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Does Davey Martinez's snub highlight problems with Manager of the Year award?

Does Davey Martinez's snub highlight problems with Manager of the Year award?

Regardless of who ends up winning the National League Manager of the Year award -- the finalists are Craig Counsell, Mike Shildt, and Brian Snitker -- Nationals fans will make the case their fearless leader was snubbed.

Davey Martinez enjoyed an impressive season at the helm of the Nats, obviously culminating with the franchise’s first-ever World Series. Even prior to their charmed postseason run, however, Martinez had a strong case to be considered one of the favorites for that award. 

We even noted in our awards predictions after the season that “you can't take into consideration his performance in October, but simply getting the Nationals to the postseason is a job very well done.”

Counsell likely earned consideration for guiding the Brewers to the postseason after losing MVP-candidate Christian Yelich. Snitker helped the Braves cruise to an NL East division title despite modest preseason expectations, and Shildt oversaw a dominant second-half performance from his Cardinals team.

The problem is the lack of clarity surrounding the Manager of the Year award, both in terms of what qualities should define a winner and in how much of an impact each manager can realistically have.

This problem was highlighted by Todd Dybas in the latest episode of the Nationals Talk Podcast.

“Yeah its stupid. That’s the number one reason I’m not a fan, it shouldn’t exist,” Dybas began. “There’s no way to come to a way quantifiable solution or conclusion. There's just no way to determine this. It’s silly, no manager is going to be a good manager if you give them the Baltimore Orioles roster. So, the end.”

It wasn’t the end for Dybas, who continued on to explain the differences between Manager of the Year and other awards, like Most Valuable Player.

“I mean it’s just silly, you know? And I feel distinctly different about MVP,” he continued. “Once, a few years back when it was Joey Votto or Giancarlo Stanton and the Reds weren’t very good, I still voted for Votto because I felt like what he did had the highest value. I didn’t care that the Reds weren’t very good. He can’t control that the pitching staff stinks, so I wasn’t going to penalize him for that. In this case, the manager is the manager, he doesn’t pay or not pay the roster. If you’re tanking, does it mean the manager is bad? Not necessarily. If you have a $280 million payroll and you win the World Series, does it mean the manager is the best manager in the league? Not necessarily. So to me it’s just silly. I don’t know why it still exists. Hopefully it goes away at some point soon.”

Dybas did receive some pushback from his co-hosts. Tim Shovers’ rebuttal was simple: “These awards are fun and fans like it.”

Nationals fans would probably enjoy them more if they got to see their team take home more hardware, though of course the World Series victory is far more meaningful than any award would be.

The final example given from Dybas was perhaps the most compelling case against the award.

“Matt Williams was manager of the year and then got fired,” he said succinctly. “So that to me tells you everything you need to know about this award and its actual validity. “

You can hear the full episode of the Nationals Talk Podcast below.

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Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

The Nationals took a significant step in building their roster for the 2020 season Friday when they reportedly re-signed Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021.

Kendrick was limited to just 121 games during the regular season but played an important role for the team in the playoffs with some hits that will forever live in Nationals lore.

But Kendrick wasn’t just a clutch hitter in the playoffs. His 1.135 OPS in “late and close” situations—defined by Baseball-Reference as any situation in the seventh inning or later where a hitter’s team is either up by one, tied or the tying run is on deck—ranked second on the team among players with at least 30 such plate appearances last season.

Washington is bringing back the 36-year-old with hopes that he can continue to come through in key moments as his career winds down. But even if he doesn’t, Kendrick has cemented his Nationals legacy.

Here are six of his best moments from the 2019 season.

April 13 – Eaton, Kendrick spoil Archer’s big day

Chris Archer has had an up-and-down tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired in a blockbuster trade midway through the 2018 season. His best start of the year, however, came against the Nationals on April 13.

Archer held Washington one run on four hits over seven innings, handing the game over to the Pirates’ bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Reliever Richard Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Adam Eaton came to the plate.

