The Washington Nationals have won the World Series by being a fairly classic team. Older and more traditional than most teams in baseball, grinding out win and beating out low odds. There’s even a rally-animal too.
This felt like an old-school World Series, which is why the manager continues to be of interest to me. He’s had a fascinating career in baseball.
Davey Martinez debuted with the Cubs, where he won his first ring as bench coach. He had also played for the Expos, a franchise he has just guided to its first World Series appearance and win. He was a member of the inaugural Devil Rays for three seasons before serving as bench coach from 2008-2014.
Having served under Joe Maddon for multiple World Series appearances over a decade of working together, you’d expect his first team managed to have an advanced, analytic bent, but that’s not the case, at least in terms of perception.
Here’s Ken Rosenthal, the morning after the Nationals win:
The Nationals, for those who have yet to notice, follow their own muse. At a time when the game is skewing younger, they fielded the oldest team in the majors. At a time when analytics reign, they continue to place an emphasis on scouting. At a time when they could have fired their manager, back on May 23 when their record was 19-31, they kept pressing forward.
This is an oversimplification, but to call it one is not a slight. Rosenthal is perceptive and is picking up a key detail here that could have been easy to miss: Dave Martinez should not be here. This was nearly not his moment, in more ways than one. Yes, his resume does not align 1:1 to the Nationals, their scouting emphasis has a ton of cooks in the kitchen that likely overrule many forward thinking ideas. After a meh 2018 and a slow start to 2019 he could have been fired, but also importantly... his health could have prevented this moment as well.
Martinez, 55, was maybe a week away from getting replaced by say, Buck Showalter, but general manager Mike Rizzo refrained from making such a call. The players, including Scherzer, cherished Martinez’s low-key, “go 1-0 today” simplicity. And when Martinez fought for them in Game 6, earning himself an ejection after the controversial interference call on Trea Turner, right fielder Adam Eaton said, “we were just fired up beyond belief.”
Lemme drop this photo in for context!
During the tumult, a fan behind the dugout screamed, “Davey, your heart, remember your heart!”, aware that Martinez was under instructions to remain calm after undergoing a cardiac catheterization on Sept. 16.
Rosenthal’s afterglow article was all about injuries and health — Scherzer’s, Suzuki’s, and even Martinez’s. This was a detail I’d missed in all the post-season coverage.
Martinez acknowledged he was short of breath when he returned to his office. It’s not out of the question he will require a second procedure, this time including the insertion of a stent, now that the season is over. But as the champagne flowed in the Nationals’ clubhouse after Game 7, he told his players, “You guys cured my heart!”
This very easily could have not been Dave Martinez’s moment; I’m glad it was.