Winterfest in the Dave Martinez era was unique

State of the Nationals Session:

Mike Rizzo:

“Absolutely no truth” to the rumors about the Nats and J D Martinez.

“We like the team we have.” AllStars_S2 (Andrew L.) and I burst out laughing, turned to each other and said “trade on the way!” (and then Rizzo’s phone rang).

Rizzo/Martinez Winterfest

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Love to keep Harper.

Off-season focus is on getting a team to win the season. Then Rizzo tweaks at the trade deadline to get the team to win the WS is a Rizzo strategy.

Rizzo interviewed Davey for 3-4 hours (and yes, it’s Davey—everyone called him that) “as soon as the position became available” in a restaurant near the Tampa airport, and called the Lerners on the way back and said “we’ve got our guy.”

Rizzo has been talking with Lind, Kendrick, and others. Fan of Matt Albers. Sung the praises of the bench guys who stepped up in the summer: MLB would have called if they’d put that lineup out in Spring Training for lack of major leaguers.

The Nationals have made a presentation to MLB regarding first base, thinks that MLB may do something about the base design. In the meantime, Nats will continue to change out the bases every half inning during bad weather.

Eaton is 100% ready to go (totally out of rehab mode) and can’t wait for ST.

And, for those who go to West Palm Beach for ST: What’s the WPB equivalent of Amici’s (the restaurant we could see Rizz at in Viera)? Answer: Zuccarelli’s Italian Restaurant & Bar. So there you have it.

Davey Martinez:

Trying to meet his players, scope out the DC restaurants.

In response to “how to get the players to hit in October?” answered “try to slow the game down, treat it as game 163.” Also new hitting coach.

Start with spring training, keep everyone healthy, take it one game at a time.

[At this point, he dodged the question about what he saw across the field in Game 5. See below]

Yes, he might bat the pitcher 8th: he will be flexible with the lineup. And yes, he knows Max would want to bat seventh—or fourth!

Valerie Camillo:

Promo schedule out Jan. 8. Only hint: there will be a Star Wars Day.

STH and half-STH will get access to ASG strips, which will include a VIP preview night, the HR Derby, the Futures Game and the ASG itself. Seat location will vary since MLB takes about a third of the seats.

There will be a lottery for strip availability for the 20-game package folks. There will be an All-Star Game 5K at the park.

Second session: Know your Nats

A game with Matt Grace and Sammy Solis as Team Bullpen, and Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon as Team Infield. Without getting into the rules too much, each team sat back-to-back so they couldn’t see their teammate’s answer. If the answers matched, a point was given. Tony and Trea started out 10-for-10, so the staff moved the chairs further apart, figuring that they might be whispering to each other. A sampling of the answers:

At least Trea did not say he could grow a better beard than Tony! (although Trea does now have visible fuzz). Trea is, however, more likely to watch a Hallmark movie, and he’s the pickier eater. Trea is the morning person (why am I not surprised?), and spend the most time on social media (no surprise there).

Rendon admits to having the messier locker. TTB said he was more likely to survive the Zombie Apocalypse because he’s from Texas and has guns.

On the question of who is the last one to get ready for a game, each player named their teammate—no one would admit to being the last. Great stuff.

Sammy admits that there are spiders in the bullpen, and yes, he’s afraid of them.

Photo by Andrew Lang

Third Session: Kids Press Conference:

(Rendon & Turner. Yes, these guys like each other. They play basketball together: Trea said “and if he tells you he wins all the time, he’s lying” Rendon was doing a bit of eyerolling.).

Favorite Video Game: Mario Kart for Rendon, Call of Duty for Trea.

Who is the hardest pitcher to face: Rendon: some random reliever guy who throws 105 and has no clue where it’s going [author’s note: sounds like Henry Rodriguez]. Trea: Familia falls in that category.

Favorite other park: Minute Maid for Tony (near home). Trea said SF, although Tony reminded him that it’s really cold there.

Who’s the funniest Nat: Gio tries the hardest to be funny. But it was probably Matt Albers. Lots of guys in the clubhouse are really smart, so you have to think hard sometimes to get the jokes.

