Scenes from Spring Training: The Most Interesting Man in the World

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After I left the ballpark yesterday afternoon I came back to my hotel and placed my health first among all other things. First, I moved into my new non-smoking room, which was good for my lungs. Then I went to the fitness center and ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes which was good for my heart, body and soul.

Then I went to In-n-Out Burger and ate this followed by a trip to a dive bar called TT Roadhouse where I hoisted the moist with a friend of mine. No, I don’t think it’s safe to say that I’m in the best shape of my life after all of that. Hell, I’m not even in the best shape of the bloggers on this site.

The friend of mine was a former sportswriter and former blogger named Connor Doyle who I met back in the Shysterball days.  When I was here last year, as some of you may remember, I had beers with him and DIPS legend Voros McCracken and nearly started a race riot. Last night wasn’t quite as scary, but it definitely turned strange.

We had been there a little over an hour or so when a man with a gigantic head wound came up and sat down at our table and began talking to us. He began in mid-sentence as if he had been with us all night, and took up the political conversation Connor and I were having. Well, OK then. He did pause long enough for Connor to ask him what happened to his head. Seems he was walking with a girl last week when a man ran him over with a car and then drove away. He treated the explanation as though it was bothersome and unimportant and continued on with his political monologue. Well, OK again.

The substance of the monologue: if he had a time machine and could go back and change one historical event, it would be to prevent women getting the right to vote. Really: that’s when he believes all of our country’s problems began.

“The 50s were great,” he said. “Everything was going just fine until women got the vote.”

“You realize that by the 50s women had been voting for over 30 years,” I said.

He just kind of stopped for a second, considered the thought, ignored it and moved on. And to be fair to him, he did expand the point: it wasn’t just women voting that was the problem. It was all racial minorities, homosexuals and “children.”  I thought I’d comfort him by telling him that children still don’t have the right to vote, but I couldn’t really get a word in.

From there we moved on to evolution (“So you believe we came from monkeys? That it went ooze-fish-monkeys-man? Really?”) and then on to religion (“I’m not one of those crazy people, but religion has done more to disprove science than science has to prove evolution”).  He noted at one point that he got a concussion in that hit-and-run last week. I nodded.

Eventually our friend — who would not let me take his picture sadly, because I believe that by that time he realized (a) I was a writer; and (b) I was taking mental notes — mentioned that three women were coming to meet him there and implied that, if we played our cards right, maybe  Connor and I could get lucky.

I figured that was his tallest tale of the evening but I’ll be damned if three women didn’t eventually show up. One had a boyfriend with her. None of them seemed like people who would hang out with our friend, here. Indeed, when he went to use the restroom, one of the women said that she didn’t know the guy’s name and that they just call him “the guy who got hit by the car.”  I am still unclear on why they would all meet him out at a bar.

I was likewise unclear why I was still talking to him, but eventually he disappeared into the night.  I’m still not 100% certain that he existed. It’s possible someone spiked my Double-Double animal style or slipped a mickey into Moose Drool brown ale.  But if he did exist, just know that people like him walk the Earth. Well, sort of stagger the Earth, but still.

Freakin’ Arizona. Drink here at your peril.  Or maybe just don’t go out with Connor Doyle, because for as great a guy as he is, he seems to attract the weird ones.

Back to baseball this morning. I’m heading to the Peoria Sports Complex where I will witness the debut of Yu Darvish.  A man who, until last night, I figured would be the most interesting person I’d meet in Spring Training.

Reports from the ballpark later, my friends.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”