The Washington Nationals reached a deal Sunday with Dave Martinez. What does he bring to the table as the Nats next manager?
The first-time manager spent a decade as Joe Maddon’s bench coach. First with the Tampa Bay Rays then in Chicago with the Cubs. In both cities, his teams made a World Series including last year’s epic. As you know, it was the Cubs first championship since 1908.
Although Martinez has not managed at any level, it is not for lack of ambition. A finalist several times, the Nats interviewed him in 2014 for the job after Davey Johnson departed. Instead, they hired Matt Williams.
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If Martinez manages like his mentor, expect the unexpected. He leaves a team and partner who is a master motivator. Maddon’s successes in Tampa and Chicago are no accident. If a pitcher bats eighth, so be it.
Martinez joins a Washington team burdened with high expectations coming off another stomach-punch playoff loss, to Martinez’s Cubs, and confusion afterward with Dusty Baker’s dismissal. He must put together a new coaching staff and meet his players in short order.
Given three years of money, he must be the manager to get Washington over the hump and into a World Series. At 53, he has waited his entire professional life for this chance. On, at least, the seventh try, Martinez won his dream job.
Preventing the honeymoon turning into the nightmare is his first step. How he relates to his new team, especially Bryce Harper, goes a long way in helping. If he can instill a killer instinct for the Natsthat helps.
The Nats he inherits is a championship-quality club. Outside of a fifth starter and backup catcher, he goes into 2018 as the overwhelming favorites to win a third-straight National League East championship. Skippers dream of these opportunities.
Where he will earn his battle stripes is how Washington deals with injuries and keeps players motivated and fresh over the long grind of a season. Baker ensured veterans earned plenty of rest, but had a difficult time keeping players sharp in meaningless games.
What kind of in-game tactician Martinez is remains the $64,000 question. Whatever he said during his interview wowed people as John Farrell was the only other candidate brought in.
How soon Martinez makes an impact is up in the air. Major League Baseball frowns on manager announcements during the World Series. Any positional coaches, however, can go public at any times. Should be a fun week.