At long last, Nats choose continuity in manager's office

For a decade and a half, the Nationals tried in vain to establish continuity in their manager's office. But every two or three years, they found themselves searching for a new leader, vacillating between those with significant experience (Frank Robinson, Jim Riggleman, Davey Johnson, Dusty Baker) and those who were trying to make a name for themselves (Manny Acta, Matt Williams, Davey Martinez).

In Martinez, they finally found the man they believe deserves to be here for the long haul. And today, they announced the 56-year-old World Series champion as the recipient of the first contract extension they've ever given out since arriving in D.C.

Thumbnail image for Rizzo-Chats-With-Martinez-at-Cage-Sidebar.jpg"Three years ago when we selected Davey to be our manager, he made a promise to our fans that he would bring a world championship back to Washington, D.C.," managing principal owner Mark Lerner said in the statement the club released to announce the extension. "There was never any doubt in my mind that he would make that dream a reality. Davey's determination and unwavering support of his players is admirable. We are so fortunate to have him leading our clubhouse each and every day."

The Nationals did not release any terms of Martinez's new deal, breaking with tradition. Their Oct. 30, 2017, announcement of his initial hiring publicly stated he had been given a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year. Pressed today during a joint Zoom session with reporters to explain why they aren't revealing any details of this extension, general manager Mike Rizzo flatly said neither he nor Martinez wants anyone to know.

"I think that it's only fair when people don't want certain information out there, that we don't give it," said Rizzo, who earlier this month agreed to his own contract extension, which a source familiar with the terms said is for three years and expires after the 2023 season.

USA Today reported Friday that Martinez was given a three-year extension worth an average of $2.5 million. No other outlet has confirmed those terms yet.

Whether the details are public or not, this much everyone understands: Martinez will be back in 2021 and beyond, bringing some desperately needed continuity to a position that has never had it before.

On Sunday, Martinez will become the first Nationals manager to complete three seasons. Next March, he'll become the first to open a fourth season with the club. And one month into the 2021 season, he'll surpass Acta for the most games managed in Nats history with 411.

"It allows us to give a consistent message, to show that you'll know the person that is going to be in your career as a player," Rizzo said. "And I think the partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it's a good match. We couldn't have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times."

Though the defining moment of his time in Washington so far came during the 2019 postseason, Martinez continues to receive praise for the job he did holding together the clubhouse during the disappointing 2018 season and the current campaign as well. Martinez believes that 2018 club, which was expected to contend but finished 82-80, actually played a critical role in laying the foundation for the following year's refuse-to-give-up squad that turned a 19-31 start into a World Series title.

"It was a grind in '18, but I really felt like no matter what the outcome is, these guys were going to play hard until the last day of the season, which they did," he said. "For us to come out 82-80, I thought that was pretty successful. Even though we didn't get anywhere, I thought at the end of that season, with the core guys that we had then coming into 2019, this is going to be something special. We didn't start off the way we wanted to, but I never gave up hope, as you guys know. We kept pushing, we kept grinding. I didn't let these guys quit. And they didn't, and we ended up being champions."

There's a similar vibe in the clubhouse right now as another disappointing season comes to an end. The circumstances of a 60-game schedule amid a pandemic were unprecedented, but the feeling the manager has coming out of it is familiar.

"We had a lot of bumps in the road this year," Martinez said. "But I really, fully believe, we've got the core guys here that we need to win another championship. I know Mike, myself, we're going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we'll be back on the podium. I'm really confident about that."

Though today's news was welcomed by everyone around the organization, it did not come as a surprise. Rizzo had made it clear he wanted to strike a new, long-term deal with Martinez and not simply pick up the $1.2 million option the Nationals could've used to bring him back in 2021.

That, however, would've left the team in an all-too-familiar position a year from now, with a manager on an expiring contract and yet another debate about the merits of re-signing him or starting all over yet again.

This time, the Nationals chose to stick with the guy that brought them their first title. This time, they chose continuity. And now they hope they don't have to go through this again for quite some time.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Rizzo said. "The day after this thing ends, we're going to start on our 2021 prep. ... I said all along that I did not want to just pick up the club option, because I thought that walking into a 2021 season with a manager with a lame-duck situation with one year didn't make a lot of sense to me, strategically and roster-creation wise. I thought it was important to get it done before the season ended, because we have a lot of work to do immediately following the last out of the last game."

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Nationals agree to terms with Dave Martinez
 

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