SAN DIEGO -- Davey Martinez has been busy. His rural retreat, usually well-used by this stage of the offseason, has sat empty. He spent time with his kids in Tampa in between declining appearance requests. He tried to get his life back in order for the last five weeks. Time to himself has not been part of the process. Nor has anything but positive feelings.
“It’s been awesome,” Martinez said. “Really has. Something that I wake up in the morning and think about everything that transpired and how we got to where we got to and the final moment... That, to me, never gets old.”
Relaxed in a dress shirt and sport coat, Martinez started Monday with interviews by the reporters pool at the Winter Meetings. Two of his former players -- Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon -- are among the prime focuses of the event. Future contracts are what the meetings become about. Martinez is now included in that topic.
He’s entering the third, and final, year of his three-year deal. The Nationals hold an option for a fourth year. Martinez said he is not thinking about it.
“No,” Martinez said. “I really haven’t. For me, I feel blessed I got an opportunity to do what I do. I know I’m coming back. Now, I’m just getting some time off and getting ready for spring training.”
Martinez entering his third year is notable. Managers of the Nationals rarely make it there. Manny Acta started a third season as manager. Davey Johnson handled two-plus seasons as manager. No one has made it through three full seasons since baseball returned to the District. And, who would have thought Martinez would?
Year One was a mess. The Nationals missed the playoffs, Martinez appeared off-kilter at times, and injuries doomed the season as much as under-performance. A mere 82 wins followed, the fewest since 2011.
The pressure was high before the failed season. Washington’s ownership chose Martinez specifically over bringing back Dusty Baker. Why? Because advancing to the first round was not enough. Only the World Series was acceptable. Martinez, with vast major-league life experience and zero managerial experience, was charged with guiding the team to a spot its owners and payroll expected. The team barely won more than it lost.
Then May of 2019 hit. The 19-31 nadir following multiple embarrassments in New York, against the Mets of all teams, pushed Martinez’s employment status toward the edge. He said then it wasn’t on his mind, though at the time he was unsure how to fix expansive bullpen problems. Managing principal owner Mark Lerner said during the postseason he never considered firing Martinez. Both are difficult to believe as 100% truths.
As the team turned, so did the view of Martinez. The postseason performed as a breakthrough for both. Washington finally made it out of the first round of the postseason. Martinez’s decision-making worked and worked again, all the way through Game 7 of the World Series. By the end, narratives flipped. The team which couldn’t play well when it mattered most completed a comeback-filled championship run. The manager so many wanted to push out, became a man of the people, drifting into the streets during the championship parade.
Another year is coming. Davey Martinez remains the manager of the Washington Nationals. He’s into his third year and, barring disaster, appears set to make it to the end, which would be more history for the organization.
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