Davey Martinez, in a press conference at the Winter Meetings this past December, was asked what he’d learned about himself over the course of the 55-107 run for his ballclub in 2022.
“You know what,” he said. “I know that I have patience, but last year I learned a whole lot more patience.”
It was a frustrating season for everyone in Washington, D.C., from the front office to the clubhouse to the fans in the stands, but looking back over the games they played, the occasional successes and the mistakes they made, Martinez said he came to a realization.
“You know what, though, I sat back, and I often caught myself laughing at some of the things that we’ve done and the fact that I love the guys,” he explained.
“The way they play, with the energy these guys had every day,” stood out, he said.
“So I’m looking forward to watching these guys grow and mature, and it will be a lot of fun for all of us. But it was trying. I’m not going to say — I’ve been on teams where we win quite a bit.
“Losing like that wasn’t fun.
“But I don’t think anybody had fun in that clubhouse.
“That’s one of the big takeaways I took at my exit meetings, is all those guys were disappointed with losing so many games. They want to get better. They want to compete.”
On the way out, however, Martinez tried to make it clear another 100-loss season was unacceptable.
“Yeah. You know what, I liked what I saw towards the end. Our defense was better. Our hitting, our young hitters got a little bit better. We talked a lot about the chase rate. And the three guys that we really worked with [Luis García, Keibert Ruiz, and CJ Abrams] did improve a lot. So we’re hoping that we improve that a little bit more.
“I want — what I want them to come to Spring Training knowing is that everybody starts fresh, right? We’re young, but we can compete. I don’t want them to think that, ‘Hey, we’re rebuilding.’ No, we’re here to compete, and we’re trying to win as many games as possible, and that’s going to be the message.
“I’ve sent that message at the end of the season, and I want them to understand that, ‘Hey, losing 100 games is not acceptable.’ It’s not. We’re going to get better. So I want them to come to Spring Training knowing we’re going to compete and compete to win every day.”
GM Mike Rizzo, talking at the end of the ‘22 campaign, acknowledged just how bad things went for the Nationals last year.
“I look at this season as a disappointment,” Rizzo told reporters over the final weekend of the regular season.
“I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now, and it’s hard to argue with that. But the flip side of that is we are in a process, and the process is tried and true, we’ve done it before, not a lot of teams can say that, and the process is moving forward, and it’s ongoing, and I think it’s a productive process.”
Even Rizzo was tired of the “organizational reboot” and “blueprint” talk by the time he got to the Winter Meetings, following a third straight disappointing season and fifth-place finish in the five-team NL East.
“Obviously 55 wins last year was a major disappointment,” he said. “We thought we were better than that coming out of Spring Training. We’re judged by wins and losses at the big league level. And that’s always the criteria that we’re cognizant of, and we want to win. We’re tired of the rebuild term, reboot term, whatever we’ve called it. The important part is for our young players to progress and to get better, and if they do progress, and get better, it puts us on the right road and it wins us more games.
“So I think that if the question is are we expecting to win more games this year than we did last year, by all means we are.”
When he said they are expecting to win “more games,” what do you think he and the rest of the Nats’ brass are thinking?
How many games do you see the roster the Nationals assembled so far winning in a competitive division?
What signs of progress will you be looking for when you watch this season?
What are you looking forward to this spring and this season?