- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Washington Nationals have another new face to manage their team, another rookie, another roll of the dice in the organization’s ongoing pursuit of feeling satisfied by someone in the manager’s office.

Dave Martinez will be Washington’s sixth full-time manager in the last 10 years, according to multiple reports. He replaces Dusty Baker, who replaced Matt Williams, who replaced Davey Johnson, who replaced … you get the idea.

The Nationals may announce the decision Monday or wait until after the World Series concludes. Major League Baseball frowns on any news-making during the World Series by teams not involved in it.

Martinez, 53, has never managed a major-league team before. He has, however, spent nine seasons alongside Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon as his bench coach, first in Tampa Bay, then in Chicago. Martinez will move from advisor to decision-maker by sliding one spot to his left, gaining the pressure, cash and criticism that comes with a move from bench coach to manager.

The Associated Press reported that Martinez received a three-year deal plus an option, which is the Nationals’ equivalent of a lifetime commitment to a manager. Baker received two years, as did several of his predecessors. Three of the last four Washington managers were upset that their contracts were not extended despite winning during their final seasons.

Martinez will enter what has become a more cut-throat environment. When explaining why Baker was not brought back, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo stated that division titles were not enough for managers to retain their jobs in Washington. Which means the initial length of Martinez’s contract could ultimately be meaningless if he does not deliver the desired results.

Martinez had a front-row seat to last season’s failures, seemingly a re-run of postseasons past where the viewer just chose a different path to the same ending. Washington lost Game 5 of the National League Division Series to the Cubs in Nationals Park. That eliminated the Nationals in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons. It also determined Baker’s future, which was thought and touted to be relatively secure when the regular season closed after 97 wins.

Hiring Martinez will again put a former player in the Washington dugout as manager. Martinez played for nine major-league franchises over 16 years, including four seasons with the Montreal Expos, the team that moved to Washington in 2005 and became the Nationals. Martinez was mostly an outfielder. He retired as a player in 2001.

The Nationals also reportedly interviewed former Boston manager John Farrell last week. The New York Yankees and Joe Girardi separated ways late in the week, but it does not appear that Girardi was part of the Nationals’ process. Farrell, Girardi and Baker managed teams to the playoffs last season, but were not retained by their organizations.

Martinez will be the third Latino manager in baseball, and the news of his hiring was first reported by Fox 5. Alex Cora, who was hired by Boston to replace Farrell, and Rick Renteria, the manager of the Chicago White Sox, are the others. There is just one black manager in baseball now: Los Angeles’ Dave Roberts.

This hiring almost happened in 2013. Martinez was a finalist to replace Johnson. Instead, the Nationals hired Williams, who was a rookie manager that lasted two distinctly different seasons. Williams was named National League manager of the year after his first season. He was fired after his second.

Baker was brought in to replace Williams. He won 95 and 97 games, respectively, two division titles, and has the most wins among active managers during the 2017 season. He was not brought back 10 days after the Nationals were eliminated by the Cubs. That’s when Rizzo put out the organization’s decree that situation is now playoff-advancement-or-bust. It’s Martinez who will be charged with fulfilling that goal.

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