Sweep stakes: Will Dave Martinez and Nats decide mentor Joe Maddon’s fate with Cubs?
Martinez, who spent 10 seasons as Maddon’s bench coach, calls Maddon “the best manager in the game” and “knows” he’s going to manage next year. Somewhere.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez won’t come right out and say that the Cubs would be making a big mistake if they fire skipper Joe Maddon after the season.
“I mean, I don’t make those decisions,” he said.
But Maddon’s longtime bench coach, who left the Cubs’ staff after 2017 to take his first managing job, also sounds like he stands firmly in the be-careful-what-you-wish-for camp when it comes to anyone who would blame Maddon for the Cubs’ issues.
Never mind firing the manager with the franchise’s only championship in the last 110 seasons, its only four-year streak of postseason appearances and a 97-win average those four regular seasons.
“Call me biased,’’ Martinez said, ‘‘but I think Joe’s the best manager in the game. I was with him for a very long time. Through adversity, through all the things we went through together, he’s been the best. He’s always been that even-keeled guy that understands players, understands the system. He’s the guy who really started the whole analytical stuff. So he gets it.
“I don’t know what the future holds for him, but I know he’s going to manage [next year]. I don’t follow what’s going on with him right now, but what I do know about Joe is that he is, if not the best, one of the best.”
But talk about trading places.
Martinez, widely considered on the hot seat as soon as the 97-win team he inherited won only 82 last year, seems to have more job security than his mentor these days. And he might wind up with a disproportionate role in influencing Maddon’s future with the Cubs.
After a slow start, Martinez’s team has the best record in the majors since May 24 — an 80-game roll of .675 baseball.
The Nats’ balanced lineup is healthy and raking with an .856 OPS since the All-Star break heading into the series finale that helped produce 6.3 runs per game.
And when the Nats beat the Cubs 7-5 in 11 innings Sunday to become the first opponent to sweep a series at Wrigley this season, they delivered at least a message — if not a big blow to the Cubs’ October hopes.
Never mind where it left the second-place Cubs in the National League Central race as they prepare for a Mets pitching gantlet in New York for three games this week.
The Nats pulled out to a four-game lead over the Cubs for the top wild-card position, and if the playoffs started tomorrow, the Cubs would play that wild-card game in Washington, facing Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg.
“If our pitching holds up, we’re going to be OK,” said Martinez — whose Bryce Harper-less lineup might be as scary as any in the league right now, with 104 runs in its last 11 games.
If Martinez has more job security than Maddon these days, “I never thought about it,” he said.
His general manager, Mike Rizzo, recently told the Nats’ flagship radio station that he credited Martinez with helping the team weather a slew of early-season injuries to stay in position to make a run.
“He kept this club together when it could have splintered off very easily,” Rizzo said.
And if his Nats suddenly look like another opposing force against Maddon’s future with the Cubs, “You don’t think about it like that,” Martinez said, “because I’m thinking about the future of the Washington Nationals and trying to win.”