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Q&A with Nationals manager Martinez

December 22, 2017

As manager of the Nationals, Dave Martinez is hoping to do something three previous managers couldn't do -- help the Nationals advance past the National League Division Series. The team has been in the postseason four of the last six years, losing to the Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs, respectively.

As manager of the Nationals, Dave Martinez is hoping to do something three previous managers couldn't do -- help the Nationals advance past the National League Division Series. The team has been in the postseason four of the last six years, losing to the Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs, respectively.
The Nationals are counting on Martinez, a long-time bench coach with the Rays and Cubs, to get the club over the hump, and eventually to World Series. As general manager Mike Rizzo put it, "Dave fills a lot of things in what we were looking to have in our new manager. He communicates well. He is an old-school baseball guy with years under his belt [as a player and coach]. He really embraces the analytical aspect of baseball. The guy has handled superstar players and the 25th man on the roster with the same respect and admiration. He is going to bring an energy and exuberance to the position that's going to make a difference." caught up with Martinez recently. He talked about his plans for the Nationals and his relationship with Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
The Martinez interview also can be heard on the Newsmakers podcast. You were with Joe Maddon for over a decade. What is the biggest thing you learned from him?
Dave Martinez: I really learned to process information, prepare and collaborate with coaches, front office and players. Use this information the best we can. Joe was really good at it. He is very patient. He always sticks to the process. I've always said, "If I get an opportunity to manage, I want to remember those things." Maddon was a guy that saw you as a manager. What did he see in you?
Martinez: I think it was my passion for the game, my willingness to learn every day. I come to the ballpark saying, "I need to learn something today and prepare myself." I don't know everything. The first thing I will tell my coaches is, "I want you to tell me what I don't know. Don't tell me what I know." Constructive criticism is good and I want it. I know you and Maddon will be opposing managers in 2018. What will you miss about him?

Martinez: Communication. We communicated really well. How much did you love being around him?
Martinez: Oh, gosh. He is a motivator. He has a lot of positive energy -- just a great baseball mind and a great person. Has it hit you that you are the manager of the Nationals?
Martinez: It hit me kind of early during the first press conference. After I got up [that morning], I was like, 'Wow, this is really happening.' For me, it was half my dream to manage. The other half is to take the team and win the World Series. Three Nationals managers have gone to the playoffs and were eliminated in the NLDS. What makes you think the Nationals can go past the first round in 2018?
Martinez: It's all about the players and getting them to compete at the highest level every day. The big picture is to get to the World Series, but to focus on the here and now-- winning the first game (of the season) and go from there. What do you like about the Nationals?
Martinez: What's not to like? I have a bunch of competitors. They love playing the game. They are passionate about the game. They want to win. They are very versatile. We have speed, power, guys that can get on base. We have power pitchers. We have a good bullpen. All around, we are pretty good. I know you haven't managed the team yet. But what improvements would you like to see from the team?
Martinez: For me, it's just working together as a team and doing the little things. What I mean by that is, there are three constants in the game: you have to pitch and throw strikes, you have to play defense. Defense wins ball games. And we have to run the bases every day. If you do those three things everyday -- hitting comes and goes -- you will compete every day. Baseball has changed so much. What is your style of play?
Martinez: I consider myself a hybrid. I love information. Give me all the information, but I also understand the human factor as well. So I'm going to use all the information and put it together with players; know how much to give each player, know who wants a lot of information and who really doesn't want that information. How much has analytics helped the Cubs and the Rays?
Martinez: It has helped tremendously. The thing about it is to be able to process it and pass it on to coaches and players. Pass it on the right way. Too much information sometimes can hurt a player as well. We have to be smart about what we are giving them. How do you give that information the right way?
Martinez: It all depends on the personalities. You break it down so that they understand. I love information, but don't give me something and just say, "Here it is." Explain it to me because I have to explain it to the coaches and they have to turn around and explain it to the players. So I need to understand what exactly I'm giving them and take it to them in a way they understand. How much do you look forward to working with Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman?
Martinez: Those guys have had unbelievable careers with many more years to come. I'm looking forward to watching them play every day. I talked to Zim. What a great person, great human being. Bryce is full of energy. He is a very exciting player. I'm looking forward to working with them every day. Do you think the players know what you did as a player?
Martinez: Good question. I played for three decades. I consider myself a grinder. I loved to play. I played all three outfield positions. I played first base late in my career. I just love the game. Rizzo said, "I remember when you played. You could tell you really loved the game." I hope the players understand that I'm very passionate about the game. You have been in this game for more than 30 years. What made you want to become a manager?
Martinez: My passion for the game. Also, teaching players and giving back what I know. I did everything in the game, from an everyday player to a bench player. I hit everywhere in the lineup. I studied the game. I had unbelievable mangers that I learned from. Once I got into coaching, I said, I really love this. I love teaching. I love being around the players. Who are your mentors?
Martinez: Bobby Cox, Joe Maddon, Don Zimmer, Gene Michael, who was always positive. He made sure I was OK. I remember those things. You interviewed for the Nationals job before the 2014 season and you finished second behind Matt Williams. What did you do differently during the interview process this time around?
Martinez: I really feel I am much more confident. Back then, I felt I was ready, but this time I talked to Rizzo with a lot more confidence and a lot more understanding on what it takes to be a manager. What can you say to Nationals fans? Is this the year they go to the World Series?
Martinez: One thing that sticks out to me is Game 5 (of the 2017 NLDS). I want 50,000 fans with all red to be as loud as they can possibly be. They are ready for a winner and I'm hoping 2018 is that year. I know we have the ball club to do it. We just have to stay healthy, go out there and compete.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.