization’s work this winter, as they try to build a roster which can actually compete in the East?
Rizzo was asked if anything will change if a sale actually happens this winter, and he said obviously it could affect things if it does happen, but until then, it’s going to be business as usual.
“Well of course it could change if they sell the team, I think that would change things,” Rizzo said matter-of-fact-ly. “So I’m going to control what I can control. We’re business as usual. We’re going to go through the end of this regular season and do our postseason work and try to explore every way to get better. We’ll get our marching orders and our directions from above when we get them. But until then we’re business as usual like we’ve done every year.”
“It all starts with starting pitching,” Martinez said after Game 162 of 162.
“But once again I’ve got to revert back to our bullpen. I mean, those guys come in and they pitched really well again. I think we covered 19 innings in three days, that’s tough.
“Our starting pitching needs to get better, that’s for sure.”
“Our season’s over right now, for the players, but the work is just beginning for myself, [Rizzo], and the front office.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do heading [towards] Spring Training. I’m looking forward to this winter, getting things done, and being ready for Spring Training.”
As Rizzo told reporters in Flushing, Queens, NY, he thinks they have the beginnings of a solid rotation already in the organization, with Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, and Cade Cavalli up first going forward.
“They’re three extremely talented young pitchers that have a huge upside,” Rizzo said of the Nats’ 24, 23, and 24-year old starters, respectively.
“We’re going to give them every opportunity to continue their progression and performance next year, we’re going to be counting on them and others in our minor league system to take the mantle and become the next rotation of a championship-caliber club, and we’re going to supplement them with not only players from within our system, but players from outside of our system, and we understand that starting pitching has to be better than it is right now.
“We also understand that we’ve got a good group of young arms that we’re going to count on and we’re going to have to count on in the near future.”