The Lerner family waited, then waited some more, keeping everyone in limbo.
Mike Rizzo had been through this previously. He knew negotiating a new contract with the organization would occur late and be a battle. The Lerners did not reach their current financial and societal status without good lawyers adept at negotiations.
So, in early September a three-year contract extension for Rizzo arrived. Which pushed the next question: What about Davey Martinez?
Three weeks later, Martinez received a new extension reportedly for three years. The team adamantly chose not to disclose the terms.
Retaining Rizzo and Martinez became one of the Nationals’ biggest storylines in 2020. It will remain so for the next three years.
The pair is forever linked in organization lore. They won the 2019 World Series together. They will also be in charge for what is a relative eternity at an organization that regularly jettisons managers in short order.
Martinez has managed 384 games in Washington. Only Manny Acta (410) and Davey Johnson (407) have managed more. The team has a .523 winning percentage under Martinez. Such a number would lead to dismissal for most managers who worked on South Capitol St., if not all. Martinez remains because he has operated in an inverted funnel. His teams are not very good in the regular season, but he found a way to do what other local managers had not, which was advance in the postseason.
Now he has an adjusted coaching staff and three more years to try to win again.
Rizzo’s new contract adds to his Washington legacy. He began working for a wayward Nationals organization in 2007. It has become one of the winningest franchises in Major League Baseball since 2012. He carries much of the credit for the persistent success.
However, neither is happy with 2020 and both have ample workloads ahead.
The Nationals are in search of a “middle-of-the-order bat” this offseason, according to Rizzo. To this point, they have done very little to fill-in a roster in need of significant help just a year after winning the World Series. Washington has gaps at first base, third base, corner outfield, in the rotation and in the bullpen. Rizzo often dispatches one-year contracts to veterans in order to maintain flexibility. This year, his offseason decisions led to a significant purge and open 40-man roster space. Finding new solutions comes next.
Martinez is focused on carrying 2020 lessons into 2021. He wants to do more individual work. He also wants a good start for the first time in three years.
“2020 was difficult in all aspects,” Martinez said. “We stopped short, we missed three months, we came back, players opted out. We had early injuries. We had guys who had to sit out for 14 days because of COVID. It was difficult.
“I’ve said this before: I’m proud of the guys who participated in 2020. We ended up not being where we wanted to be, but I think having [Stephen] Strasburg, having [Juan] Soto for two weeks, would have definitely helped our situation a lot. We did play better towards the end. I look at that. Not more how we started, but how we finished and what we need to do to continue to play the way we played at the end of the season. With that being said, going into 2021, I can’t predict the future, but we’ve got to prepare that we’re going to play 162 games and pitchers and catchers are going to report Feb. 17 and we’ll be ready to compete.”
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