Dave Martinez: Nationals to draw on Cubs’ 2017 disappointment in championship defense

“I learned a lot about what to do, how to come out of that and what we need to do,” said Martinez, whose final season with the Cubs, under Maddon, was the 2017 season that started flat and finished with an exhausted team.

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SAN DIEGO – Former Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez reached the 2019 postseason the Cubs and mentor Joe Maddon didn’t, won the World Series the Cubs didn’t sniff the last two years and then survived the hot seat Maddon couldn’t.

And now, after two seasons as a first-time manager for the Washington Nationals, Martinez goes from the parade route to spring training trying to draw on one more Cubs’ shortcoming to win again.

Martinez said this week his message to players in camp will involve emphasizing the Nats’ processes and approach that worked this year – but also with sober recall of some of the issues and mistakes that put the Cubs in a deep first-half hole during their failed 2017 championship defense.

“I learned a lot about what to do, how to come out of that and what we need to do,” said Martinez, whose final season with the Cubs, under Maddon, was the 2017 season that started flat and finished with an exhausted team.

Those Cubs were eliminated by the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. They haven’t won a playoff game since.

“We need to set a precedent early. We’ve got to come out ready to play,” said Martinez, who was hired by the Nationals after that season. “The message is going to be clear. We’re not going to sneak up on any team. A lot of teams are getting better. We’ve got to be prepared and be ready to play from Day 1.”

‘Shock’ therapy for Cubs?

The Cubs’ new manager, by comparison, plans to borrow from some of his predecessor’s methods and approaches, but his early ideas and plans for spring training might come as a “shock” to many of the core holdover players, David Ross said.

“I hope so,” said Ross, who remains close to Maddon (including joining Maddon for his Hazleton, Pennsylvania, charity event in the coming days.

“I hope it’s a shock for the players. I’m kind of relying on that,” Ross said. “I want to be different. As much as Joe brought to the table and all that I respect that he’s done – I will keep a lot of the music on; I like the vibe that he created. [But] I think I will mix up some things early on.

“There will be a little bit more structure,” he added. “I want some guys working together, not guys on their own plan. I want to recreate that bond that goes with this group.”

That includes veterans in spring training work groups with young players to mentor and influence their habits, he said.

“We have a good group of guys that have a lot of experience about winning,” Ross said. “I want them infecting the whole organization. … Joe changed the culture around here, and there are a lot of great things I’m going to take from that and keep around here.”

No Rizzo extension talks, no alarm bells

A report Wednesday that the Cubs declined to engage All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo in extension talks raised eyebrows on social media, but Rizzo was never considered a priority for such talks as the offseason of significant transition began.

Rizzo, 30, is under club control on a team-friendly deal for two more seasons.

The team suggested that talks became a non-starter when initial conversation of contract length weren’t resolved.

Team president Theo Epstein, who would not talk specifically about any contract discussions with Rizzo, downplayed the significance of the report.

The way I look at him is he’s a special player and has done so much for the organization and the city that we value very, very highly, and we think highly of him as a person, and he’s closely associated with our organization and our brand and everything that we’re trying to do,” Epstein said. “He’s not a free agent. He’s not at risk of going anywhere right now.

“I know the story raised some alarms but he’s under control here for two more years and we’re thrilled about that. And there will be lots of opportunities to talk about continuing the relationship.”

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