DENVER - As we saw one year ago, Mike Rizzo doesn’t necessarily have the final say on this, but the Nationals general manager did reiterate today before the finale of his team’s disappointing season he expects Davey Martinez and his entire coaching staff to return in 2019.
“Nothing’s changed,” Rizzo said about an hour before the Nats faced the playoff-bound Rockies in Game 162. “We haven’t considered anything else.”
Rizzo had already expressed a similar sentiment about Martinez last month after the club traded away several veterans in a concession it wouldn’t be making the playoffs after winning back-to-back division titles under Dusty Baker.
Baker, of course, was fired one week after the Nationals’ Game 5 loss to the Cubs in the National League Division Series, despite several public pronouncements from Rizzo prior to that saying they expected to work out a new contract with the popular manager. In the end, according to sources, ownership overruled the GM and made the decision to fire Baker and search for the club’s seventh manager in 14 seasons in D.C.
Martinez, the former Cubs bench coach, endured plenty of trials and tribulations during his first season as a major league manager. The Nationals enter today’s finale with an 82-79 record, eight games behind the Braves in the National League East. They dealt with injuries to every aspect of their roster, but they also dealt with poor fundamental play in several areas and went 18-24 in one-run games, 4-10 in extra-inning games.
Those kind of struggles often fall on the manager and his staff, but Rizzo points to the Nationals’ performance down the stretch this season - they’ve gone 20-16 since trading Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams on Aug. 21 - as evidence of Martinez’s positive influence on the roster.
“We think he’s got a firm grasp on the clubhouse, and he’s doing a good job in the dugout,” Rizzo said. “We think he’s getting better each and every day, each and every game. I really like the way the team has responded to him, and I think they’re playing extremely hard for him.”
Martinez, who plans to take a few days off before returning to Washington and beginning offseason preparations, has repeatedly praised his players for their effort during the second half of a disappointing year.
“We had some trying times, but we made it through,” he said. “The last two months have been incredible. They played really hard all year. I’ve said it before: They could have gave up a while ago, and they didn’t. And I’m really proud of them.”
Martinez, who received a three-year contract upon his hiring, was working with a coaching staff that included only one holdover from Baker’s tenure: third base coach Bob Henley. All have expiring contracts, leading to speculation there could be changes, but both Rizzo and Martinez suggested that won’t happen.
“Yes, I want them all back,” Martinez said. “They worked their butts off all year long, and they’re really good. And they’ve been very positive. They’re a big part of keeping this aloft, they really are.”
“I think they’ve grown a good cohesion in what they’ve tried to do,” Rizzo said. “I like the work ethic. It’s really second-to-none of any coaching staff I’ve been around. I like the communication skills, and I like the trust factor between the players and the individual coaches.”