The Washington Nationals gambled on rookie manager Dave Martinez bringing them to the World Series. Not this year, folks.
When the season ends for the Washington Nationals, they will find their biggest mistake was hiring Dave Martinez to manage.
Although it sounds harsh, Martinez was not the right pick to get the Nats to the next level. Yes, injuries plagued him from the start. Daniel Murphy took months to return after expecting to debut around Opening Day. Adam Eaton went months feeling the aftereffects of his torn ACL from 2017.
On the mound, they sorely missed Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle. Washington’s vaunted rotation brought down to Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and three days of monsoons. After trading for Kelvin Herrera that reliever joined the injury parade and the Nats bullpen implodes regularly.
Still, despite everything, Martinez is the wrong man for the job.
No, this is not another article bemoaning Dusty Baker’s departure. His bungling of the NL Divisional Series against the Chicago Cubs cost Washington a pennant shot. When the Los Angeles Dodgers dismantled the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, the decision to dismiss Baker became easy.
But, replacing Baker with a rookie manager was equally silly and yet another unforced error made by ownership.
Washington came into the season expected to roll to a third consecutive National League East crown and make a serious run at a championship. As August turns into September, the Nats float around .500 and in seventh place in the Wild Card hunt. They can still win the division, but time is tight.
As with any rookie manager, Martinez makes his share of mistakes. Early this season, he would warm relievers multiple times without using them in games. His lineup construction baffled fans. He is better at those tasks now, but never implemented the small-ball game they installed this spring.
Also, the team came out of Florida like they were going through the motions. Outside a flurry in May, Washington still plays with the urgency of a teenager stuck on a family vacation. They might remember where they went in time, but most of the week was rolling eyes, snapping gum and texting on the phone.
For Washington, they have reached the last quarter of the season and find themselves in a huge hole with no plan to dig out. What was a clubhouse where the only dirty laundry aired was the actual sweaty jerseys is now a finger pointing exercise in who undercut the team.
Again, Washington’s failures are organization wide. Ownership refuses to learn how to build a winning franchise. General Manager Mike Rizzo traded away needed parts to maintain the clubhouse. Bryce Harper is hot again, but still cannot hit above .250.
The Washington Nationals brought in Dave Martinez to be everyone’s buddy. As with a parent and toddler, Mom and Dad cannot be the best friend. Martinez did not have the Nats ready from the start and waited too long to correct the problem. When expectations are sky high, you have to run through walls.
Not this year.