Cash named AL Manager of the Year
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Cash has been one of the best managers in the Majors over the past three seasons. Now he has the hardware to prove it.
On Tuesday, Cash was named the 2020 American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, making him the second Rays skipper to win the award, joining Joe Maddon, who received the honor in '08 and '11.
Cash finished third in the voting in each of the previous two seasons, becoming just the fifth AL manager to record three consecutive top-three finishes, joining Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire, Los Angeles’ Mike Scioscia and Oakland’s Art Howe and Tony La Russa.
En route to his landslide win, Cash received 22 first-place votes and 126 total points in the BBWAA’s scoring to win over former White Sox manager Rick Renteria (61) and former Rays bench coach and current Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (47). With Marlins manager Don Mattingly winning the NL Manager of the Year Award, both awards stayed in Florida for the first time.
“When you’re being voted and appreciated by people that don’t always agree with your opinion and there can be some back-and-forth, I think it says a lot,” Cash said on winning the award. “It’s a huge honor.”
Cash is known for his self-deprecating humor. He often pokes fun at his career .183 batting average and the -3.1 bWAR he accumulated during his eight-year career. He also refuses to take any credit when his team plays well, always pointing to the players and the organization as a whole.
To nobody’s surprise, Cash admitted that winning the award was an honor, but he quickly credited the organization’s ability to build a winning culture and an enjoyable workplace. But whether he wants to admit it, Cash’s ability to relate with his players and keep a loose clubhouse are two of the main reasons the Rays won the AL East title for the first time in a decade in 2020.
And perhaps nobody knows how big of an impact Cash makes more than Indians manager Terry Francona, who managed the Rays’ skipper as a player and had him on the Indians' staff as a bullpen coach for two seasons.
“I’m so proud of you,” Francona told Cash after announcing the winner on MLB Network. “We knew when we had him in Cleveland that we weren’t going to be able to keep him very long, and that’s a big compliment because he made such a big impact in such a short amount of time. He’s just getting better and better, and I’m happy for him. I’m happy for the Rays, and I’m thrilled for his family.”
Winning an award is an honor every year, but Cash said it means that much more after a 2020 season that was arguably the toughest campaign in Major League history. Despite a stoppage in March and all the health and safety protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cash led the Rays to a 40-20 record in the regular season and continued that success in the postseason, helping Tampa Bay reach its second World Series. Over the past three seasons, Cash has helped the Rays go 226-158 with two postseason appearances. His .522 winning percentage through six seasons is the highest for any manager in franchise history.
“This year, we went 40-20, so you can’t have many downs,” Cash said. “A lot of things went well. We got to the World Series, but there were tough moments there and we owe it to the players to stay as consistent as possible.”
The Rays had 13 players on the injured list one at one point during the regular season, with five pitchers going down for the season. Cash guided the Rays through the injuries, using 24 pitches this season and tying a Major League record with 12 pitchers recording a save. Cash used 59 unique lineups in the 60-game season.
“I think the injuries were up there,” Cash said, when asked about the biggest challenge aside from the protocols. “We all dealt with protocols and we can’t talk about those enough. But if I had to pick one, it would be the injuries.”
Navigating through a sensitive situation in New York is also another example of why Cash is one of the best managers in the league. Aside from standing up for his players after Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball behind the head of Mike Brosseau, Cash also allowed the players to voice their opinions the very next day. Situations like those can go one of two ways: a team comes together, or a team falls apart.
Cash gave Brosseau and the players a lot of credit, but it was Cash’s leadership that helped the Rays get past that moment and clinch the top seed in the AL.
“When you look at it, it’s the Yankees, everybody has that mutual respect for the pinstripes,” said Rays catcher Mike Zunino. “But as a young group, hearing that coming from the manager’s mouth helps us know that we can hang with just about anybody. He believes it; it really sparked us.”
Cash also made more in-game moves than most managers in 2020. He used 4.7 pitchers per game, which was more than the MLB average. That amount of moves opened up the possibility of receiving criticism, but Cash stuck to his beliefs, even in the now-infamous World Series Game 6 when he pulled Blake Snell.
Cash also used more pinch-hitters than any manager in the AL, using 1.15 per game. Cash was also unafraid to do quirky things, including constructing the only all-lefty lineup in Major League history.
“The scrutiny you’re under as a manager and the pressure you’re under [is enormous],” said Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow. “But the way he handles it with his emotional consistency, who he is a person and the energy he brings to the field every day, it’s very, very relaxed.”