WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - That Davey Martinez was even present for the opening of spring training Thursday was significant from a Nationals historical perspective. By merely setting foot on the practice fields outside FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Martinez became only the second manager in club history to lead his third spring camp.
Dusty Baker didn’t do it. Neither did Davey Johnson, Jim Riggleman or Matt Williams. Frank Robinson technically managed the franchise for five springs, but only the final two came after the relocation from Montreal.
Only Manny Acta, hired prior to the 2007 season and fired midway through the 2009 season, managed three spring trainings with the Nationals until now.
Martinez, obviously, deserves this opportunity, given what he and his team accomplished last fall. The pressing question at the moment is whether he’ll have the opportunity to return to manage a fourth spring, or even more beyond that.
For now, Martinez is under contract only through the 2020 season. There is a $1.2 million club option for 2021 included in his deal, which the front office could elect to pick up any time it pleases. Beyond that, nothing is established.
So as he sat down for his first press conference of this spring Thursday, Martinez was asked about his job status. He replied just as any manager (or player, for that matter) typically answers entering a contract year.
“What I think about is just coming out here every day and doing my job,” he said. “That’s something I think the Lerner family will talk about. My job is to come here and get our players ready to play every day, and that’s all I’ve focused on. I’ve never worried about any of my contracts as a player, as a coach. I just come out here and try to do my job as best I can.”
Not that Martinez isn’t hoping to remain in his current position for a long time.
“I’ve had an unbelievable experience in D.C.,” the 55-year-old said. “Would I like to be here? Yeah, definitely. This organization’s definitely headed in the right direction. I see us competing for many, many championships in the years to come. I would love to stay here for more years than this year, but we’ll see how that plays out.”
Martinez’s stock certainly has risen over the last six months. After a disappointing 82-80 debut season and then the infamous 19-31 start last year, he appeared to be destined to join that long list of Nationals managers who didn’t survive beyond two seasons in the dugout. But the team’s resurrection to reach the postseason and subsequent magical run to its first World Series title changed the entire narrative surrounding Martinez.
He’s no longer the too-upbeat skipper who can’t handle a bullpen. He’s a master motivator and shrewd tactician who will do whatever it takes to win in October. Other managers and coaches throughout the sports world are suddenly using his “Go 1-0 Every Day” mantra to lead their own teams to success.
“Davey pressed all the right buttons at the right times,” ace Max Scherzer said. “All the pitching changes, all the lineups, look back on that. Davey made the right call. Everything worked out the way it was supposed to.”
Now he must find the right buttons to push in order to keep his players motivated to seek another title without resting too much on their laurels from last fall.
“When you actually win something and you become champion of something, there’s a carryover,” said Martinez, who won the World Series as the Cubs’ bench coach in 2016. “And with these guys here, I truly believe the fact they’ve done it now and they got a taste ... the taste is still fresh in their mouths. They’re fired up. They’re anxious.
“For me, my worry is not to let them get too far ahead of themselves. Let’s just focus on the here and now. We talked about that a little bit today: Take care of today. We’re not going to go out and bang our hands and try to win 162 games. Let’s just focus on today and get ready for the season.”
How do you do that? By not thinking about the big picture and the ultimate goal.
“I have had a lot of questions about, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat,” Martinez said. “For me, it’s not about repeating. It’s about competing. ... What I want them to do is repeat the process. Know what we did well, and let’s continue to build off of that every day. And that’s something we talked about already today, and I think they understand the message.
“Don’t worry about repeating. Let’s just come out and repeat the process.”