Here's the thing with Dave Martinez: We don't know. We can't know. Not yet, anyway.
In the coming days and weeks and months, we will read stories and absorb anecdotes about how the Washington Nationals' new manager — as he was formally proclaimed Monday — is prepared for this job. We'll dig into his 16-year big league career as an outfielder and occasional first baseman, digest the qualities he had on the diamond that would translate well to the dugout, assess his leadership and note how it was refined during a decade at the side of Joe Maddon, regarded as one of baseball's most progressive managers during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago Cubs.
Those stories will all be true. I'll probably write a few. The people offering the tales from Martinez's past and predicting his future success will speak from the heart. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, when he takes questions on the process, will outline exactly the qualities that attracted him, and they will make sense.
But exactly how Martinez will do, when it's the eighth inning in October and one reliever is reeling and another is overworked and the crowd is closing in and the game is suddenly moving at warp speed?
We. Don't. Know.
In a vacuum, the Nationals' decision to hand the 53-year-old Martinez a three-year deal to be their manager makes complete sense. But this decision wasn't made in a vacuum. It was made by pushing aside Dusty Baker, a known quantity in both good ways and bad.
There's a feeling in the game that it would be hard for a first-time manager to be more prepared than Martinez is. He has seen the game as a player. He has seen the game as a coach. He speaks English and Spanish. And he probably is a strict disciplinarian who is also a player's manager, too, a vegan who eats meat, a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican. Right now, he can be all things to all people, because he hasn't managed a game. We're going to be finding out together.
What we do know is that Martinez is being handed a roster that is capable of winning a World Series, a clubhouse that has that expectation and a front office and ownership group that are all but demanding it.
"We have been very clear about our goals as an organization," Ted Lerner, the Nats' managing principal owner, said in a statement Monday announcing the move, "and we feel confident we've found the right man to help us reach them."
But if history is any guide, Martinez — and the Nats — may need to wait for such a lofty goal. If Dave Roberts can lead his Los Angeles Dodgers to victories over the Houston Astros in Games 6 and 7 of this here World Series, then he will become the first manager to win a championship in his first job since Ozzie Guillen did so with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Guillen, back then, was in his second year at the helm, as Roberts is now.
There is precedent for what the Nationals are trying to get from Martinez. In 2001, Bob Brenly took over for the ousted Buck Showalter in Arizona, and those Diamondbacks — loaded with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling — managed to squeeze past the New York Yankees in seven games, making Brenly something of a unicorn: a first-time manager winning the whole shebang in his first season.
The last manager to pull that off: Try Ralph Houk, who did it with the Yankees. You remember that, right? Yep, back in 1961 and '62, his first two seasons in his first job.
Now, everyone needs to get a first chance at something. Indeed, the question with Martinez, who has been well-regarded for years and spent most of the past several offseasons interviewing for one job or another, might be more, "Why did it take so long?" than "Why now?"
Roberts is, of course, an example of a first-time manager who is working out. He took the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series in his first season and won the pennant in his second — a trajectory that might seem peachy to the Nats, who have lost in all four of their division series appearances.
More than that, though, Roberts stands as a symbol of what franchises tend to want now: a manager who is an extension of the front office, who game-plans in concert with the quants in front of the computers and also can crystallize that information for the guys who throw the ball and swing the bat.
"The ability to communicate with your players is a critical component of managing today," said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations. ". . . As far as the information, [Roberts] and our coaches do a tremendous job with synthesizing the information and delivering it in nuggets to our players. Some want more. Some want less."
Martinez must have an understanding of all this, because his coaching tenure began with Tampa Bay when Friedman ran the Rays. In that sense, the statement the Nats released Monday was somewhat striking. The club won't comment further until after the World Series, per MLB custom. Still . . .
"As we went through this process, it became clear the type of manager we were looking for," Rizzo said in the statement. "Someone who is progressive, someone who can connect with and communicate well with our players, and someone who embraces the analytical side of the game."
Rizzo has spent most of his decade as general manager here believing his job is to assemble the roster, and the manager's job is to, well, manage it. So this angle is worth pursuing: Will Martinez want more information from the front office, and how will he deploy it? And will Rizzo, a scout's scout in every fiber of his being, empower his analytics people to develop strategies with his new manager?
Which gets us back to where we started: We just don't know.
"We came away from the process feeling like there was absolutely no one better suited — who matched up to what this organization needs right now — than Dave," Rizzo said in the statement.
It's a feeling, though, not a fact. It'll be fun to read — and write — about Martinez before next season begins. But it'll be even more fun to watch him manage. Only then will we know.
Read more baseball coverage:
Couch Slouch: Firing successful managers just doesn't add up