Dave Martinez will not be the next Tampa Bay Rays manager. In fact, he did not even come close as he failed to rank among the Rays’ three finalists for the position. An obvious question comes to mind: where will he go from here? A more compelling inquiry, though, surrounds not how Martinez will respond, but how his coaching career has come to this point.
This was Dave Martinez’s job to lose. That is what we thought the entire time, and the questions would be unceasing if he was not the Rays’ choice. We knew coming in that Martinez had interviewed for six manager jobs and received none of them. If he could not become the manager of the Rays even after becoming Joe Maddon‘s heir apparent, something had to be seriously wrong with him.
Was Martinez terrible at interviews or simply better suited to be a second-in-command than a leader? Matt Silverman attempted to downplay that possibility as he discussed how difficult it was to cut Martinez from his list of managerial candidates.
"“The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult. He’s played a key role in our organization’s evolution, and he’s done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture. We’re excited to get to know our three remaining finalists better as we look to name our next manager in the coming weeks.”"
If Silverman can be believed, Dave Martinez did prove to be an excellent candidate but wasn’t a finalist for Rays manager because his connection to Joe Maddon was just too strong. Ironically enough, Tampa Bay was the worst possible place for Martinez to be a manager. If Martinez took over, he was never going to be his own person but instead an echo of Maddon’s tenure with the team. He was going to be unremittingly compared to Maddon and that was not going to be a good arrangement for anyone.
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Martinez has crafted himself into a great managerial candidate because he can now take a franchise and give it the Joe Maddon style of managing. Obviously Martinez will have his own take on Maddon’s methods, but it is everything that he has learned from Maddon that makes him stand out. Martinez has already differentiated himself compared to managerial candidates around baseball because of that. With the Rays, however, all of his knowledge and experience were meaningless. The Rays wanted something different than they had before and to provide it, Martinez would have forget all the lessons he learned from Maddon, a nonsensical possibility.
This all brings us back to our initial question: how will Martinez react to being removed from consideration for the Rays’ manager job? The way that Martinez responds will tell us plenty about his future as a big league manager.
If Martinez sticks around with the Rays despite this, then we can say that he is a pushover who is complacent being a bench coach. Mark Topkin suggested that Martinez could join Maddon with the Chicago Cubs, but that would be just as bad. It is good that Martinez has already cemented himself as the next Joe Maddon, but he can’t be connected with his mentor at the hip.
The only sensible move for Dave Martinez now is to wait. He could bide his time as a special assistant like fellow ex-Maddon coach Tim Bogar or he could go to ESPN and be an analyst for a year. Unless Silverman is lying about Martinez having done “all he can to put himself in position to be a manager,” it is only a matter of time until someone wants a Maddon-esque culture for their team and asks Martinez to provide it. If Dave Martinez is truly a future major league manager, he should walk away from the Rays right now, dismiss any rumors of him joining the Cubs, and be ready the next time a franchise comes calling.