Announced Monday as the new Washington Nationals manager, Dave Martinez is a mix of what the team wanted. A closer look tells the story.
The Nats wanted a younger and hungry man to guide Washington into the next realm. A finalist at least seven times for jobs he did not get, Martinez falls into that category.
Perhaps the big surprise from Sunday’s slow leaks is the length of the contract. The Nats gave Martinez a three-year deal with an option for a fourth. When you consider how much they hate eating money on contracts, there is a decent chance he finishes it.
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After years of short-term deals, this about face is a welcome change. Given the immense pressure Martinez is under to produce, he has the time to get things right. For all the bluster of winning before Bryce Harper hits free agency, this move offers stability for the future.
Sometimes the Lerner family, the stable and quiet ownership of the Nats, deserves the criticism heaped on from others. Waiting nearly two weeks deciding Dusty Baker’s fate is one. Constantly changing managers is another. When Washington draws comparisons to George Steinbrenner and the 1970-80s-era New York Yankees, there are problems somewhere along the chain.
The ability to change is noble. A hard look at the most successful teams in sports suggests the operations side calls the shots in concert with the business side. Any long-suffering executive with the Washington Redskins will tell you that.
The tough part is finding a balance. Regardless of personal net worth, no team should run like a charity. Franchises are investments. They are supposed to be self-sufficient. Some years are harder than others.
Give ownership credit. They had justification to bring in an old hand for a year and roll the dice. Instead, a middle ground was found.
A manager by himself will not swing games either way often. The modern manager deals with binders of statistics proving Freddie Freeman has more power after eating peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches on Tuesdays. He must massage egos attached to multi-million-dollar players with super agents. All while dazzling the press and pulling his pitchers at the correct moment.
Not for the faint of heart.
Can Martinez deliver?
There is a substantial learning curve about to slap him across the face. He has years watching Joe Maddon under his belt with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs. His training comes under fire when a closer blows a game or a slumping player remains in the lineup.
Martinez graduates from the school of a dozen future managers to earn his promotion. Outside of a lack of managing experience, he is ready for the challenge. Patience is key and we as fans must allow him the room to learn.