After back-to-back seasons of 95-plus wins at the helm of the Washington Nationals, veteran skipper Dusty Baker was fired at the end of the 2017 season. The organization wanted to go in another direction and they decided to hire Dave Martinez, who was lauded as one of the best bench coaches during his time under Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
So far, the rookie manager hasn't had a lot of success, as the Nationals enter Monday a game under .500 (52-53) and six games out of the division lead. By all accounts, the clubhouse culture is devoid of leaders and no one can find the confidence they seek in Martinez.
Have heard from a number of people affiliated with the Nationals since writing this earlier today who have confirmed the central thesis: Washington's clubhouse is a problem, confidence in manager Davey Martinez has eroded and the Nats' trouble runs deep. https://t.co/817PsWn3du pic.twitter.com/kUwnQgj0hi— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 30, 2018
Maybe Washington jumped the gun and shouldn't have fired Baker?
Dusty Baker was never known as an exceptional strategist, and maybe wasn't the best at managing the bullpen, but his players played for him and he had success at all four of his managerial stops.
Gotta feel Dusty Baker is somewhere sipping on some tea and smiling. Sometimes teams don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone. New and innovative isn’t always better than proven and consistent. #Nats— DC Sports Buzz (@DCSportsBuzzz) July 29, 2018
Successful postseasons hinge on a few key players delivering in important moments, and can make or break a manager's reputation whether he really has control of the chess pieces or not.
Maybe, in the long run, Martinez will work out. But in the most important season of the Bryce Harper era, one in which Washington had to prove they could get over the hump and provide a stable franchise blueprint going forward, they instead disintegrated. This was a veteran team that had high hopes and expectations to represent the National League in the World Series, and changing managers with that in mind was a risky proposition. As of right now, that risk isn't paying off.