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Astros pick up Dusty Baker’s 2021 option while Davey Martinez waits for Nationals to do the same

Astros pick up Dusty Baker’s 2021 option while Davey Martinez waits for Nationals to do the same

Dusty Baker’s future with the Houston Astros came a bit more into focus Tuesday when the club announced that it was picking up his team option for the 2021 season. The veteran skipper was hired last offseason after owner Jim Crane fired former manager AJ Hinch for his role in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal. Houston has gotten off to a 3-1 start under Baker’s guide.

Meanwhile, the man who replaced Baker at his previous position in Washington still has yet to find out what his job security looks like beyond this season. Davey Martinez was signed by the Nationals to take them to the World Series after the team bowed out in the NLDS twice with Baker at the helm. He did exactly that last year, working around a hodgepodge bullpen to help D.C. claim its first title since 1924.

Yet both Martinez and GM Mike Rizzo, whose contract expires after this season, are lame ducks as the Nationals wade their way through a trying 60-game season in the midst of a pandemic. Washington has stumbled out to a 1-3 start, but that would hardly be a reason for the Lerner family to grow reluctant about handing either of them an extension.

Baker, 71, has managed for five different ballclubs across 23 seasons, racking up 1,866 career wins and appearing in one World Series. If he can pick up 134 more wins over the next two years, he’ll become the 12th manager in MLB history to win at least 2,000 games.

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Nationals' Davey Martinez says MLB 'did the right thing' postponing series with Marlins

Nationals' Davey Martinez says MLB 'did the right thing' postponing series with Marlins

Davey Martinez approves of Major League Baseball’s decision to postpone this weekend’s series with the Miami Marlins.

“First of all, I think MLB did the right thing. It’s all about keeping us safe -- myself, the players, our staff,” Martinez said. “Everybody.”

Next are the questions of what will happen to those games and what the Nationals will do over the weekend with three days off.

Before MLB announced the three-game series between the Nationals and Marlins set to be played in Miami was postponed, the Nationals took a vote about whether to travel to Florida to play. Only one person raised their hand to express willingness to play in Florida. That majority decision was a simple one internally.

“All the decisions made here are basically group decisions,” Martinez said. “We’re very close and we’re very united. I heard rumblings from the players and they had some concerns. I wanted to talk about it. We had a vote. We all decided it was unsafe to go there. Had nothing to do with the Miami Marlins. It’s all about Miami, the state of Florida, this pandemic...they didn’t feel safe. And I was one of them that felt the same way. We took a vote, and they all voted that they thought it best we didn’t go there right now.”

RELATED: DAVEY MARTINEZ'S CONCERN LEVEL RISES FROM 'ABOUT AN 8 TO A 12' AFTER MARLINS' OUTBREAK

Next was a decision from MLB as to whether the Marlins would play anywhere this weekend. They were quarantined in Philadelphia on Monday following a coronavirus outbreak within the team. The Toronto Blue Jays -- who finally settled on Buffalo as their baseball home in 2020 -- are playing two games in Nationals Park this week as the “home” team. That appeared to be an option this weekend for Miami, too.

Instead, the league decided to shut down the Marlins until at least Sunday. There will be no weekend series.

“Given the current circumstances, MLB believes  that it is most prudent to allow the Marlins time to focus on providing care for their players and planning their Baseball Operations for resumption early next week,” the league said in a statement.

The Nationals expect to schedule workouts over the weekend. They will finish the opening week-plus with seven games in Nationals Park. Monday, Aug. 3, is also an off-day, which means the Nationals will not play a game for four consecutive days. They host the New York Mets for two games Aug. 4 and 5. Then, another off-day hits before a three-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles. Washington’s first road trip of the 2020 season is now slated for Aug. 10, when it goes to Citi Field.

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Martinez said he does not know if the games against the Marlins will be made up.

Tuesday’s chaos is in keeping with the theme since baseball resumed July 23. In particular, the Nationals have been caught up in the fluid situations across the league. First, they had to resolve the schedule situation with Toronto. Then came Juan Soto’s last-second removal before the home opener because of a positive coronavirus test. Next was Stephen Strasburg’s scratch from his opening start because of a nerve problem in his hand. The Marlins situation hit to start the week, percolating Sunday, taking hold Monday and running its influence through Tuesday.