Rendon’s favorite movie is Forrest Gump.

Trea’s favorite base to steal is second—somehow that’s easier than third. He’d really like to steal home. But Bob Henley won’t send him, although Trea has asked about it.

They both like candy. Skittles, Sour Patch Kids.

Fourth session: Coaches Q & A:


Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Davey didn’t dodge the question about the fifth inning of Game Five. He said he was on the phone with the replay guy, who had the rule in front of him, so Davey knew the right answer—but of course he wasn’t going to say anything. Davey also said that if that ever happened in a game, he’d be managing.

The game (pointing to Chip). [Author’s note: implying that Davey would be thrown out for arguing.] Yes, they have the rules on their iPads.

Davey said he will rotate through his outfielders (Robles & Goodwin) to keep everyone fresh even if there’s no injuries.

Davey was asked about Lind and Werth. He said he’d love to have Lind back. He used to hate Jayson from his days in Philly, but now respects his career. Said he thought Jayson has another year or two in him. [Author’s note: clearly avoided saying anything about wanting Jayson back.]

Davey to six-year-old’s dad asking for advice: Kid should have fun playing baseball (that’s the first thing he says to his team: “Have fun.”). Play multiple sports. Have fun.

Question to Henley on the rule about the 3rd base coach staying in the box, which really isn’t enforced. He said that occasionally, the umpire will say “Hen, back up a bit, you’re getting too close,” [to the hitter] which he appreciates because it’s a safety issue that 3rd base coaches tend to forget about when focusing on the runner and the game. Unless an opposing manager says something, the umpires only enforce that rule focused on safety. He said only once has a opposing manager asked the umpire to make him stay in the box.

Random Notes:

Saw a little girl about 9 months old wearing a Brooklyn jersey.

Saw jerseys for Robinson, Danny Espinosa, and Elijah Dukes (!). Did not see a Baker jersey.

Talked to a staff person at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches stand. P & C could be as early as Feb. 8 (!) given how early the spring training games start, but the official date may not be announced until January. Doolittle seemed a bit surprised by that date when I mentioned it when he was signing my hat.

“Cat” Wieters said that his wife wanted to be sure that there were cats in the Nationals pet calendar.

They have a Negro Leagues display with some jerseys for eight famous players. They also have a Women in Baseball (think 1800’s to right now) display.


Saturday marked day 1 of Winterfest, the Nationals off-season festivities that allow fans to rub elbows with players and MASN and radio broadcasters. The day offered the typical family friendly fun and games, photo and autograph stations with players and coaches, and a full slate of programming on the big stage that included several “hot stove” type Q&A sessions and some fun and games that pitted players and fans against one another.

The day got off to a very early start for full season plan holders, who were invited to attend an exclusive autograph session bright and early at 8:30 in the morning. It still amazes me that the Nats are able to get all these players up and at ’em that early. Kudos to them. All season plan holders that arrived in time for the early entry 10am open doors were given a surprise treat – the players lined the stairs on either side of the escalators that led down to Winterfest, and everyone got to fist bump half the guys who were there. This was beyond fantastic. Bravo, Nats. Thank you for that amazing kick off to the day.

My favorite part of Winterfest every year is all the “hot stove” sessions. The day always starts off with State of the Nats, and I also sat in on a Q&A with MASN and radio broadcasters and with the coaches. A theme that ran through all of these was how excited everyone is about new manager Davey Martinez. Everyone spoke very highly of him, and believes he is the right man to lead this team to the championship we are all dying for.

Davey looked thrilled to be here every time I saw him. Martinez was very excited to talk about the talent on the Nats roster and how he 100% believes he will get us a parade sooner rather than later. I’m impressed with his confidence. Also, I’m encouraged by all the praise that’s been heaped upon him since he was hired. He’s a younger guy who can connect with the players. Plus, Davey has a mind for the analytic side of the game that seems to be more and more important every year. I’m also impressed with his commitment to getting to know not only the players, but this fan base.

