As the Washington Nationals begin the search for their next manager, the club has been granted permission to interview Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez and New York Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, and both are slated to interview for the job, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
Washington also asked for and received permission to interview Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, but Cora was already in advanced talks with the Boston Red Sox. He was officially hired as their next manager Sunday.
Martinez, 53, has interviewed for several managerial vacancies since at least 2010 and was a candidate for the Nationals job in 2013, when they ended up hiring Matt Williams. Two years later, the Nationals fired Williams and didn’t interview Martinez. They hired Dusty Baker after negotiations with Bud Black, their initial choice, fell apart.
Baker signed a two-year deal and won consecutive National League East Division titles but lost in Game 5 of the NL Division Series both seasons — including this year to Martinez’s Cubs. Baker was informed he wasn’t returning for a third campaign Friday morning — a week into the team’s offseason — which sent the Nationals looking for their sixth non-interim manager since 2009 and too late to lure Cora, who was the hottest managerial candidate in the industry.
Martinez checks a few boxes. He played for nine organizations over 16 seasons in the majors as an outfielder and first baseman, which would give him credibility in a veteran, star-laden clubhouse. He doesn’t have managerial experience at the highest level but has served as Joe Maddon’s bench coach since 2008 — first with the Tampa Bay Rays before joining him in Chicago in 2015. The Rays won the American League pennant in his first season, and the Cubs advanced to the NL Championship Series in each of the past three years, winning the franchise’s first World Series in 108 years last season. So he has enjoyed postseason success as the right-hand man for Maddon, who is widely regarded as one of baseball’s best managers.
Further, he is said to foster strong relationships with players, speaks fluent Spanish and is well-versed with the data that has penetrated the sport and is increasingly informing roster construction and in-game decision-making after a decade with two franchises that have been at the forefront of advanced analytics implementation.
“It’s baffling to me a bit why [Martinez isn’t considered] more often,” Maddon told the Chicago Tribune during the Nationals-Cubs NLDS earlier this month. “He’s been around a lot of winning teams here, and not only that, him as a player, that’s what drew me to him a bit with the Rays. I never had been with him as a teammate, but watched him play. He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player and bilingual. All that matters. He’s not afraid to have tough conversation [that] a lot of times people in that position may shy away from.”
Long, 50, has managed in the minor leagues and was a candidate to replace Terry Collins as Mets manager, but the organization instead hired Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway over the weekend.
Long was hitting coach for the New York Yankees for eight seasons, which included winning the 2009 World Series, before joining the Mets coaching staff in 2015. He’s credited with helping Daniel Murphy overhaul his swing and approach that season. Murphy had one of the greatest postseasons in modern history, fueling the Mets to the World Series before signing with the Nationals that winter. He is entering the final year of his three-year contract with Washington and has spoken highly of Long.
Long’s son, Jaron, is a pitcher in the Nationals’ farm system. The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 3.94 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts) between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse.
The Red Sox (Cora), Mets (Callaway), and Detroit Tigers (Ron Gardenhire) filled their managerial vacancies over the past week, leaving the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies as the only teams with openings. Washington also needs to fill out its coaching staff. None of the coaches under Baker had their contracts renewed, though members of the staff could still be retained after a manager is hired.
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