WASHINGTON (AP) — Rookie Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez certainly knows his audience.
Whether his words were intended for the man seated to his left in the Nationals Park home clubhouse, general manager Mike Rizzo, or the ownership group watching intently from the front row or any fans who might have been watching the live telecast of Thursday’s introductory news conference — or all of the above — Martinez kept sounding the same note.
“This team doesn’t lack much. It really doesn’t. I think we’ve just got to get over the fact that we’re not here just to win a playoff game,” Martinez said. “We’re here to win the World Series.”
That came shortly after he made a pair of other references to earning a title, and a little before he declared, “The ultimate goal is to win that championship, to bring a world title to the city of Washington and the fans who deserve it.”
Heady stuff for a franchise that has collected four NL East crowns in the past six years but never won a single postseason series despite such talented players as Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon — not to mention for a man who never has been a manager.
Rizzo used the term “co-manager” when describing Martinez’s work over the past decade as a bench coach for Joe Maddon, most recently with the Chicago Cubs and before that with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“The only thing ‘first time’ about Davey (is that) he’s never had the title ‘manager,'” Rizzo said. “He’s been managing games … standing next to one of the best and brightest guys in any dugout. I don’t see this as your typical rookie manager who hasn’t managed before. He’s never had the title of manager but he’s really done most of the job that a manager has to do. He’s very prepared for it and I think it’s going to be a comfortable transition for him.”
Martinez replaces Dusty Baker, who was dismissed after two division titles and two one-run Game 5 losses at home in two years as Washington’s skipper.
Asked to describe the trait that suits him best for his new duties, Martinez said: “The one thing I can tell you is that I have a lot of high energy, positive energy. I’m not a guy that’s going to sit in the manager’s office. I’m very hands-on. I love talking to players, I love conversations with players. It’s my strong suit. I (will) collaborate a lot with front office, Mike, ownership to get it right.”
He was in the running when the Nationals wound up hiring Matt Williams — another rookie manager — after the 2013 season.
But Rizzo said Martinez, who got a three-year contract with an option for a fourth, was a different sort of candidate this time.
“Four years ago,” Rizzo said, “a lot of it was about the process of ‘Joe and myself, Joe and myself.’ And this was about how he does things and how he’s going to do it and how he would do it moving forward.”
Rizzo lauded the 53-year-old Martinez, who answered a question in Spanish during Thursday’s session with reporters, for being a combination of an “old school” guy who played in the majors for 16 seasons and a “new school” type well versed in the sort of analytical statistics used to great effect by teams such as the Cubs and Rays.
Martinez is Washington’s sixth manager in the past decade.
So when Rizzo, whose own contract ends after next season, was asked about the hiring process that led to Martinez, a joke was in order.
“Well, we’re good at it. We know what we’re doing,” Rizzo said. “We’ve had a lot of practice at it.”
Note: Rizzo said the Nationals are “optimistic” that 2B Daniel Murphy will be “ready for Opening Day” after having right knee surgery last month. Murphy’s operation came about a week after the Nationals were eliminated by the Cubs in an NL Division Series.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.