As many baseball fans across the world are aware, the Washington Nationals came back from a season in which they started 19-31 to ultimately win the World Series. Winning the World Series is an incredible feat but doing so after such a difficult start is truly remarkable. In order to engineer such an incredible turnaround, it takes a true leader and team of leaders to make this happen. Given this remarkable story in my hometown of Washington DC, I wanted to share five ways Davey Martinez (Washington Nationals Manager) displays remarkable leadership traits.
- He accepts blame and deflects praise
Throughout the entire season, Davey was the king of accepting blame for struggles and then deflecting praise to his players when things were going well. He got torched by the media and fans when they were 19-31, but he continued to believe in his boys and accepted blame for the poor start. There’s no doubt that he kept the trust of his players by not throwing anyone under the bus. A weak leader would’ve blamed those players on his team, but a strong leader understands he needs his players and never blamed his guys. The manager of the team portrays the culture, and I love this quote from GM Mike Rizzo during their struggles, “Not one person pointed a finger, no anonymous quotes, no clubhouse lawyers, no backbiting,” said Rizzo. “Loyalty. And that’s why we’re here today.”
2. He focuses on the little wins
When they were 12 games under .500, it seemed impossible to climb back and get to where they ended the season, world champions. If they focused on being 12 games under .500, they wouldn’t have been able to make the climb up in the standings to get into the playoffs. Instead, Davey focused on and got his players to believe in the 1-0 mentality. I love Davey’s quote, “Remember, 1-0. 1-0 is not over. 1-0 means waking up tomorrow and winning your day. Win your day.” Davey focused on winning every day and accomplishing what they could every day, and that is what got them to their larger goal.
3. He keeps a positive mindset
It would’ve been easy for Davey to get down when they were struggling immensely in the beginning of the year. It would’ve been easy for him to change his personality and start being a hard-ass to his players and the other coaches, but Davey remained the same. He remained his usual calm, positive self and that got them out of the funk. I love this from Ryan Zimmerman, Mr. National, which embodies what Davey stands for, “I have had a lot of managers, obviously, and they all come into spring training and say they’re going to stay this way no matter what, we’re going to be here for you, it’s going to be us, we don’t care what anyone says,” Zimmerman said. “And then as soon as stuff goes bad, every manager has pretty much kind of thrown that out the window and sort of gone into self-preservation mode, where Davey, honestly, has stayed the same way. He’s positive every day, his energy, he always trusts his players and has his players’ backs. And I don’t think it’s been any different this year, even when we started as poorly as we did, he stayed the same.”
4. He trusts his people
Many fans and people in the media called for the Nationals to make radical changes to their team when they were 19-31. They said they should trade x player, release x player, but Davey continued to believe in his people and knew they would come around. That belief in his players helped them get to where they ended up as world champions. I love this quote from Davey when the Nationals were at their lowest point, “When we get healthy, we’re going to take off.” Davey never lost the belief in his guys and he got the ultimate reward for it.
5. He stands up for his team
A good leader stands up for his team and makes sure they know he has their back. Davey isn’t one to lose his cool, but in game 6 of the World Series when the umpires made an unbelievably bad call, he stood up for his guys. Davey understood the magnitude of the moment and how his team needed to know that he had their back. He argued a call and ultimately got thrown out of the game. Davey probably knew his actions were going to get him tossed out of the biggest game he’d ever coached, but a good leader always does whatever it takes to stand up for their team. After his ejection post-game Davey shared a quote that sums up his leadership, “I don’t want to sit here and talk about me or the umpires,” Martinez said. “This is not about me or the umpires. This is about the Washington Nationals and those guys in the clubhouse coming to Game 6 and playing lights out, knowing that this could be it. And I’m super proud of them.”