WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Davey Martinez walked into his first press conference of the spring, sat down in front of a microphone and addressed the room full of reporters.
“I have to say, I’m tired,” he sighed.
Tired? At 12:30 p.m.? On Day One of spring training?
“Well, I’ve been here since 5:30,” he said. “I get up every day at 5. Can’t slow the brain down. I’ve got a lot to think about, you know. Pretty good team.”
Yes, it is. And rarely has any first-time manager ever been handed the keys to an expensive car like this.
This may have been the official first day of pitchers and catchers workouts outside The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, but unofficially there has been plenty going on here for a week or two. Martinez has presided over it all, getting to know the 61 players who are in big league camp, plus coaches, trainers, club executives and everyone else who plays a role in these proceedings.
On one hand, this is an entirely new experience for the 53-year-old former outfielder and bench coach. On the other hand, there has been a comforting familiarity to it all for this baseball lifer who has had plenty of time to prepare for this moment.
Martinez was asked what has surprised him the most about the job since he was hired 3 1/2 months ago.
“Absolutely nothing,” he insisted. “Really. The biggest thing is I have all this energy when I wake up, and my brain just constantly goes. You’re thinking about Max Scherzer and (Stephen) Strasburg and Gio (Gonzalez) and (Tanner) Roark and (Bryce) Harper and (Anthony) Rendon, those guys in your lineup. And you go: ‘Wow!’ I’m just get excited to go to the ballpark and watch these guys perform every day.”
Many had been wondering what a Davey Martinez-managed camp would be like. Would he take all his cues from Joe Maddon, the manager he worked under the last 10 years? Would he put his own personal stamp on it?
Here’s what we’ve gleaned so far: Martinez sets the tone from the get-go with his morning “Circle of Trust” meeting on the agility field just outside the clubhouse. He wants players to be loose and enjoy themselves and allows music to be played (chosen each day by a different member of the team) during the workout. And he wants everyone to get their work done in an efficient manner and then get out of there.
This morning’s session began at 9:30 a.m. Some pitchers already were walking back into the clubhouse by 10:45 a.m. Everyone had wrapped up by 11 a.m.
This was by design, and it will continue.
“Yes, absolutely,” Martinez said. “It’s quality, not quantity. What people don’t see is that they’re in the gym at 7:30 in the morning. A lot of these guys condition early. They’re coming in and getting their treatment with the trainer and doing all kinds of stuff before they even get on the field. So we just want to get their work in, good quality work, quick, get them out and let them enjoy their day.”
Players, especially veterans, appreciate the vibe the new manager is setting. But even those that have known Martinez for a while remain curious how he’ll deal with all the various situations that arise over time.
“He’s a pretty laid back guy,” said catcher Miguel Montero, who played for Martinez the last three seasons in Chicago. “I’ll be interested to see, because remember, I had him as a coach. When they’re a coach, they’re one thing. And when they’re a manager, they’re a little different. They’re the boss now, so they’ve got to change things around for them to be successful as well. From my experience, he’s a great guy. ... We’ve just got to go out there and win a championship so everything looks nice.”
Ah, yes, the real task at hand around here. The Nationals won 95 games and a division title in 2016. Then they won 97 games and another division title in 2017. Yet they made a managerial and coaching staff change because they don’t believe that was good enough.
The pressure on Martinez and his players is real. All of them will be evaluated not on what they do from February through September but what they do in October.
And the new skipper isn’t afraid to ignore the elephant in the room.
“I’ve said this before: We’re here to play the last game of the World Series and win,” he said. “That’s going to be the message we send. And they get it.”