As Dave Martinez enters the last year of his contract, and with the Nationals up for sale and the possibility of new ownership coming in, one of the big questions surrounding the team will be what will happen to current manager Dave Martinez. While we obviously don’t know what will happen, the question that should be asked is what SHOULD happen.
Should the Nationals keep the manager who brought the franchise its first World Series longer or should they part ways? The answer is complicated because the results are a mixed bag, filled with high hopes and getting stuck to dealing with a shortened COVID season and a rebuild.
Let’s turn back the hands of time and look at the past few seasons with Martinez at the helm.
Season #1 2018: Welcome to the new age
The Washington Nationals announced on October 20, 2017, that manager Dusty Baker and his coaching staff would not return for the 2018 season. Baker had originally been hired after the 2015 season to a two-year deal as manager, which the Nationals opted not to extend. General Manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals chose to zero in on Martinez because he was”someone who is progressive, someone who can connect with and communicate well with our players, and someone who embraces the analytical side of the game” and concluded Martinez — who had played for the Montreal Expos years before the team moved to Washington, D.C., and had won the 2016 World Series with the Cubs as manager Joe Maddon’s longtime bench coach.
Rizzo inherited infield and outfield players such as Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, to name a few. He also got handed a starting rotation that had Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio González, and Tanner Roark to name a few. Basically, if any Washington Nationals team could have gone to the World Series this was the team. Obviously, this didn’t pan out as the Nationals finished in second place with 89 wins and 80; eight games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and 8 1/2 games out of a wild card spot in the NL.
You have to take into account that Davey had to deal with a significant amount of players during the season being banged up and ended up being on the IL at one point in the season, however, missing the playoffs with the depth all around the team was a big strike in my books.
The Nationals drew 2,529,604 fans at Nationals Park during 2018, their fourth-highest attendance since arriving in Washington in 2005. It placed them eighth in attendance for the season among the 15 National League teams, down from seventh in 2017 despite being an increase over their 2017 attendance total, and don’t forget that Nationals Park hosted a little game called the All-Star Game. Expectations were high, the player quality was impressive, and Martinez showed his inexperience, and therefore he couldn’t pull it all together.
Season #2 2019: The Championship Season
Obviously, there isn’t a lot to say about this season and it is hands down the best season for Martinez in Washington D.C. Take the incredible playoff heroics from players up and down that lineup, out of the conversation, just to get to the playoffs was inspiring leadership. Observing from afar it seemed that at the end of the season the whole team was playing “for” Martinez rather than what other Nationals managers couldn’t do.
We all know that the results were for the Nationals in 2019 so no need to share them. However, it’s fun to type: World Series Champions as many times as possible.
Season #3 2020: the Season that should have been
2020 will forever be known as the season that should have been for the Washington Nationals. For the players, coaches, front office, and fans the team was robbed of a true chance to celebrate together the 2019 World Series. Not giving Martinez the ability to truly see what the team could do. Was a repeat in the cards for the Nationals, especially after the departure of Anthony Rendon. The majority of the 2019 team stayed with the team and if COVID didn’t happen who knows what would have happened at the end.
Therefore, you can not fault Dave Martinez for any results that happened or didn’t happen that year. Playing in empty stadiums night after night, playing regional opponents, oh and there was that whole stopping Spring Training and then starting it up 2 months later.
I was thinking of an “incomplete” but I feel that just making baseball happen was worth a high grade.
I do believe that you have to place some sort of grade on a season that really felt like two halves.
PRE-Trade deadline and POST-Trade Deadline
PRE-Trade Deadline: Davey had a good solid Washington Nationals team, with players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross returning. Yes, there was a feeling among observers that the Nationals were expecting a bad season, but it really shouldn’t have been as bad. Coming off a shortened 2020, Martinez still had the momentum coming out of the 2019 season and he couldn’t pull it together and the team got off a bad start.
Which lead to the second half of the season and the
POST-Trade Deadline. The departure of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner really kicked started the reboot that we are now experiencing. Last season, the second half of the season was all about seeing what players’ abilities were and starting the retool.
The main reason why Martinez gets a B- is because his job as a manager changed halfway through the season and can be judged. Was the poor performance in the first half of the season a catalyst for speeding up the “re-tool?” I do. I believe that if the Nationals’ first-half performance was impressive or at least competitive, I do not believe that the start of the re-tool would have happened so quickly at least not in 2021.
This leads us to … where we are today…
Season #5 2022: The Re-build
With the rebuild now in full swing and a possibility of new owners, the team is currently in transition, and having Dave Martinez become the stable hand with experience is a reason why it’s hard to truly grade this season so far. However, there have been some troubling signs that have been within Dave Martinez’s control such as base-running errors, and not being able to lay down bunts just to name a few, which has really made it hard to figure out what’s next for Martinez in Washington.
I’ve done some soul searching about what should happen with Dave Martinez and while many Nationals fans might not like this, I believe that the Nationals should keep him as their manager for at least one more season, and here’s why. With new ownership more likely than not, there is going to be a lot of turnover in the front office so why not keep a stable figure in the dugout and in the clubhouse while the team re-adjusts to whatever changes the new owners will make.
Additionally, if you look at the possible replacements as of now (June 2022) there really isn’t a manager that jumps off the page to guide a team in the middle of a re-build. Why not wait to see what managers are available at the time and with the new owners, possibly a new GM, there might be a manager that the front office wants to bring in. So, while the team sorts through a lot of changes, why not keep at least the managerial position off the to-do list for the new owners and let them focus on one item: Signing Soto to a massive deal to keep him in a Curly W for the foreseeable future.