PITTSBURGH -- Nationals manager Davey Martinez sat down with NBC Sports Washington for an exclusive 1-on-1 conversation Thursday. Washington’s manager talked about Max Scherzer’s return, the team’s resurgence, if he thought he would be fired in May and the rules in place when it comes to celebrations.
NBCSW: Did you think at the All-Star break it would take this long for Scherzer to be up and running?
Martinez: For us, we wanted to make sure when he comes back, that he’s back. And we went through all the necessary process to get him to where he’s at now, which is to feel really, really good. I’ll monitor him [Thursday]. Hopefully we’ll get him through [Thursday] and he’ll feel good [Friday].
Let’s go back to the first two months of the season. A lot was happening. You often rewatch games afterward. What was going through your mind when you saw some of the mistakes and play, at that point?
It was a constant reminder we have to come in every day and teach. At that point, we were fairly young. We had a lot of guys that were injured. We were young. Our bullpen wasn’t doing well, but we were still fairly young. The guys we were using at the back end, the Sueros, we called [Tanner] Rainey up...we had to be patient. That’s something I learned over the years of my playing career, learned from Joe [Maddon], you’ve got to stick to the process and be patient. This thing will usually turn around. But the biggest thing is keep teaching. We often had meetings with the coaches about that. Just bring that energy every day, keep teaching and stick to the process. Biggest thing is stay positive and we’ll get out of this. Here we are today, fighting for a playoff spot and having a lot of fun.
In Philadelphia in early May, you said privately, “When we get healthy, we’re going to take off.” Why did you believe that after what happened in the first two months and not being able to do that last year?
I really felt with the chemistry of this team, when we get our guys back, things were actually going to… you could see signs, that the guys when they were playing, they were starting to mature a little bit. They were starting to get it. The things we were trying to teach, they were actually applying in the games and being successful at it. I always thought that once our regular guys got back, and our lineup was the way it should be, that we’d start playing better and start winning a lot more games than losing games. And the games that we were losing, we’d end up winning those games. I truly believed that. I believed in those guys in the clubhouse, the veteran guys, to keep everything together. They did that. Like I said, here we are today with a good opportunity to make the postseason and playing for something.
The No. 1 target when things go bad is you, the manager. Were there any days in May you wondered if you would be around to watch a turnaround?
No. Even last year, when we started off slowly, I -- you heard rumblings, you know? Which I don’t really pay attention to because I have a job to do. I never once thought it. I said, I’m going to come every day, show up, do my job. At the end of the day, hope we’re on top, have a ‘W’. Every day, it’s the same thing. As I always talk about, let’s go 1-0 today. That’s my biggest thing: stick to the here and now. Never once did I doubt my leadership or what I do. I always said, be true to you. That’s what I tell the players and I’ve always done that. I’ve never turned on those guys in there. I was always true to me, I was always positive. Pumping them up, never got crazy negative. Had my conversations, but stayed with them. Like I said, we’re here today having fun and playing really well.
Do you feel like that mindset allows you to walk away pleased with how you conducted yourself no matter the outcome?
Yeah, 100 percent. This game, and every day, you learn more and more about the guys you have and what they can do. I don’t really worry about what they can’t do. I’ve always said that. When we teach, we take what they can do the best and make them the best they can possibly be in that and you typically see the negatives ease their way out and just let them play. It’s been true to that. We’re looking at guys playing the way they’re capable of playing and not really focused on the negative stuff.
Anthony Rendon just hit the 100 RBI total. He is in the final year of his contract. Have you started a GoFundMe for his next contract?
[Laughs] As I often tell him, he’s a true professional. Things will take care of itself. For me, I want you back, obviously. No doubt about it. Keep playing the way you’re playing. Things will take care of themselves.
Feels like the dugout dancing and ‘Baby Shark’ fun is the kind of fun and relaxation you were trying to instill when you arrived, but has organically developed this year. What have you made of all this?
When the whole dance thing started, I thought it was fine. They stuck with it. Bringing in [Gerardo] Parra, I knew [he] was a veteran guy. A good clubhouse guy. He brings a lot of fun. A lot of energy. But yet, he’s a professional -- plays the game the right way, plays hard -- that he’d be good for some of our younger Latin players, as well. And he’s been all that. Like I said, he brings that fun. When it comes to the dancing stuff, honestly, I try not to watch [laughs]. Because I don’t want to answer questions about who has the best dance moves or anything like that. Honestly, right now I can’t say.
You’ve been insistent that celebrations happen in the dugout. Do you feel this is still in a good place?
Yeah, it’s about us. A couple of times early in the season, they tried to do it out in front of the dugout. I would not allow that. For me, I don’t approve of that. If you want to do something, we’re in the dugout, we’re not trying to show anybody up. And we’re just trying to stay loose and have fun, and that’s what they’re doing. That stuff I don’t mind.
It’s almost September. If you were told in May you would be in a good spot now, you would have said what?
I would have said, at this point in time I would like to be eight or nine games up. But, we’re fighting. We’re staying in the fight. That’s what I ask these guys to do, stay in the fight every day. And the boys are doing that. Everybody keeps asking me...these guys are resilient. I say, yeah, they’re relentless. They don’t quit. They got to play until that last out. It’s a lot of fun. They believe they can make it happen and we’re all on board.
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