SNIDER: Is Martinez the difference in Nats?

Rick Snider
March 29, 2018 - 1:29 pm

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports


The Washington Nationals are largely the same team that won 97 games last year before exiting the postseason quietly for the fourth time in six years. Why should anything more be expected this time?

Maybe manager Dave Martinez is the rainmaker.

Dusty Baker couldn't do it the last two years with two first-round losses despite great teams. Indeed, the Nats make the crosstown Redskins look stable. Martinez becomes the third manager in four years when Washington opens the regular-season against Cincinnati on Thursday.

That’s not good.

Baker was cool. Name-dropped celebs from all walks of life. Let players enjoy the game. Everybody liked Baker right up to his firing.

But Martinez is bringing an even more laissez-faire approach. When Ryan Zimmerman wanted to opt out of spring training games, then Martinez said see 'ya Opening Day. Not many managers would do that.

Instead, spring training saw camels arrive to get over the playoff hump that plagues this team. Martinez slipped in exploding golf balls during a team outing. Players practiced walk-off home run trots.

There was a "circle of trust" on the field with players. Bet former Nats manager Frank Robinson would have hit fungos through that new-age stuff.

Players will always say they love a manager even if the guy is awful. It's no different than you keeping your mouth shut about a bad boss. Nothing good comes from it.

So pardon me for dismissing spring training talk of players loving the new style. Who doesn't love a boss who gives them the easy path?

The proof will come over the next 60 days. Baseball players will say nothing is real until after the All-Star Game, but that's deflective bull. Every game counts as much in April as in September. Not too many hitters batting poorly come Memorial Day are suddenly sluggers in September.

Good habits start now. It's fair to give Martinez time to grow chemistry on this team. Indeed, he gets the entire season. It's the postseason that will determine his overall grade, assuming the Nats reach the playoffs. Barring massive injuries, they should.

Hopefully, Martinez's loose style results in more than a regular-season crown. Otherwise . . .

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks