Davey Martinez’s voice stalled when he thought about it. The end for Howie Kendrick and Sean Doolittle? So soon after this woebegone season is over? Without a victory lap, a full year, a chance to run it back and defend?
“I try not to think about it because it is sad,” Martinez said.
He stopped after that. The Zoom call appeared to be frozen, but it was instead Martinez who locked up because of emotions. The official conversation ended. Off-camera, he jokingly asked a reporter why they did that to him.
The video circled back to Doolittle. Martinez’s emotions stirred his own as he realized this section of his playing career and life could well be done.
“I got really emotional when I saw it,” Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “I’ve been really lucky to play for Davey these last three years. I think we’ve all kind of really watched him grow into that role and make it his own. It’s been a privilege to play for him. It really has. I think especially, our relationship has grown over his three years here. I remember last year during the World Series being able to walk into his office after Game 1 and give him the game ball. Just sharing that experience with him was really, really special.”
Their relationship developed after Martinez was hired. They talked often -- Martinez asking Doolittle if he was all right while relentlessly using him out of the bullpen. They even chatted about the status of other relievers. When Doolittle’s performance went awry, Martinez defended him in public, then counseled him in private. This year they held extended conversations in Nationals Park and Citi Field. Doolittle’s struggles even pulled Martinez out of his typical routine so he could be there while fixes were attempted.
“I don’t know how often managers from other clubs do this, but when I was going through it at the time, end of July and beginning of August, he was out watching me throw bullpens,” Doolittle said. “That’s not necessarily his area expertise, but I appreciated the support. He wanted to talk to me right then and there, right after and see how it felt and let me know what he saw. I really appreciated that.”
All of this took place while Martinez was in contractual limbo. He remains there with less than two weeks to play in the season. Players know not all negotiation information is available to them when assessing the status of a manager. They also know when the leader feels right.
“I think we all just hope he gets taken care of for bringing a championship to this city,” Doolittle said. “But also his managerial style. Guys are going to want to play for him. And if you’re looking to build a team and bring guys over in free agency, that’s a selling point. His managerial style, the way he is in the clubhouse, the way he is with the guys in and around the ballpark, that’s absolutely an asset. I hope he gets taken care of. I hope he’s here for a long time. I hope he’s one of the faces of this organization. Because I think he’s earned it. I think after weathering some storms in 2018 and early in 2019, I think he’s shown a lot of leadership.”
The organization holds an option on Martinez’s contract for 2021. Mike Rizzo said Sept. 6 he would prefer to ignore the terms of that deal and instead sign Martinez to a multi-year extension. Everyone is still waiting for that to happen, even while the 2019 champions are being disassembled.