That’s when the pendulum swung, as Eaton left the yard only for Kendrick to do so a few minutes later. Sean Doolittle closed the door in the top of the ninth and the Nationals moved to 7-6 on the year.

May 9 – Kendrick drives in four against the Dodgers

Patrick Corbin may have been the story in this one by blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers over seven strong frames, but it was also one of Kendrick’s best games of the year.

His big hit didn’t come late, however. Kendrick took Rich Hill deep for a three-run homer in the top of the first to set the tone early. He then hit an RBI single with two runners on in the eighth before the Nationals eventually won 6-0.

June 9 – Kendrick hits the first of four straight homers

It was a 1-1 game when Kendrick came to the plate in the top of the eighth against the San Diego Padres on June 9. So naturally he saw a curveball heading for the center of the plate and pulled it into the left field seats for a go-ahead home run.

What followed was absolute madness. Trea Tuner homered. Then Eaton did. Then Anthony Rendon. It was the second time the Nationals went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in team history and more than enough to give Washington the win.

NLDS Game 5 – The greatest moment in Nationals history, for a few weeks

“Do you believe it!?”

That was the radio call Dave Jageler made when Kendrick hit a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning. It was the moment that delivered the Nationals’ first postseason series winning, putting to bed a history of disappointment for the franchise.

It was the single-most important hit any Nationals player ever had. That is, until a certain World Series game a few weeks later…

NLCS Game 3 – Kendrick hits three doubles en route to NLCS MVP honors

There was no way a list like this could be put together without a nod toward Kendrick’s NLCS performance. He reached base seven times in the series, driving in four runs and scoring another four of his own. But by far his best game came in Game 3.

The Nationals returned to D.C. with a 2-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and treated their fans to a blowout 8-1 win. Kendrick smacked three doubles, including a two-run, opposite-field gap plugger off Jack Flaherty in the bottom of the third that gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

World Series Game 7 – You know the one

When that ball clanked off the foul pole down the right field line, it changed the lives of D.C. sports fans forever. The magical run had one last bit of magic left, and of course it came courtesy of the man who gave the fan base real hope in the first place.

Kendrick is back for another run in 2020. The Nationals? They’re hoping his magic hasn’t run out just yet.

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Scott Boras doesn’t buy Mark Lerner can’t afford both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon

Scott Boras doesn’t buy Mark Lerner can’t afford both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon

The Nationals have a long and well-documented history of working out deals with agent Scott Boras. Max Scherzer, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Matt Wieters are just a few of his clients who’ve signed with Washington in the past.

But that longstanding relationship may be tested this offseason, with Boras’ prized free agents Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon both on the open market. Principal owner Mark Lerner sat down with NBC Sports Washington on Thursday, admitting that the team doesn’t expect to retain both its former stars.

“We really can only afford to have one of those two guys,” Lerner said. “They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

Boras spoke with The Athletic shortly thereafter and didn’t agree with the notion that Washington was strapped financially.

“The Nationals are experiencing a revenue festival in 2020,” Boras texted Ken Rosenthal on Friday morning. “World Series momentum has blossomed, millions in DC.

“The franchise value has increased by nearly $2 billion since their purchase. The Nationals made an extra $30 million winning the World Series. Attendance will increase by more than four to five hundred thousand. TV ratings and advertising rates all skyrocketed.

“Everyone in DC knows special cherry trees create revenue bloom.”

Rosenthal noted that Boras may have overstated the value of the Nationals’ franchise, as Forbes pegged it at $1.75 billion entering the season. The Lerner family purchased the team from Major League Baseball in 2006 for $450 million.

Nationals President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo spoke with reporters at the premiere of the World Series documentary on Monday, saying both free agents “know where our heart lies.” Rizzo added that while team officials haven’t sat down with either of them so far this winter, “we’ve been meeting for about 10 years.”

Whether Lerner was just using a negotiating tactic to drive the prices down or speaking bluntly on the team’s budget remains to be seen, but the prospects of either player returning to D.C. won’t be nil until they’ve both inked new deals.

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