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It’s Early, But It's Feeling Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

You may have to get down on your knees and put your ear to the ground to hear it.

But it’s there. A slight, gentle tremor among Washington Nationals fans. A buzz of concern about manager Davey Martinez.

It’s not said aloud because it’s early. Plus he was the manager during the miraculous run to the World Series in 2019. To speak ill of his managing skills would be disrespectful of that.

But it’s there.

Martinez is a loveable guy that everyone would like as a friend and a neighbor. In 2018 he went 82-80, and many of us scratched our heads at times as to how a team that went 97-65 the previous year barely had a winning record with essentially the same amount of talent. The roster changed as it does every year, but you swapped Jayson Werth for Juan Soto, and the team still had Bryce Harper.

Then 2019 came and the same baffling bullpen decisions caused the team to start off 19-31 in the first 50 games. The rumbling about Davey grew louder until the team rallied around him and they somehow made the playoffs. He used starters out of the bullpen at key moments and everyone from superstars to role players came up with timely hits at the right moment. It was one of Washington Sports’ greatest moments as they brought home a World Series.

Last year was an asterisk. The team got off to a slow start, missed the playoffs, and with the COVID pandemic, how could you possibly evaluate the season fairly? If it were a round of golf, it was a mulligan. The 2021 season would be a more reasonable opportunity to tell.

After yesterday’s loss to Arizona, the team is now 5-8. The last two years the team started 19-31. For you math scholars out there, 19 out of 50 is a winning percentage of .38. Winning 5 out of 13 calculates to a winning percentage of .384615. Take that percentage, multiply it times 50 games and round it to the nearest whole number and you get….19-31.

As Yogi Berra once said, it’s looking like Déjà vu all over again.

I posted those stats on several places on social media last night and the comments all seemed to say the same thing: “We need to forget about 2019,” is my paraphrased summary of many, as if to suggest of the four years Davey’s been managing, the aberration was the World Series win, not all the slow starts. These critical remarks aren’t coming from fans of the Braves, Phillies or Mets either. They’re coming from diehard Nats fans.

My colleague Stephen Newman has noted Martinez’s issues with the bullpen, and even attributes some of those moves to injuries the Nationals are now suffering.  The offense is back to its inconsistent ways of yore, and I know I keep waiting for something to break loose, because the team has a lot of talent.

It’s too early to have any of these thoughts. But there are two things I’ve learned in following sports for 50 years. One is if you win a championship, you automatically get an extra year as a grace period. No matter what you do the next year, no one has a problem with it. You were the one who allowed everyone to dance in the streets and raise a glass to being the best.

But the other is once you’ve won a title, you’ve given fans a taste of what it’s like. Once that’s happened, there’s no going back to the days of “that was a good solid season we can build on.”

So I like the way Davey handles himself, his players, the media, and his life in general. But there’s no mistaking that slight murmur among Nationals fans. It almost sounds like the voice of Al Davis.

And it’s saying “just win, baby.”



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Tuesday, 18 May 2021
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