It was nice during yesterday’s game that I could write something “positive” about Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez and his strategies he put in place in the finale before the All-Star break. It all worked. It has been a while for Davey that he could genuinely smile in a game. When you’re winning, it’s all fun — and you can look like a genius. When you’re losing, you look like the village idiot at times. Yesterday, he really pulled out all the stops. Whether it was Matt Wieters bunting or going with Daniel Murphy off the bench early to pinch-hit for starting centerfielder Michael A. Taylor — it worked. What worked was execution. If Wieters does not get the bunt down or Murphy strikes out, the pitchforks are back out.
When a team is losing or underachieving, fans need someone to blame be it Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper or the easy target — the low hanging fruit — you know, the manager. The guy who writes the line-up card has the target on his back. Some of the vitriol was well-earned like April 18th which was the first time I questioned “what was he thinking” when he pitched Ryan Madson 3-games in a row. It was a cruel learning lesson that we all hoped this manager would never go down after two years of Dusty Baker and some of the worst bullpen management we had seen — but there was Dave Martinez doing just what Dusty had done to Jonathan Papelbon, Blake Treinen, Jacob Turner, Trevor Gott and others. It’s a cruel lesson for a fanbase that is sensitive to burning out arms.
Some say managing a team calls for desperate times requires desperate measures. April 18th was not the time for desperate measures of that magnitude, and you know Davey wishes he had a mulligan on that one. It’s water under the bridge, and the bullpen guys will have at least 4-days off work with the All-Star break. It will be a time for many to reflect. Maybe some fans can take a step back to pause and use yesterday as a time to turn the page and give this man a chance to show what he can do in the second half. Let Davey show you he is not the village idiot as you saw yesterday. We needed to see that. He gave us a glimmer that a .632 winning percentage and 42-wins can be achieved when the Nationals begin the second half.
When I woke-up this morning, I had an email from a friend. It was time-stamped at 3:52 AM. The email read in part “I just pulled out of a parking garage and writing to you about a wonderful conversation I just had with Dave Martinez. He was an invited guest at an All-Star party we were at last night. As an All-Star coach, he was there with his family. He is more than what I expected — honest and forthright.” The email went on to say that “at the end of the day, we are all men, here to do the best we can but none of us are perfect in an imperfect world. Any comparisons of this gentleman — and I went there — he is not Manny Acta reincarnate. He has a passion burning that just isn’t seen enough because too many times we are looking for what’s wrong rather than what’s right.”
Maybe that is it in a nutshell. Davey doesn’t get the credit for Juan Soto or Anthony Rendon‘s resurgence rather he gets blamed for Gio Gonzalez failing to do the basics of his job description or expecting Austin Voth to pitch at least 5-innings while giving his team a chance to win the game. Davey sometimes can only deal the hand his dealt. It wasn’t like the got Justin Verlander at the trade deadline or a clone of Max Scherzer. No pitcher in the Nationals League has lost as many games as Tanner Roark (12 losses), and the Nationals still find themselves only 5½ games off the pace. Somehow, this team is sitting at .500 even with the Nationals going 1-5 in Gio Gonzalez’s last 6-starts.
Martinez has not had the depth to call upon someone like an Edwin Jackson because he opted-out of his contract. When Dusty Baker was in a bind last year, he had Jackson to call upon when Joe Ross went down. In fact Dusty had at least 28 starts last year from Strasburg, Roark, Gio and Max. On the other hand, Dave Martinez’s number 5 starter was A.J. Cole and that experiment went up in flames. Cole was replaced by Jeremy Hellickson, and luck be a lady tonight because Hellickson saved the Nats during the month of May and until he got injured.
Martinez’s pitching depth beyond Hellickson reads like a horror novel of pitchers who can’t pitch more than 5-innings. He’s had to choose between Erick Fedde who is on the 10-day DL, Double-A’s Jefry Rodriguez, and most recently the 26-year-old career minor leaguer Austin Voth. I am starting to think Dave Martinez needs hazardous duty pay rather than jeers from the stands.
Expect Dave Martinez to take this All-Star break to recharge his batteries and come out on Friday — ready to show you what you saw on March 30th and on April 30th and on May 30th was not a fluke. Give him a second chance if you gave up on him and support him as your manager. Cautious optimism is better than pessimism if you can at least muster that. This team is not in “sell” mode, but nobody can determine what general manager Mike Rizzo could do in a week or two as this team approaches the trade deadline. What this Washington Nationals team needs is a winning streak and they need it to start with a win on Friday.