At this point, two weeks into November, nobody would dare suggest Davey Martinez didn’t play a major role in leading the Nationals to their first World Series title and didn’t deserve to be honored for it.
But all ballots for National League Manager of the Year were submitted before the start of the postseason, and on the final day of September, Martinez’s work hadn’t yet been fully appreciated. Which explains why the Nats skipper finished a distant fifth in voting that was revealed tonight.
Mike Shildt wound up winning this year’s Manager of the Year Award, recognized for leading the Cardinals to a 91-win season that was good enough for the NL Central title. Craig Counsell finished second, even though the Brewers skipper actually received more first-place votes (13) than Shildt (10). Shildt accumulated more total points (95 to 88), with 14 second-place votes and three third-place votes to Counsell’s six second-place votes and five third-place votes.
Braves manager Brian Snitker finished third overall with 45 points (three first-place selections) and Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts finished fourth with 25 points and four first-place selections in voting by 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (two from each NL city).
Martinez received three second-place votes and six third-place votes for a total of 15 points. The 55-year-old, of course, got the last laugh as manager of the World Series champs. And he received his due credit over the course of an October that saw the Nationals go 12-5 and win five elimination games, coming from behind in each of those do-or-die games.
When the Nats opened the season a disappointing 19-31, Martinez maintained his positive outlook on the club, encouraging his players not to look at the big picture but rather to focus simply on “going 1-0 every day.” He also urged them to “stay in the fight,” a statement that turned into the team’s motto through the finish line and was underscored by its uncanny ability to erase late-game deficits and outplay the opposition from the seventh inning on.
Despite external pressure to make a change when things hit their low point in May, the Nationals front office stood by Martinez, believing the first-time manager they hired in November 2017 remained the correct choice to lead the roster.
“It’s just something about him,” managing principal owner Mark Lerner said after Game 7 of the World Series. “I personally felt very comfortable. I think the whole family felt comfortable that he was the right guy. I’m very happy for him. He worked his butt off, and how he stayed patient through all the tough days to bring this team back, I don’t know how he did it. I give him a lot of credit.”
Martinez now enters the third and final guaranteed year of his original contract. The club holds an option on him for the 2021 season. Assuming he stays in his job at least 87 games through the 2020 season, he’ll have managed the most games in Nationals history, surpassing Manny Acta’s modest mark of 410 games from 2007-09.