Less than two weeks after the Washington Nationals decided not to renew the contract of former manager Dusty Baker, the team held a news conference Thursday to introduce its new one, Dave Martinez.
Martinez, 53, who played 16 years in the majors, worked for 10 years as a bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago Cubs under manager Joe Maddon. While in Chicago, Martinez was often referred to as the “second manager,” though he has never been a skipper.
He becomes the third Latino to oversee a ballclub along with Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria and Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who will manage the Boston Red Sox after Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday to win the World Series.
“I’m here because of merit and not because of race,” Martinez said inside the Nationals’ clubhouse in southeast D.C. “I’m excited about being here because I feel I can do the job.”
Martinez, who will sport jersey No. 4 in honor of his four children, becomes the team’s fourth manager in six seasons, a fact not lost on general manager Mike Rizzo.
“We’re good at it,” Rizzo quipped. “We’ve had a lot of practice.”
The Nationals surprisingly decided to not retain Baker, who led the club to 97 wins last season and the National League East division title two straight years.
The team’s previous two managers to win the title, Davey Johnson and Matt Williams, also lost in the divisional series.
Martinez received a three-year deal with an option.
He opened up about spending time in the clubhouse with the players which features a talented lineup and veteran experience such as Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer.
Martinez will also ensure the team will embrace a positive feeling in the clubhouse that includes allowing players to play music after a loss. Martinez praised Baker, who managed him when he played in the big leagues, for helping him to always keep an optimistic attitude.
“For me, that’s the key,” said Martinez, who interviewed for the Nationals managerial spot four years ago. “Not every day will be successful on the field, but we have to figure out ways to stay positive and move on to the next day.”