Since his first press conference, Davey has spoken about the atmosphere the fans brought to the playoff series against the Cubs.  This weekend he seems very eager to get to know us. Get this, Davey was at the event all day today, and I heard that he flew back to Florida as soon as it ended for a family event. Martinez then plans on jumping on another plane Sunday morning so he can participate in day 2. How can you not love a guy willing to do that?

As for some insight into how he plans to manage the team, he spoke about being aggressive on the bases, and loves the speed a lot of the players have. Davey’s goal is to get guys on third base with less than 2 outs. This season should be a lot of fun to watch, y’all. He also spoke about using all 25 guys on the roster, as both starters and bench players will play an important role on his team.

Davey’s open to considering batting the pitcher 8th instead of the typical 9th, other than Max Scherzer, who he joked would do well batting 7th, 3rd or cleanup. He also frequently spoke about the importance of taking everything one game at a time. Going into the start of the season, his goal is going to be to win game 1. Then his goal is going to be to win game 2. One day at a time, one game at a time, until we reach the ultimate goal of a WS title.

A fan asked him and the rest of the coaching staff a question about who’s responsibility it is to know the MLB rule book, referencing the play in Game 5 I’m not at all still bitter about where Wieters was hit with [who was it??] backswing. Davey said that during all the hoopla with that play, he was on the phone with the Cubs replay official getting clarity on the rule. He straight up said he knew what the rule was. Davey made a point to stay quiet, because he knew it should have been a dead ball. He said if a play like that goes against the Nats, Chip Hale will have to manage the rest of the game. Yeah, I’m not at all still bitter about this missed call by the umps (insert all the angry face emojis).

GM Mike Rizzo participated in the State of the Nats, and right off the bat fielded a question about Bryce Harper and his impending free agency. He of course gave a typical, response to this boring question he has been asked over and over at the Winter Meetings and on the radio and again with the first question at Winterfest. To other questions, however, he was more talkative. He stated that they have been in contact with both Howie Kendrick and Adam Lind, and spoke highly of how important they both were to the team’s success last year. Rizzo also spoke highly of Matt Albers and how he was able to be a stable, consistent force when our bullpen was anything but. He also point blank stated that the Nats have not been involved in any conversations with free agent slugger JD Martinez which was asked by Andrew L.:

Other notes from the day include new assistant hitting coach Dillon saying the goal is to help all the guys be as consistent as possible at the plate. New pitching coach Lilliquist became my most favorite person ever. MASN play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter introduced him by mentioning the great pitchers he worked with while with the St. Louis Cardinals, and asked how he felt getting to work with the Nats pitchers. Lilliquist straight up said that coming here was definitely an upgrade. This was met with a lot of “ooooooh” from the crowd. I fell in love with him just a little bit.

I also caught a snippet of Michael A. Taylor speaking with the guys from 106.7 The Fan about his approach at the plate. He is definitely not a guy that takes a page from the Daniel “Hits” Murphy book of focusing on launch angels. Taylor said he just tries to focus on getting the bat on the ball, and trying to hit a line drive up the middle. He also said he still feels he has some work to do regarding cutting down his strikeout rate.

While there were lots of players roaming around the convention center today, there were some notable absences. Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, Gio Gonzales, and Bryce Harper (as TalkNats previously reported) were not at the festivities. Murphy was there on day 1, however he was hobbling around on crutches. I heard Murph said he was not going to be there on Sunday. Understandable – Winterfest on crutches sounds rough. There were plenty of guys around, though, including besties Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon, rotation-mates Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Roark, Wilmer Difo, Murphy, and Sean Doolittle, just to name a few.

Doolittle’s wife, Eireann Dolan, by the way, strongly encouraged all fans meeting Doolittle today to give him a hard time. She provided several subjects fans could choose from, such as sharing that Doo moves his lips when he reads and talks to dogs in a specific voice that’s a higher octave than one would expect to hear. (For those unaware, Eireann is a fantastic twitter follow. She’s worth getting twitter if you don’t already have it.)

Photo By Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Winterfest remains a bright spot of baseball in the sad world of The Dark Times, otherwise known as the offseason. 103 days until Opening Day, not that anyone’s counting (I’m totally counting).

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