PITTSBURGH — Dave Martinez wants to run his own team someday, but he also wants to win big in Chicago, and those forces could push the Cubs bench coach into a difficult decision.
As the Cubs matured into a potential National League powerhouse, Theo Epstein didn’t expect his front office to get raided during this hiring cycle. But Joe Maddon’s right-hand man should draw interest as a high-energy leader with a broad range of experience.
Martinez spent seven years as Maddon’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays before returning to the organization that originally drafted him in 1983, helping the Cubs accelerate their rebuilding program with a 97-win season.
“He’s definitely ready to manage,” Maddon said before Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
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The Washington Nationals had identified Martinez as a managerial candidate two years ago but ultimately chose Matt Williams, who got fired this week after a massively disappointing finish for a preseason World Series favorite. The San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins are also searching for new managers now.
Martinez is 51 years old but looks much younger and has the instant credibility that comes from playing 16 seasons in the big leagues. Maddon compared this situation to his time as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach with the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels.
“He gave me a lot of latitude regarding just do my job,” Maddon said. “His advice to me on a daily basis was to walk in the door and go about my business as though I was going to manage that particular day. That was the primary premise of me being a bench coach, and I want Davey to be the same way.
“When he comes to the ballpark every day, he walks in the door as though he’s going to manage the game.”
Martinez interviewed with the Cubs after the 2013 season, losing out on the job that went to Rick Renteria for a bridge year. Speculation had linked Martinez as a possible replacement for Ozzie Guillen after the 2011 season, but that didn’t gain any traction, as the White Sox made a surprise pick in Robin Ventura.
Martinez has been exposed to two data-driven organizations that emphasize developing young talent. He can relate to players, helping organize Anthony Rizzo’s postgame celebrations/dance parties. He also runs interference for Maddon and helps police the clubhouse.
“He understands all the numbers that are out there,” Maddon said. “He understands people. He’s really good at tough conversations. He’s very straight up, straightforward and upfront.
“That’s really vital. You have to have those ‘Godfather’ days, man. Sometimes you just got be very blunt and honest with somebody in order to get your point across. He’s got all that.
“He’s absolutely ready. Some team’s going to get lucky.”