“There's obviously a lot of concerns,” Martinez said. “I talk about this: Not only do we have to compete on the field but it's almost like we've got to compete off the field, too. We have to follow all the protocols. I'm constantly on the players to wear masks, washing hands. We're doing all these things to try to stay safe. But it's tough. We're in tough times. We're trying to play through a pandemic. What happened to the Marlins, I don't wish that on anybody. But it happened and it's real. I told the players: Just stay in the moment and focus on the here and now. That's all we can do.”

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Davey Martinez's concern level rises from 'about an 8 to a 12' after Marlins' outbreak

Davey Martinez's concern level rises from 'about an 8 to a 12' after Marlins' outbreak

Davey Martinez watched the red flags pop up Monday in the form of text alerts.

His phone was filled with messages when he opened his eyes. Another day of trying to play baseball in a pandemic had produced yet another crisis. The Miami Marlins were quarantining in place in Philadelphia after an outbreak. What Martinez labeled a team’s “biggest nightmare” had occurred, rocketing his uneasiness about this season from high to off the charts.

“My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12,” Martinez said. “Hits home now that you’ve seen half a team affected and go from one city to the other.”

The Marlins’ problem became an Orioles problem, and a Yankees problem, and a Phillies problem, which makes it a Major League Baseball problem. This is the inherent firestarter tendency of a virus the league is trying to keep stuffed in their pocket despite a schedule which sends teams from place to place. Travel, and spread, was the great fear. It’s been realized three games into the 2020 season.

RELATED: PHILLIES VS. YANKEES POSTPONED AFTER MARLINS' COVID-19 OUTBREAK

“I’ve got friends on that Miami team,” Martinez said. “It really stinks. I’m not going to lie -- I’m not going to sugarcoat it -- to see those guys put out like that. It’s not good for them, it’s not good for anybody. I’ve got guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned as well.

“For me, this is my family and I worry about these guys. I worry about everybody around us. I don’t want anybody to get sick. So, this is definitely a big concern. I can’t say that I’m not thinking about it, because I am. This morning I woke up and had all these text messages and talked to other managers. Definitely a level of concern. With that being said, we’ve got to go out there today and focus on playing the Toronto Blue Jays. Put this behind us and hopefully this gets resolved.”

Martinez, 55, underwent a cardiac catheterization Sept. 23, 2019. The heart problem scared him. Emotional on Monday during his pregame Zoom call with reporters, Martinez used that word again to describe his current state as it relates to his personal health.

“You know what? I’m going to be honest with you,” Martinez said. “I’m scared. I really am. I go from here, home, back here every day. That’s all I do. I wash my hands 47 times a day -- probably 99 times a day. Wear my mask everywhere I go. There’s that concern. Right now, you don’t know because of my heart condition what happens to me if I do get it, so I’ve got to be extra careful. That being said, sometimes I tend to put myself aside and tend to worry about other people more than me. I think that’s why I’m here because I worry about those guys before I put myself first.”

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It’s that sentiment -- him second, team first -- which pushed Martinez’s eyes from clear to glassy by the end of his conversation. He stated his worry about his friends in Miami, then his concern for his local group and even allowed a minute to think about his personal risk.

Two games have been postponed Monday while Major League Baseball grapples with questions about what to do next and when enough is enough. This week’s schedule presents multiple problematic opponents for Washington. The Nationals host Toronto for four games after the Blue Jays spent the weekend in Tampa Bay and in the home state of the fervent virus spread. Two of the coming games were supposed to be in Toronto, but the Blue Jays were restricted from playing in Canada and their temporary home in Buffalo is not ready yet. To close the week, the Nationals are scheduled to go to Miami to play the Marlins. Martinez doesn’t know if that trip is happening and offered his hope the league “makes the right decision.”

Piled together, his final statement was as much a plea as an answer.

“We have to remember that we're all human beings and we're playing through some tough times,” Martinez said. “I just want people to remember that. We have struggles. These guys have families. I have a family. We think about that stuff. With that being said, just remember that we're doing the best we can.”

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