The Nationals and manager Davey Martinez reached an agreement Friday on an extension that seemed inevitable ever since the skipper led Washington to its first World Series title since 1924. Though the two sides are still ironing out the details, the extension guarantees Martinez will be under contract beyond his previous agreement that included a team option for 2021.
Martinez heads into play Friday three games short of his third season as an MLB manager. He joined the Nationals prior to the 2018 season after 10 years working under Joe Maddon as the bench coach of the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs. The Nationals hired him after back-to-back NLDS playoff exits (their third and fourth of the previous six years) under veteran skipper Dusty Baker.
High expectations made for a disappointing first season in Washington, as the Nationals went just 82-80 in 2018. A 19-31 start to the 2019 campaign put Martinez on the hot seat, but he managed to steady the ship before leading the club on a 74-38 run that earned them a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. Working with a thin bullpen and four ace starters, Martinez pulled all the right strings as the Nationals rode a series of comebacks to their first championship in franchise history.
However, the Nationals’ encore season hasn’t gone as planned. Washington is 23-34 after dropping their series opener against the New York Mets. The team has dealt with a litany of issues that have only been exacerbated by playing a shortened 60-game season amid a global pandemic.
But even with lost seasons sandwiched around a World Series title, Martinez has vaulted himself up the franchise managerial leaderboards. The Nationals’ history of cycling through managers will make Martinez the first skipper in team history (2005-present) to manage a fourth season in Washington, surpassing Manny Acta (2007-09), Jim Riggleman (2009-11) and Davey Johnson (2011-13).
Martinez’s 198 career regular-season wins are 19th among active managers and second in Nationals history behind only Johnson (224). His 12 postseason wins, all accrued during their 2019 title run, shattered Baker’s previous team record of four playoff victories as a manager. He’s also the only Nationals manager to win a postseason series.
After the Nationals inked President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo to a three-year extension Sept. 5, ensuring Martinez’s long-term security with the ballclub was the next logical step. Rizzo himself stumped for the Nationals to get a deal done, calling a long-term deal for Martinez “priority one.”
“My plan is, and my preference is, to not pick up the option and to go beyond that,” Rizzo said in a Zoom press conference Sept. 6. “That’s the plan going forward. See if we can get something done. Negotiate a longer-term deal with him that goes beyond just picking up the option.”
When Martinez starts preparing for the 2021 season, he’ll look to get the Nationals off to a hot start for the first time with him at the helm. Washington has played just 15 games over the last three seasons while sporting a record over .500, a product of the team digging itself into early holes. But with an extension in the works, Martinez can focus on the Nationals’ future unburdened by the pressure of landing that next contract.