With speculation and hot takes flying about the job security of Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez, long time Nat Ryan Zimmerman had this to say on 106.7 The Fans Grant & Danny:
“I think at the end of the day it comes down to the players playing. They’re supposed to play like they get paid too.”
To a degree, Zim is not wrong. The Nationals have been dealt a bad hand with the injuries and the players on the field have vastly underperformed. So, why then, is Martinez at the center of all the criticism?
For starters, the managers job is to put his team in a position to win day in and day out. That is the job. There are other aspects to it, of course. For example, great managers communicate well and set clubhouse standards. But, in every game, there are one or two moves that will prove critical to the outcome.
Davey fails to do this for the Nationals far too often and the latest example of his ineptitude was on full display in Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Dodgers.
With 1 out in the top of the 8th, in a two run game, Washington finally got a hit off the bat of Gerardo Parra. A double to the left center gap. With the tying run at the plate, all be it in the light hitting Wilmer Difo, Washington looked poised to put pressure on the Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
What happened next is why Davey should be gone.
The light hitting Difo, with or without Davey’s blessing, decided to try and bunt for a hit. With 5 outs left and your first runner in scoring position all game, that is an inexcusable decision. Sacrificing outs is one thing, but to do it down to your final 5 outs in a winnable game screams a lack of awareness by Difo, Martinez, and the Nationals.
Regardless if Davey gave the green light or not, you cannot give up an out in that situation. It is bad baseball and a reflection of the manager. It is that simple.
This team, at least situationally, is almost never ready to play and it shows in critical positions. For a manager who preached the ‘little things’, the Nationals continuously give the other team additional outs both offensively and defensively. It is exhausting to watch and produces a terrible product.
Now, whether you believe the bunt to be the managers fault is up to you, but you cannot defend Davey’s next decision.
With Parra on third and two outs, Michael A. Taylor was allowed to hit for himself. The light hitting Taylor has struggled with the bat for years and has a worse batting average than Nats pitcher Patrick Corbin and an OPS 17 points lower than pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
To give MAT some credit, he battled his way to a 9 pitch out. However, with Victor Robles and hot hitting Howie Kendrick available to pinch-hit (and in the on-deck circle), Davey once again failed to put his team in a position to win.
It was gross mismanagement and it happens on a nightly basis at this point.
Yes, Zimmerman was right, the players need to play better. But if you do not put your team in a position to win what difference does it make?
Want to know why Terry Francona is such a great manager in Cleveland? Yes, he has a ton of talent to work with. Guess what? So does Davey. The difference is Francona gets creative and finds ways to maximize his team’s talents. A few years ago, on their way to the World Series, the Indians constantly used closer Andrew Miller in any high leverage situation. He was their best pitcher and was used in the most important parts of the game. He rarely pitched the 9th inning. Why?
Because the likely Hall of Famer understands what it takes to wins games consistently in the MLB.
Davey Martinez does not and Sunday’s loss was only the latest example of his poor management.
Firing your manager just a month+ into the season is not ideal, but the Washington Nationals have to realize they are constantly playing from behind.
It is time to cut the cord on the Davey experiment and try something new. Playoffs are not likely to happen and there is plenty of season left to see if the replacement is a long term solution. The time has come.