Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Last November, newly hired Nationals manager Dave Martinez talked with reporters about his vision for the club: “Moving forward, this team doesn’t need much. We’re here to win the World Series.”

Ten months later, the Nationals are moving backward.

And, baring a miracle end-of-the-season turnaround, the Nationals are not going to win a World Series, at least not this year, as Martinez’s third-place squad entered Wednesday 69-70 overall and 7 1/2 games back of first-place Atlanta in the National League East.

Despite some first-year missteps by the rookie manager, general manager Mike Rizzo said he expects the 53-year-old Martinez to return in 2019.

“I haven’t considered any other scenario,” Rizzo told reporters before Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The comments came one day before the start Thursday night of a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park.

Martinez was the bench coach for the Cubs the previous three years under Joe Maddon and part of the World Series title team in 2016.

The Cubs beat the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS last October at Nationals Park as Washington couldn’t hold a lead.

It is not the first time this summer Rizzo has backed Martinez, though this time it came in front of a large media contingent during batting practice.

Rizzo has also weighed on behalf of Martinez recently during his weekly Wednesday appearances on 106.7 The Fan, the flagship radio home of the Nationals.

“Davey’s a great manager. He’s a vibrant personality,” Rizzo told the station last month. “He’s a great X’s and O’s guy. He communicates great with the players. He’s exactly the guy that we thought we were hiring this year. He’s upbeat and positive.”

Martinez was named the manager after Dusty Baker was let go after two seasons. Washington won the National League East in both seasons under Baker, but lost in the first round of the playoffs both times.

The Nationals have won the National League East four times since 2012 but have failed to advance to the second round.

This year the Nationals have not won more than three games in a row since late May, have had just one winning month and through Tuesday were 12 games under .500 since late May.

Martinez made his big league debut as a player for the Cubs in 1986 and played through the 2001 season, finishing with the Atlanta Braves. In the minors, he played with future manager Terry Francona and future Hall of Fame pitcher Gregg Maddux with Triple-A Iowa in 1986.

Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.09) is slated to start Thursday for the Nationals against Kyle Hendricks (11-11, 3.37) of Chicago.

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