The organization chose to frame up Davey Martinez with support when they hired him.
They wanted a fresher voice in the manager’s office, someone they felt was more analytically-inclined, often mentioning the terms “analytics” as well as “creative” when Martinez was introduced as the Nationals new manager in October of 2017.
Martinez spent four decades in the major leagues as a player and coach. He had never been a manager, something the organization swept aside at the start with words but clearly considered with deeds. Tim Bogar and Chip Hale, both former managers, were added to his coaching staff. Derek Lilliquist -- a former player and experienced pitching coach -- was brought in when the Nationals would not pay Mike Maddux enough to return. Long time organization member Bob Henley remained part of the staff.
Mike Rizzo said at the time they wanted to put ex-managers next to Martinez. He referred to Hale as a guy who “can whisper in his ear” while the game was going. Though Martinez didn’t have specific experience as a manager, the team still wanted plenty of it meandering about in the dugout.
Not bringing back pitching coach Paul Menhart for next year was the first step for Martinez’s reworking of the coaching staff. Expect his replacement to be more experienced at the major-league level. Menhart’s tutelage consisted of helping pitchers through the minor leagues to the major leagues -- no small feat. But, coaching at the major-league level is a different dynamic. Particularly for the Nationals.
The roster is populated with veteran pitchers. Pitching coach influence on Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin is minimal. All three know exactly what they are doing or not. They are not in need of new pitches. Basically, they are self-regulators. The organization’s top requirement for them is to help the group make it to the mound as often as possible.
So, the next pitching coach will be tasked with holding their respect and improving those who are in search of another level.
Martinez now has the baseline to select this person -- and make other staff changes, if he sees fit.
He began a shakeup last year when swinging the responsibilities of coaches. Hale moved from bench coach to third base, something he was surprised by and not thrilled about, Bogar moved to bench coach and Henley became the first base coach.
“It was interesting,” Hale said last offseason of the change. “I was surprised. Had not heard anything about it until I got home, so was a little bit taken aback. You’re blessed to be a coach in the major leagues. It’s not easy. There’s a lot of guys that are vying for your positions. I’ve coached a lot of third in my day, whether it’s managing through the minor leagues, coaching third in Arizona, Oakland, New York. So, I enjoy it. I enjoy being on the field. Feel a little bit more like you’re still playing. We’ll do the best we can to help the guys run the bases and score a lot of runs.”
Coaches typically work under one-year contracts that expire Oct. 31. So, if further changes are coming, they will happen soon. And they will come from Martinez who has moved into a space to fully steer the ship.